Richard from Bonita Springs, FL

Faces of the Federal Budget

[Once,] I was in the hospital for four days … I fainted when they were going to check my blood. Because I was right across the street from a hospital, they took me in an ambulance to the hospital…. I got a bill from the hospital for $26,000. Yes, that was pretty amazing. The ambulance to go across the street – literally across the street – was $700. When I got the bill from the hospital for $26,000, it said, “if you do not have insurance, and you can pay this within 60 days, we’ll give you a 40% discount. If you can’t pay it within 60 days, you can pay it over a longer period of time and we’ll charge you 10% interest.” Since I have Medicare, Medicare gave them $5000 for the hospital, and we’re not talking about doctors or tests or anything else that was separately billed. Medicare paid $5000, Blue Cross paid $1000 and I paid $250, and that was the total cost. The hospital bill was for $26,000. Think about it! If a person didn’t have insurance and didn't have the money which they most likely would not have – to pay it off, they’d be paying $26,000, plus interest – forever! [Meanwhile] the actual cost that Medicare paid, Blue Cross paid and I paid was $6,250.

Why does the hospital charge so much in the first place? ... this is a profit-making institution, the hospital. It wasn’t public. But think even about $6250 – that’s for a hospital bed and the nurses to come in to give you pills, and they give you three meals a day. The local Ritz-Carlton, the most expensive hotel in this area, charges about $300 a night, and for another $100 you can get some great meals there. So, we’re talking about a hotel room with service for $400 a day with food versus a hospital for $1500 a day. That’s my issue. My issue is that something’s wrong with the charges. The doctors – my family physician, who’s wonderful, he gets about $110 for a 5-minute visit. When my wife went to the emergency room, that doctor got $190. Now I don’t know the details, so I’m not going to criticize the doctors or the hospital, but there must be something wrong with those kinds of charges. That’s been my experience since I’ve had Medicare and since I’ve gotten older and have had more of a need for service.

Because I have both Medicare and supplemental insurance, for me, personally, it was not a big deal. I have a daughter and son in law, and they don’t have insurance. So if they go to the hospital – my heavens – they’ll be paying for the rest of their lives.

It’s not Medicare that’s the problem. Except perhaps they're paying the system too much money, but I’m sure there’s reasons for it. I just don’t know what the reasons are. I’m not sure they can [refuse to pay those prices], it’s pretty complicated. Health care costs need to be analyzed thoroughly. So that’s my feeling about Medicare; it’s not Medicare itself; it’s the system that they’re buying into or forced into.

I’d be happy to pay more in taxes. I think the biggest problem we have is that we don’t pay enough in taxes rather than too much. Perhaps I am the opposite of most people. To me, it’s how taxes are used that’s important, not what we pay. If taxes are used for excessive military support, increasing our role of dominance in the world, that’s a bad use of taxes. [I would rather] use taxes to improve our infrastructure, to get universal health care and better alternative energy.

I can’t afford more taxes either, but I’m willing to pay them, is what I’m saying. I don’t want to. Who wants to pay money out? Although if you’re sure of the benefits… I’ll give you an example: When I was in Canada, I was in a gift shop and I bought an item for $10 and the charge was $11.50 I said, “What? What’s that for? A 15% tax on a $10 purchase?” “Yeah,” she replied, “that covers our medical insurance." So, good, I’ll pay 15% tomorrow on everything if I’m sure that money is going to be used to keep people healthy. That’s my philosophy. It depends NOT on how much you pay, but on how it’s spent.

Richard from Bonita Springs, FL | Map

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