Surgery without Health Insurance

A couple of years ago we had some expensive hospital work that we were trying to plan for.  For various reasons outside of our control, we didn’t have health insurance.  Today, with a different kind of health insurance we get from employers, and more people out of work, I thought it would be important to bring this up again.

Here’s a post that describes what happened.  It was scary, but such an amazingly positive experience (with regard to the finances). From an August 2009 post:

Three months ago we had a baby and paid for it without health insurance (even cheap health insurance) or government aid.

Last week my wife had a surgery and we’ll have it paid for as soon as we get the final invoice, again without any health insurance or government aid.

You should note that I have NOTHING against private health insurance (well, I think it’s grossly overpriced and doesn’t offer what it should) nor am I against getting government aid when appropriate (more on that tomorrow). This isn’t a political post, or a bashing post… I just wanted to share a couple of ideas that might help you save money (or, be able to afford the health care you need).

When asked what our insurance is we simply respond that we are “self-pay.”  This means it doesn’t go through insurance, rather that we pay for it ourselves.  As self-pay you can finance the service(s) through the service provider (hospital, doctor., etc.).  Or you can pay in full.  Why would you pay in full? Read on.

When we had our baby we told them we were self-pay and asked them if they offered a discount.  Guess what the discount was?

OVER 50%!  Instead of paying more than $8,000, our total hospital bill was around $3,400.  That is a huge, significant savings.  I like getting things on sale, and I like saving almost $4,000.

Note: We had to pay this in full before my wife got out of the hospital.

Fast forward three month (yeah, surgery three months later sucks).  My wife goes in for a surgery, fairly standard, and the doctor said he would do surgery wherever we wanted, so we could shop around.  We didn’t know you could or should shop around, asking hospitals what the cost would be.  We found there were pretty significant differences and chose to stay with this same hospital, which offered 50% off of this procedure. (we also learned that if you are insured and pay the copay up front you save 25%)

The doctor also offered 50% off – we took advantage of this for both the birth and the surgery.

Did you know you could save so much?  We had no idea.  But for us it’s a necessity.

We also learned we could get a prescription for any oral medicine the doctor would prescribe that was to be administered in the hospital and get that filled at our local pharmacy and then just bring that in for another significant savings.  I have no idea how much we saved but it was cool to know we could do that.

My point with this post is that health insurance isn’t the only way to get stuff paid for… if you don’t have it simply ask your doctor or the staff (the medicine thing was a suggestion from his front desk staff), and the hospital finance people… there are plenty of people who are self-pay and it isn’t as bad, scary or undoable as we thought it would be.

The scary part of this is that it exposes how expensive health insurance is.  If a doctor and a hospital are willing to discount 50% of their invoice just to (a) get paid in full upfront, and (b) not go through the insurance system, can you imagine what healthcare would be without health insurance in our system?

Do you have any other suggestions on finding affordable healthcare.

Two years later the question is still highly relevant – what suggestions do you have?