My Healthcare Story
My husband, Larry, and I have been married for nearly 40 years. We have six children and 15 grandchildren. We are among the millions of Americans who have faced financial ruin due to medical crisis and debt. After my husband faced three open heart surgeries and I was diagnosed with cancer, we were forced into bankruptcy by aggressive medical collectors who threatened to sue us for the deductible portions of our bills even after our health insurance had paid the providers thousands. We tried hard to pay everyone a little bit, but we could not find any way to cover all the bills and pay our other living expenses.
I was especially hurt by the providers who we needed so badly to help us recover and maintain our health who became unwilling to help us when we could not pay deductibles and co-pays up front. Following one trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, our insurance company paid $90,000 to cover
all but $6,000 of the bill for my husband’s surgery and follow-up care. We received a letter a few weeks later from Mayo saying that their foundation was going to forgive the $6,000 debt but that if we ever wanted to return for further care, we would need to pay up front any estimated out-of-pocket costs. That effectively ended my husband’s care at this world-renowned facility where our insurance company sent us for care since they had a contractual arrangement with the clinic to provide the specialized care my husband needed.
We were both devastated not only by our illnesses but also by the brutality of the health care system. We had always been as responsible as we could be, and we never went without health insurance. Each year, we would choose the plan that seemed best for our family. But we finally lost our home, and it seemed that blow after blow kept coming even as we worked to stabilize our lives and our family.
I struggled not to give up. The demands placed on me to try to access the care we needed, arrange for payment as best we could, and avoid the medical collectors made me depressed, frightened and angry. Friends and even family members backed away from us as they grew weary of hearing the latest trauma. We became isolated and often wondered how or even why we would go on living this way.
Throughout it all, I missed very little work as I knew keeping my job also meant keeping our insurance. In addition to our own financial upheaval, I was so aware and so sad that our illnesses and claims for our care were driving up insurance costs for all of my fellow employees and their families. We hated that. Giving up sometimes seemed like the best option.