All these bills

One thing you can count on with a critical illness is a sudden influx of postal mail. You will get bills, statements and explanation of benefits. Some of the letters will be very very thick and when you go through them it will be eye opening.

My oldest daughter was born with shoulder dystocia when I was a post-doc. These bills eclipsed the medical correspondence from childbirth. She is completely fine today, no physical remnants from her birth are visible today at all. We received bills from the orthopedic, physical therapy, and hospital. After two months of medical appointments we paid them all gladly. There is something about paying off your kids medical bills that makes you feel like you didn’t invite bad karma on her or the family.

My youngest daughter was born with hip dysplasia when I was laid off. We found out she was coming two weeks after being laid off, that’ll take the wind right out of your sails. She, too, is completely fine today despite being born on the way to the hospital with her very special hips. She was a happy healthy baby in a harness to train her hips for about seven months.

Seven months is a long time to accumulate medical correspondence. These bills were paid off both because of the karma idea and because of gratitude. Going to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital at least once a week for seven months gives you a tremendous sense of gratitude that you have three healthy children.

The first bill for this breast cancer journey was for the diagnostic mammogram. Interestingly, the first mammogram was fully covered, the second required a bit of money. The flexible spending account is there for precisely this reason, swiped it gratefully.

The next few bills culminated with the mastectomy. Wow, they were thick, detailed and with a lot of numbers to the left of the decimal. Comparing those bills with the explanation of benefits made for interesting reading. Being critically ill is expensive, thank goodness that my insurance was what it was, otherwise those bills would have been wholly for me as they stood.

That was the end of the flexible spending account for that year.

I received counseling for chemotherapy. There was the medical counseling as well as financial counseling. They explained what insurance covered, what it didn’t, what was marked down and what was my responsibility, in theory. The theory changes depending on my tolerance for chemotherapy and how the insurance company processes things based on the hospital coding. It was a best guess and it was pretty substantial and the flex account was already depleted.

Thankfully the hospital erred. They over estimated my contribution. The reverse happened with the surgeon, what I thought was done was not quite done yet. Apparently medical billing is challenging with so many parties involved.

That is what happens with the bills, you get them grossly overestimated and if you pay the overestimation, they refund you eventually. If they underestimated and you owe some more, they bill you for it immediately. Interesting how that works, right?

If your illness carries over the year, all of the copays, out of pocket max, deductibles etc restart. My doctors tried very hard to get as much in one calendar year as was healthy for me as possible. If you play video games it was a lot like the bills respawned at full health with the new year.

I am paying the bills dutifully and gratefully. Seriously, not inviting bad karma and even more seriously I am grateful for the outcome and my health I am equally grateful that I am the one paying them instead of my family after me.

I have saved the itemized hospital bills and the chemotherapy bills, I keep them in my breast cancer binder as a reminder to be grateful and not to take my health for granted.

I am hoping that this year is that last year for the big bills from big events with breast cancer. Here’s hoping, equally strong, that you can manage all of your bills, just remember to pay them with gratitude knowing that you have your health!

Published by survivorsherpa

I am a wife and mother to three daughters, a chemist and a breast cancer survivor. I would very much like to help others by caring and advocating for them while sharing my experiences and tips that may help to thrive during and after treatment.

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