Colorado Man Gets Surprise Coronabill For $800,000
Last week, Robert Dennis, a Colorado school teacher and COVID-19 patient who had recently spent several weeks in the hospital in a coma, and his wife who was also sick with coronavirus, got their first bill for their treatment, totalling $840,386.94. While his time in the hospital was covered by his insurance company, a whole lot of other things were not. Things that, apparently, cost over a million and a half dollars. His medications alone, according to the bill, cost a quarter of a million dollars.
The statement covers Robert's time at Sky Ridge Medical Center, where he was in the intensive care unit and intubated for two weeks.
"His meds just at the hospital are a quarter million dollars," Suzanne said.
What is not included is Robert's three weeks at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, or his wife's trips to the emergency room when she was fighting the virus. The couple estimates their total bills to top one and a half million dollars.
"It's scary. I don't care how much you have covered. It's scary to see that kind of number and not really know," Suzanne said.
It is scary, Suzanne.
The Dennises are not the only people to get a surprise bill like that. They're not even the only people in Colorado to get a bill like that. On Friday, Denver7 reported that another coronavirus patient, Ernesto Castro, had found himself with a bill reading "Patient Responsibility: $139,254.16." His insurance company, it seems, had decided it shouldn't have to pay for any of his treatment. Because, for the 45,000th time, it is the insurance company's job to say no to you.
If you're wondering what the hell it is that could possibly cost that much, the answer is literally everything in a hospital. A single aspirin will cost you $30, a box of Kleenex (I'm sorry, a mucus disposal device) can cost you $444. Things in a hospital are very, very expensive.
Now, both of these stories have non-horrifying endings. On Monday, it was announced that the Dennis's bill was wiped entirely, and when Ernesto Castro called his insurance company, he found that the hospital had neglected to note that the bill was for coronavirus, which means he should get it covered after all. But we'll have to see what happens with "should."
Still, there is the fact that if these people had been in the hospital for another illness that was equally not their fault, they would still be on the hook for those bills, despite having "insurance." A few not-terrible things happening after a public outcry do not make up for all of the crap things that happen otherwise.
It should be very clear by now to most people that our health care system isn't just cruel, it is very, very stupid. The narrative that we need to have all of these health insurance companies bleeding people dry because choice really just falls apart when you consider the fact that comas happen. You're in a coma, you're not making any choices. You are not enjoying the splendor of the free market. You're not comparing and contrasting the prices of various hospitals around you to find one that suits your needs and budget, because you are in a coma and you're not doing shit, other than being in that coma. And even if you were doing that, they're not telling you, before you dip into that coma, "Hey, this is going to cost you three-fourths of a million dollars." That is not happening, either. They don't tell you that until you're out of the hospital and cannot, ostensibly, wring their necks. They don't tell you that until you are home, in your home that you are now about to lose because you went into a coma.
Even though Robert Dennis does not have to pay this bill, on account of how he was in a COVID-19-related coma and not just a regular coma, there are still other people getting surprise $800,000 bills for illnesses and injuries they had absolutely no control over. What do you think happens to you if you're in a mass shooting? You think you get some kind of "victim of a crime" pass at the hospital? Nope. Those Las Vegas shooting victims ended up with millions of dollars in medical debt. Hell, there are rape victims who have been hounded for years to pay for the cost of their rape kits, even though that is technically supposed to be illegal.
Even if they don't have to pay for the rape kit, they have to pay for other things. On average, it costs $948 to get raped. Now, that's not $800,000, but it's still a hell of a lot more than it should cost, which is zero dollars. Coincidentally, this is also how much it should cost someone to be a victim of a mass shooting or fall into a coma.
Now, I have completely given up on trying to push single payer Medicare for All on the United States, as people very clearly just do not want it here (I can get it myself if I move to Italy, I've got dual citizenship). However, I do still need to point out that the system America has chosen is very, very stupid and bad and no one should come home, after having been in a coma, to a surprise bill of $800,000.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse