Two NPR stories address different patients with different illnesses in different states, but they both tell the same tale of sky-high medical bills. 

Two Stories, Same Tale: Sky-High Medical Bills

Two NPR stories address different patients with different illnesses in different states, but they both tell the same tale of sky-high medical bills.

The Financial Cost of Cancer

The first story is one of cancer treatment and “Confusing Bills, Maddening Errors And Endless Phone Calls.” The piece states that Carol Marley of Texas’ most “gnawing” concern is “the convoluted medical bills that fill multiple binders, depleted savings accounts that destroy early retirement plans and so, so many phone calls with insurers and medical providers…Coping with the financial fallout of cancer is exhausting — and nerve-wracking. But the worst part, Marley says, is that it’s unexpected.”

The piece continues: “More than 42 percent of the 9.5 million people diagnosed with cancer from 2000 to 2012 drained their life’s assets within two years, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Medicine. Cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without cancer, and bankruptcy puts them at a higher risk for early death, according to research.”

Says Stephanie Wheeler, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has conducted survey research with metastatic cancer patients. “It’s oftentimes multiple different bills that are rolling in over a period of several months and sometimes years. As those bills start to accumulate, it can be very stress inducing.”

Cat Bite Costs More than $40K

Another NPR tells a different, less life-threatening story with a similar point: “Cat Bites The Hand That Feeds; Hospital Bills $48,512.”

It states that “In a rural area just outside Florida’s Everglades National Park, [Jeannette] Parker spotted the cat wandering along the road. It looked skinny and sick, and when Parker, a wildlife biologist, offered up some tuna she had in her car, the cat bit her finger.”

Fearing rabies, Parker went to her local emergency room: “She spent about two hours in the emergency room, got two types of injections and an antibiotic and says she never talked with a doctor.”

“Total bill: $48,512, with $46,422 of that total for one preventive medication.”

Interestingly, NPR reports that the hospital “noted that the month after Parker was treated, Mariners revamped its full price list, known as a ‘chargemaster.’ The hospital lowered its charge for rabies immune globulin to $1,650 per 2 milliliters, which would have made Parker’s bill about $9,900 — still high, but not sky-high.” While Parker had insurance, it still cost her thousands.

The two pieces tell a similar story: Medical costs too often seem out of control

For more information on the issues surrounding medical debt, please contact RIP Medical Debt.