As a young woman, I worked in the healthcare industry in several capacities. I started working for a third-party insurance billing company as a customer service representative and then moved on to processing medical records at a small, rural hospital. Both of these experiences gave me a certain insight into the current concerns over medical insurance and healthcare in the United States. What it has taught me is that healthcare is big business.
High Cost of Medical Care
When I worked for a small hospital in Southern Utah, I was involved with processing medical records so they could be billed out to insurance companies and individuals. Because of this position, my family and friends often asked me why hospital visits cost so much. Why is, if you simply walk into an emergency room, you are looking a $300.00 bill square in the face?
My answer often surprised them. Snake anti-venom.
Our tiny little hospital was the main trauma destination for most of Southern Utah. If a hiker or a biker was seriously injured in Moab, several hundred miles to the south, they would be airlifted to us. We also had the anti-venom for various snake bites. In order to maintain our position as a trauma center, we had to have that snake venom on hand at all times. The shelf life for this product was about a week, and it cost us about $800 per vial. So every week that we didn’t use the vial, we literally threw $800.00 in the garbage. Because the hospital was operating for profit, someone had to pay for that vial. The cost was covered by, among other things, the $12.00 doses of over-the-counter pain medication we’ve all heard about.
High Cost of Human Life
I also learned that human life has a price during my tenure in the healthcare industry. I learned that insurance companies are designed to make a profit for their shareholders and executives are far more concerned about that profit than they are the lives of their participants.
As a customer service representative for a third-party clearing house, I answered calls from members of several dozen insurance plans each day. Each plan was set up differently, depending upon how the individual employer wanted their benefits to run. I spoke with more than one mother of a child with the same medical problems, and often had to tell them different plan details. One mother was informed that her young son could have surgery to correct an issue, while the next wasn’t covered and her son was put at risk of more serious problems later.
Insurance, in its current state, has always put a price on human life. With the sweeping new changes, I have hope that this will change eventually, and perhaps the huge conglomerates will learn to provide more benefits and live on less profits. In the end, this concept will make many lives better, and perhaps even save a few.
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