We saved your life but you may be financially ruined now.
February 19, 2010 5:00 AM Subscribe
A dear friend had emergency heart surgery last week. He did not have insurance. Does the hospital just bill him the full amount and wait for him to declare bankruptcy, or...?
posted by hegemone to Work & Money (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Two weeks ago my friend had a heart aneurysm that went undiagnosed for at least a week (he thought he had a horrible case of the flu). At about 5 days after the event, he went to the ER, as he was not getting better from his "flu" and was starting to experience kidney pain, and there he was given fluids and a prescription for potassium. He's relatively young and in good shape, so maybe there was little reason for them to suspect anything more serious, though he did say when they took his blood pressure it was shockingly low -- like 40/90 (or the reverse, can't remember which number comes first).
He assumed hydration and electrolytes would help him improve over the weekend but by Monday, a single flight of stairs was making him gasp for air, and his kidney pain had intensified, so he went back to the ER and was admitted with pneumonia. After a couple of days of poking and prodding, an EKG came in showing his aorta was swollen three times normal size. By that time apparently, he was also experiencing kidney and lung failure, and he also had a minor heart attack while in the hospital. He then had almost a foot of aorta and blood vessels replaced over a nearly 12 hour surgery.
Also, as his wife is in school right now and money was very tight and his employer did not provide it, he has no health insurance.
So... what happens in this situation? Does the hospital just sent the bill and wait for them to go bankrupt? They've got two children -- being saddled with $100,000 (or more??) of medical debt would make it impossible for to save up for their kids' future, much less their own. Does the hospital cut them a deal since they're self-pay and so very obviously unable to afford that much? Do they need to get a lawyer? Or some kind of patient advocate? What do people even do in this situation? (This is in Illinois, if that makes any difference.)