Uninsured: Can't Pay for Needed Surgery
July 27, 2008 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Uninsured-Broke and Need $2900.00 Vascular Surgery {USA} Can't Get Help, What Can Husband Do?

Husband is in need of $2900 dollar vascular surgery, he is unemployed--technically underemployed, and makes only freelance income at home via computer to tune of only about 1000 a month, and I-his wife am on a small disability check and have medical bills of my own. So our budget is super tight. He was laid off from jobs--economic, and job market has been bad so there has been no health insurance for some time, even though he was insured for years before. Things are bad enough we saw our last town die and the job market here is completely dead. There is no money to move elsewhere for a job. We moved here, after he had been economically laid off after a year for him to attempt a career transition, only to be told he was "not a good fit". So the stress for the last couple years has been incredible.

Affording COBRA is a joke for the working class, or those who make only so much money. The doctor has refused to do the surgery for less then $2900, and only has offered to cut it down from 5,000 something, we have no credit, are nearly bankrupt from extended unemployment/underemployment--2 years in the running, and are barely surviving. There is nothing left to sell for the surgery: and friends and family are tapped out.

Last week, we went to welfare to try and get help there, but with exception of them being willing to put me on Medicaid since I am disabled---[him--no], and some food stamps, we were told they cannot help husband with surgery either, that all the funds are gone, and there would only be help if he was disabled. He has poor health--[I believe there definitely has been age discrimination in terms of the job lay-offs even being economic] but is not bad off enough to be rendered disabled. His health will be endangered if he does not get this surgery. It is to close off a major leg vein, which is opening up affecting circulation and there is a life threatening major risk of blood clots if this goes untreated.

What can we do? We plan to make one more appeal to the doctor in question. But honestly he is afraid, he simply will not be able to get this surgery.

I ran a search to see if anyone else had faced this, so this is a new question.

Do any of you have any ideas?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to try Modest Needs. Mission statement: "To prevent otherwise financially self-sufficient individuals and families from entering the cycle of poverty, when this might be avoided with a small amount of well-timed financial assistance."
posted by littleme at 5:57 PM on July 27, 2008

Depending on where you are, a bus ticket to Mexico and the cost of the operation there might be even cheaper than the $2900.

But if you're in a locale that's a dead end and is putting you in the poverty hole, you need to use that $1000/mo income and get the hell out of there, even if it means living out of a car or weekly rate hotel until you get back on the employment track. How are you going to meet other contingencies otherwise?
posted by tinkertown at 6:06 PM on July 27, 2008

Is there anything you or your husband can do that you could offer the doc for barter? My dad got some dental work done in exchange for building the surgeon a mantle. My friend made a tennis club a website in exchange for 10 tennis lessons. Many doctors and hospitals will also set up a payment plan with you so you don't have to come up with the entire amount at once.

How much is the COBRA insurance? If you get it just for the one month you need coverage for the surgery, it may turn out to be quite a bit cheaper than the surgery is out of pocket. Someone close to me recently signed up for a $900/month coverage (as a freelancer through the Chamber of Commerce), put the monthly fee on a credit card, got the surgery, ended the insurance, and is now making payments to the credit card.

Definitely sign up for any low-income services that you qualify for! Food paid for with food stamps doesn't have to come out of your disability check. Research into utilities (heat, electric, water) for your area; frequently there are discounts or assistance for low-income people. There also may be programs for eyeglasses, if you're spending money on that.

Regardless, it sounds like you need to get more money in the door, ideally under the table so that it doesn't affect your eligibility for the low-income services. If either you or your husband can do house or office cleaning on the side, that's a good one. Child care in your home? Check into the local political offices -- sometimes there are open positions that come with a stipend in exchange for doing a few hours of work.
posted by xo at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2008

Check the hospital website where the surgery will be performed, or call them. Tell them you don't think you can afford this necessary treatment and ask them what your options are. Some hospitals receive government funding to help pay for treatments of people who can't afford them.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:27 PM on July 27, 2008

Check into your state's high risk insurance pools (which recently just got even more funding).

"The grants will be used by the states to offset losses that they incurred in the operation of high-risk pools, which are typically state-created non-profit associations that offer health coverage to individuals with serious medical conditions. Grant funds also provide support for disease management for chronic conditions and premium subsidies for individuals with lower incomes. Enrollment in these pools is growing, with more than 200,000 individuals enrolled in state pools."

Try to find the one for your state and see if they are accepting applications.
posted by cashman at 8:18 PM on July 27, 2008

It's a long shot, but you might try contacting your congressmember. I've heard of a few of them occasionally leaning on agencies, with some success, on behalf of constituents in difficult binds such as yours.
posted by sculpin at 9:30 PM on July 27, 2008

For 2900 dollars for a self-pay patient, I am guessing it is pretty minor surgery. There might be a community hospital in your area that contracts with the local government to provide indigent care; if so that is the place to go. That is what girlmightlive is referring to, I believe.

And for those of you who haven't experienced the joy of uninsured medical care, a major part of the problem is that the uninsured are charged full price for everything, as opposed to the deep discounts negotiated by insurers and medicare/medicaid. This often results in charges of 3 to 5 times what an insured patient (or their company) might pay. More info here. Because of that, you may want to find out if that $2900 dollar fee is all inclusive, or if that is merely the surgeon's fee and there will be a hospital or facility fee that may be much larger tacked onto that. Even $5000 is pretty cheap for any kind of surgery in this day and age.
posted by TedW at 3:49 AM on July 28, 2008

Here are a few ideas, and they aren't great ones but worth a shot.
- You mention his age. Could he qualify for Medicare (not Medicaid)?
- Did he serve in the military? VA hospital and benefits could lower/eliminate the cost?
- Could you go to a teaching hospital (affiliated with a medical school) and get it cheaper?
- Do you belong to a local church? Your minister probably is guardian of emergency funds of the church, and may be able to help?
- Could the hospital do the surgery on a payment plan? Perhaps you just let it go to collections (terrible, but what else can you do?)
- Could the local TV station put forth your story as a human-interest story or medical-news story, and ask the community for help?
- Could the doctor prescribe a medicine that will postpone the surgery? Is that medicine available on WalMart's $4/refill list?
posted by Houstonian at 5:58 AM on July 28, 2008

There is a book, which if not carried by your library could be ordered via intralibrary loan, called The Complete Tightwad Gazette (ISBN #0375752250). I am certain you are already living very close to what you can afford. However, the book evidently is the champion in terms of lessening expenses even when you can't think you can do so anymore. This may be a way in which some additional income can be eked out.

I would also investigate as to whether there are any credit unions in your local area that would be willing to lend you money for the loan. Banks are worthy places to check out as well, but credit unions are usually far more friendly and lenient with money than are banks, and thus more likely to approve a loan.
posted by WCityMike at 7:24 AM on July 28, 2008

Also, while you're correct that this particular variant of the question has not been asked before, the problem of needing money quickly has been asked and answered a few times, so you may wish to peruse Ask Metafilter for those responses. For example: I need quick cash and $1000 in a few days. (Also neither this nor this is directly on target, but both might be useful.)

Also — I do not in any way recommend this. But an eviction and/or foreclosure can sometimes take a good while. If it is a matter of a surgery utterly necessary for your husband to continue living, one avenue to pursue might be not paying the rent. This is a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it does land you in a very hot cauldron later, possibly with no home. But if it's a matter of creating a non-life-threatening emergency in order to eliminate a life-threatening emergency, it is an avenue to consider — albeit one that should be considered a worst-case last-ditch kind of possibility.
posted by WCityMike at 7:37 AM on July 28, 2008

« Older Help me plan my career   |   Design related blogs and articles for ambitious... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.