Those were the words of a friend’s Facebook status… Well, her actual words were, “It costs $7,286.55 to have a miscarriage at [a specific hospital chain’s name],” but she asked that I not include the name of the hospital. I don’t know much about this chain of hospitals, but I can tell you that I made an audible gasp when I read those words. My friend miscarried about a month ago, and she has been going through the grieving process that goes along with this sort of tragedy. Then yesterday, she got a bill in the mail: $7,286.55. But don’t worry… Insurance took care of $249 of that bill. Please take a moment to imagine trying to deal with the emotions of losing a pregnancy, missing a week’s worth of work (and the money that job provides), and then getting a letter from a hospital that says, “That’ll be seven thousand dollars.”
There are so many issues that are tied up in the words “It costs $7,286.55 to have a miscarriage.” There is the issue of a woman noticing symptoms, and begging to be seen by her OB/GYN, but being refused because of cost-cutting timelines and restrictions set up by profit-driven companies. There is the issue of the resulting expensive trip to an “Urgent Care” clinic, and then the resulting expensive trip to the ER (along with the costs of imaging there). There is the issue of the many extra costs associated with being a woman and needing medical attention that people rarely talk about. There are a lot of issues here… But for this post, I want to focus on two: 1) How messed up it is that we have a system where taking care of sick people is a multi-billion dollar, for-profit industry, and 2) How messed up it is that so many people “fight for the rights of the unborn,” but those same people seem to care vary little for the rights of pregnant mothers who need medical help and might not be able to afford a bill for seven grand.
Taking care of sick people should not be a for-profit business. Where I live (Middle Tennessee) is a Health Care Mecca… There is SO MUCH MONEY tied up in the business of taking care of people who are sick. For example, Wayne T. Smith (CEO of Community Heath Systems right here in Brentwood Tennessee) made $26.4 million in 2014. The median salary for Healthcare CEOs in 2014 was $13.6 million. This is lunacy. And please don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be getting paid for taking care of the sick… I’m just saying that people shouldn’t be making millions of dollars a year by syphoning money from sick people. And by any standard, charging women to lose a child seems to me like an affront to human decency. Pay for the people at the tops of these companies keeps going up, while staffs are reduced, workloads increase, benefits are slashed, and quality of care for the rest of us continues to get lowered… All while our costs go up! Wendell Potter, who used to be a PR executive with Cigna, said that “There’s no doubt that one of the reasons why Americans pay more for health insurance and for healthcare than people in any other country in the world is because of this high executive compensation.” But there’s more to it than just CEO pay.
Here is a graph of the growth (over the past 40 years) of Physicians versus the growth of Administrators:
This. Is. Obscene. But there is so much money involved in this process, that these companies can afford to contribute to (pay off) politicians to keep the system functioning just as it has been… With the vast majority of us having a larger potion of our dwindling income being extorted for fear of losing our house from giant medical bills. And then, if a candidate comes along talking about the need to change this completely effed-up system, that candidate is painted as being idealistic and “crazy.”
One more messed up part to this issue: My friend felt the need to explain too me that she wasn’t a system moocher–that she and her husband both work and have private insurance through her husband’s job, and that she didn’t do anything to “cause” a miscarriage (like trauma or drugs or an accident). And as much as I understand her perception that she would need to clarify this in order to fend off judgmentalism, I think it’s SO messed up that we would think that someone who doesn’t have the sort of job which provides health insurance doesn’t deserve protection against the insane costs associated with getting help when you get sick. Or getting medicine. But we are conditioned to believe that we don’t “deserve” healthcare unless we satisfy certain requirements. It is not our humanity which makes us worthy of getting help when we are sick… It is our social status and the kind of employment we have. Which brings me to the next issue…
“You cannot advocate for a fetus if you refuse to advocate for the pregnant mother.” Those were the exact words from a conversation with my friend who received the bill for $7,286.55 after she lost her unborn child. The very same people who profess to be fighting for the rights of unborn children are fighting against the rights of pregnant mothers to receive affordable healthcare. So when people fight to close down low-cost pregnancy service providers like Planned Parenthood (who, we should all know, do much more to serve women than simply provide abortions), they are fighting to take away one more option–sometimes the ONLY option–for low-income mothers or uninsured women who are looking for help.
And speaking of uninsured women, here is something you should probably know. Hospital chains are marking up prices for uninsured patients… Sometimes more than TEN TIMES the actual cost of care. Yes, you heard that right. This article from the Washington Post details 50 different hospitals that are marking up their prices specifically for the uninsured (AKA “poor people”). And it is also interesting to point out that on that list they compiled of the 50 most egregious hospital price-gougers in the nation, 25 of the hospitals are run by Community Health Systems (CHS), and 14 are run by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)… Both companies located right here in Middle Tennessee, the buckle of the Bible Belt (It should be noted that I know and love people who work for both of these companies… I am not AT ALL saying that CHS or HCA are the devil. But regardless of that fact, this garbage needs to change). But even for people WITH insurance, the hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies conspire to make sure they continue to rake in huge profits. This is done by pricing their product so far above it’s actual cost that the insured consumer/patient is still paying for most, if not all, of the cost. So if a patient is paying a 20% copay, all they have to do is price their service at five times more than actual cost, and voilà! The insured patient just paid full price. It’s so very messed up…
Now, you might be asking yourself, “HOW IN THE WORLD IS IT LEGAL FOR THEM TO DO THIS!?!” Well, the answer is–No one is telling them that they can’t. And the reason for that is because many of the systems and regulations that were attempted to be put in place by the Affordable Care Act were so incredibly GUTTED BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION by the deep pockets that funded its the ACA opposition. And now it’s legal to charge poor people $1000 for $100 worth of care… Which is why it’s SO IMPORTANT for you to vote! The decisions that made it legal for big business to give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns came from Supreme Court justices appointed by people on the political right… And the next president’s SCOTUS choices will have effects for years to come. “Policy” is not sexy, but it has real effects on real people.
So… If you want to “fight for the rights” of unborn babies, you need to be an advocate for the rights of pregnant mothers. The right of pregnant mothers to have access to free and affordable healthcare is inseparable from any rights you might try to provide to a fetus. And you know what else? If you are interested in fighting for the rights of pregnant mothers, you have to be an advocate for the rights of the poor. It should never cost a mother $7,286.55 to lose a child. Getting care when we become sick is not something that is reserved only for the wealthy… Healthcare is a human right.
If you value this blog, you can help support it by becoming a Patron. Lindsey Hammer did, making her the SECOND Hammer to contribute to my Patreon campaign. It’s a generous and kind name… If not tool. THANK YOU! Otherwise, there’s always PayPal. But more importantly than that, it would be really cool if some of you out there would be brave enough to share some of the experiences you have had surrounding this issue. Please share your stories in the comments section. Love you guys!