Money and the US Medical System

I was hospitalized for a psychosis while I was in the process of writing my doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia.  After a month in a locked hospital wing, I was dropped off on a street corner by the hospital bus and I walked to my apartment.  Accompanying me was a $50,000 hospital bill.  The hospital did have an indigent policy, so I made an appointment with an administrator to see if I qualified as an indigent.  It needs to be said that this was immediately after my hospitalization for psychosis.  I was still confused, and just short of delusional.  My moods were wild and my mind was still broken.  It was in this condition that I went to advocate for myself about the $50,000 hospital bill.  The administrator told me to come back with documentation of the amount in my bank account.  I had $8,000 in my bank account.  The way graduate school works, is that you get a student loan check in one lump sum that you have to live off for the whole year.  The hospital administrator told me that I had too much money in my bank account for me to be considered an indigent.  I still had to pay them $50,000.  I explained that the $8,000 in my bank account was my income.  I had to live off $8,000 for the whole year.  How would you like to live on $8,000?  He said he understood, but that is the way the criteria are written.  I still owed $50,000.  I proceeded to withdraw much of my money to pay rent, came back to the administrator with documentation of a much lower bank account balance.  The administrator told me that now I qualified as an indigent.  I didn’t owe the $50,000.  I said, “Just like that?”  “Yes.”

It’s hard to go through a psychotic episode.  Then it’s even harder to readjust to society and try to pick up a life that has been broken, a mind that has been broken.  It does not seem humane to make a person advocate for himself with a broken consciousness.  It does not seem humane to bill a mentally ill individual $50,000 for hospitalization.  It does not seem humane to have rules written so concretely that a matter of a mere bank balance is the only determinate for indigent status, especially in a university town.  But then, the American health system has never been considered humane.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. audrey brooks
    Nov 11, 2017 @ 00:53:37

    There is a huge line between the protocol of a financial institution and compassion and empathy, your story confirms this. As a person who dealt with mental health issues in my youth, I walked in your shoes through this blog, David. To face a person who has that kind of authority when one is disoriented and abandoned, is something that cannot be forgotten. Been there. Hugs, Audrey

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  2. Schizosomething
    Nov 12, 2017 @ 02:58:47

    We think mental health services are bad in Britain but at least they are free.

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