My $155,000-and-counting pacemaker treatment

We recently received the first of many “explanation of benefits” from my HMO, regarding my emergency trip to John Muir Medical Center. As I explained in a previous blog post, the emergency room staff and a cardiologist quickly diagnosed me as having an irregular heartbeat that was causing me to suddenly collapse and lose consciousness.

I went into the hospital on Sunday, October 23. I stayed that night in a single room in the cardiac care unit. The next morning, at 7:30, I had surgery to implant the pacemaker into the skin on my upper left chest. I stayed another day in the hospital, in a room in the new 6-story Tom and Billie Long Patient Care Tower.  I had one of the new 230 private rooms.

Actually, my corner room was pretty nice, to say the least. It was almost the size of my living room and dining room combined, and its sleek, urban chic design included a sofa and two chairs for visitors and a strategically placed flat-screen TV.  I could close the door, feel very private and not be bothered by the lights or noise coming off the ward.

Yes, it didn’t feel like a hospital room. Rather, it reminded me of a very posh corner room I got to stay in at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco a couple years ago.

A deluxe park-view room in the St. Regis goes for about $400 to $500 a night.

My room and board in the new John Muir tower cost $16,796 for the one night.

In all, the room and board for my two-night stay at John Muir, plus what are categorized at “IH Misc. services” and a couple random imaging services, amounted to $155,709.

But, this does not include the cost of my pacemaker, or of the surgery to insert it.  It will be interesting to see what those services cost. It will be interesting to see what all of this crisis has cost.

Yes, I have an insurance, for which we pay a lot each month and which is covering a lot of this hospital stay. But not all, and I expect I will be contacting John Muir to work out a payment plan.

I suppose I could make some profound statement about the ridiculously high cost of health care.  Not sure what I can add to the discussion. Actually, the cost didn’t seem that ridiculous when, every few hours, the staff wheeled in some new amazingly high-tech device designed to conduct one specific test. But as I said, we have insurance, which I’m glad about because such costs could be devastating for anyone.

6 thoughts on “My $155,000-and-counting pacemaker treatment

  1. I was up late last night channel-surfing and came across a program on Current TV, “Under the Knife Abroad” about medical tourism. I would recommend it. One man profiled went to India for hip replacement surgery. For $12,000 he got his hip replaced by a top orthopedic surgeon trained in the West, 5 days recovery in the hospital and a week at a nice resort at the ocean for continued physical therapy. Cost in his hometown of Houston? $55,000+. And no seaside resort in that price, either. Another woman had similar surgery, stating that in the U.S.A. it was either her home or her hip. This was her “third way” option. And yet another woman had surgery in, of all places, Mexico, by a U.S.-trained physician. When she went in to have the staples from the surgery removed at a U.S. facility, she said they asked her why. When she explained that the treatment in the U.S. was unaffordable, they *found* a way to offer further *affordable* treatment. Confronted with competition from overseas, they realized that they needed to bring their prices more in line with what the rest of the world has on offer.

    Not that one having a heart attack would be able to jump on a 747 for a 28-hour flight to India, but if one could independently schedule a surgery, it might be a worthwhile option. And perhaps, if more people did that, it might finally act as incentive to bring prices in the U.S.A. more in line with the falling income & asset realities in present-day U.S.A.


  2. Yes, Thud. You can, after having an accident and receiving surgery & care in a hospital, be in debt to the tune of multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. The woman who went to Mexico, in the TV report I mentioned previously, was in debt for over a million dollars. She was in the medical profession herself, and had insurance, but as the bills mounted after her accident, the insurance company gradually cut her off, leaving her taking expensive antibiotics every day that she could not skip taking without risking sepsis.

    The NHS has it's problems. But were I you, I would bring a healthy dose of skepticism to the discussion when P.M. Cameron asks you to trust market solutions. Markets need robust competition to function. Shutting down NHS and privatizing it doesn't seem entirely sound.


  3. A surgeon can be a dentist or a physician or a podiatrists or a veterinarian. So, the term Orthopedic Surgeon may refer to a surgeon who excels at the branch of medical science concerned with disturbance of normal functioning or malformation of the spine and joints.See more at- Houston Orthopedic Surgeons


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