August 4th, 2006


Two weeks ago I wrote that I'd received the surgery bill. That wasn't the surgery bill. It was the one-night hospital stay bill. Today I received the surgery bill.

The hospital stay bill - which does have the description "outpt amb surgery", where "outpt" is outpatient, I'm not quite sure what "amb" means but it could be "ambulatory" - showed total charges of $30,347. Yes, that's right, thirty thousand dollars. When I discussed the surgery expenses at the surgeon's office, they gave me an estimate of about $16,000 for the work. So when I got this bill from the hospital, I presumed it was the total cost and was for whatever reason - perhaps having to stay overnight - nearly twice what the estimate was. But no, this turns out to be a wholly separate charge. The actual surgery bill, as in the bill from the surgeon for his services, is $15,208. And while I'm tallying up charges here, the anesthesiologist's bill that I mentioned before totalled $1,872. Thus, the total cost of the surgery - presuming more bills from who-knows-who aren't about to show up - was $47,427. Add another $2,275 onto that for my trip to the ER, and that's $49,702.

Now, my understanding of the insurance plan is that I'm responsible for up to $2,000 per year, and insurance covers 100% (for services that are covered, of course) after that. My share of the bills so far is $200 for the anesthesiologist, $948 for the hospital stay, and $198 for the ER visit, or $1,346 total. If my understanding of the insurance is correct, then I should be charged $654 for the surgeon's bill, and they should take care of the rest. However, the surgeon's bill shows my claim being "in process" and says the total's due on August 10th. Obviously I can't, and won't, pay them $15K while insurance gets settled. I'll have to call them Monday though and find out what's going on.

Being responsible for only about 4% of nearly $50,000 in necessary surgery is a pretty good thing. But I'd find it easier to be grateful if I weren't still worrying about paying that 4% and about whatever other debts will be added on top of that in the near future.