Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
One afternoon a man sitting at home and reading a news article, stood up to walk to the kitchen. He felt a sudden pain in his chest along with shortness of breath. About an hour later the pain returned and this time began spreading over the top of his chest and into his neck. Concerned, he drove to the emergency department of a local hospital.
The hospital admitted this patient and did not initially find any signs of heart issues from blood labs and ECG tests but the Hospitalist ordered an overnight stay for observation.
Around 1:30 AM a blood test revealed elevated cardiac enzymes, and again at 6:00 AM. A cardiologist ordered the patient into a cath-lab at 8:00 for an angiogram, concerned of a heart attack.
What follows is one of many true testaments to some health care issues in America.
In the Cath-Lab, the cardiologist found the Right Coronary Artery was 90% blocked and other areas will require further treatment at a later date to allow the heart to recover from the procedure. He placed a stent and the procedure was wrapped up in a little over an hour. The patient stayed overnight and was discharged the next day.
Two days after discharge, the patient felt very weak, short of breath, and angina pains. The on-call cardiologist ordered him to the emergency room. After an overnight stay, the cause was determined to be a drug interaction that lowered his blood pressure to a worryingly low level. The physician changed the drug regime.
In a follow up with the cardiologist, a week later, he recommended based on the continuance of the patient’s angina and general lack of energy that the patient should have the second phase of the stenting move to the soonest date available. On that day the patient went to hospital and another angioplasty was performed. Three medicated stents were placed and another coronary artery was ballooned. The hospital discharged the patient the next day.
The quality of care the patient received was excellent and the staff and physicians performed their duties to the highest standard. The patient is making a strong recovery and is feeling much healthier and better. There was no damage detected to the heart. The intervention certainly prevented a catastrophic heart attack from occurring in the future.
Now for the other aspect of this story: The cost
|SBSQ HOSPITAL CARE/DAY||168.00|
|HOSPITAL DISCHARGE DAY||169.00|
|Supplies and Devices||11,247.60|
|Room and Board||3,461.09|
|Supplies and Devices||56,943.56|
|Other Imaging Services||1,019.02|
|Room and Board||2,633.68|
The patient spent, in total, seven days in hospital, the cost of which was nearly two hundred and forty thousand dollars. This amount represents 94% of what the patient paid for his house years ago.
When a person wakes up in the morning, they certainly don’t expect to have a mild heart attack or that a month later they will get a bill equal to four and a half years’ income for the median American Household. Yet, it happens quite often in the United States, probably every hour at least.
Fortunately he had health insurance. Of the $239K the hospital, cardiologist, and others billed, the patient was only responsible for $1,824.86. He paid the bill, thankful for this new gift of health and that his insurance indemnified him from the tremendous cost of the procedures.
One certainly cannot stress enough the importance of health insurance, for a healthy life and financial stability. Without insurance or government program most Americans would be bankrupted in receiving treatment as our patient has.
Also, though the treatment was certainly first rate, one has to wonder how seven days of hospitalization and a procedure lasting a little over an hour and the second part three, generated an expense of nearly $240,000.00.
Surely the cost is worthwhile to save a patient’s life. But, what is the cost to society in having a system such as we do presently?
By Darren Smith
Photo Credit: J Heuser
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