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20+ Times The American Healthcare System Surprised The Rest Of The World

America is famously resistant to the idea of universal healthcare,

But these 24 American healthcare horror stories will have you wondering about exactly what Americans are trying to protect.

These can explain the situation of American Healthcare Facilities to the world.

1. I got pregnant @ 19 – I was at a decent job, but unfortunately had no health insurance. My 1st doctor appointment, they sat me down for “financial counseling” on how I was going to afford the hospital bill to pay them. I couldn’t afford the projected 20K hospital bill on my own, so they suggested I apply for Medicaid. Called the Medicaid office and was denied because I made FIFTY DOLLARS over the income limit per year. They told me that I should quit my job so that I would qualify for public assistance – otherwise the bill would be entirely on me.  Luckily, I had a boss that I could really confide in. She cut back my pay by like ten cents an hour, something ridiculously insignificant like that, and wrote a letter to my caseworker letting her know that it was due to “company budgetary restraints”. Voila, I got the help I needed.
Not many people are nearly as lucky as I was. The fact that I was actually TOLD to quit my job in order to be able to ‘afford’ having my son still makes my stomach churn. 

2. “A few years ago, I had surgery on my hand because I had a mallet break of my index finger and the bone fragment twisted with the tendon attached. The corrective surgery involved twisting the fragment back into place with pins and then leaving those in for a few weeks so ossification could happen. Understandably, the surgery was in the $15,000 range, give or take, and insurance covered around 65% of it. But what astounded me most was that when we removed the pins from my ring finger, it cost $6,500. Really? It was five minutes with a doctor (not even the surgeon) and a set of pliers! Also insurance claimed it was “cosmetic” so they wouldn’t pay for the removal of the pins. Lost my faith in our system that day.” 

3. “How about when your wife works for the insurance company that is also her provider and after our baby was born they refused to pay the bill because her pregnancy was a pre-existing condition. Their excuse was that because the child was born two days prior to the due date she must have lied about the date she became pregnant. Now her employer is the same company that is suing us for the bill, ironic?” (tripmas)

4. “Not a horror story- but I was stunned to see my neurologist charge the insurance company over 2,000 bucks for a test that she DIDN’T EVEN PERFORM HERSELF! Her grad student did it. That’s what you pay over 2 grand for? Holy sh*t!” (AfterschoolTeacher)

5. “I was born at 26 weeks gestation. You cannot imagine my parents’ bills for that. They both worked at CBS and the company got everyone involved in fundraising for them (and blood drives for me). I wonder if this would happen now, hypothetically. The bills were over $1mil for six months in the NICU and everything else that went with it. I don’t want to know what that is in inflation. (I was born in 1986.)” (neemarita)

6. “I owe a hospital 2,000 dollars for an IV and some Benadryl. I had a migraine, and usually, I can tough them out, but this one was so painful I was almost considering suicide. No joke. I went to the ER, they treated me like a junkie, wouldn’t give me any good pain meds and just gave me some Benadryl in an IV. Gonna be awhile before I can afford to pay it off. This was WITH health insurance, btw.” (athena94)

7. “One of my kids has allergies, so we have an EpiPen that has to be renewed even if you don’t use it. We get a coupon through our insurance so it’s free … but if we had to pay for it, it would be over $300. I don’t know how some people do it. It’s like price gouging. Here’s an instrument that is proven to be the best way to save your child’s life … instead of giving it to you for free, we’ve increased the price by 600% so we can get rich. It makes you want to punch a nun in the face.” (deleted)

8. “My wife and I had a perfectly normal, on-time childbirth. 20 minutes of a doctor’s time and an epidural.
I have insurance that I pay about 9k a year for. The total bill was 18k, and about 3k has to come out of my pocket.”

9. “As a German who moved to the US in 2007, I’ve been absolutely stunned by what a clusterf*ck the US health system is. This year, my wife developed a blood clot, and the out of pocket charge for two days in hospital was $3,400. Then the anti-clotting drug was $600 for a month’s worth of needles and that was from a “budget” prescriptions place in Texas. The lesson I’ve learned is that for regular people, the US medical system is fine provided you never need it.” (Crocobible)

10. “American physician here. America has some of the smartest, most well-trained physicians in the world and we should be #1 in healthcare. However, it seems like government and insurance companies purposely interfere with medicine and make it unnecessarily complex.
Graduating medical school and residency were easy compared to dealing with insurance companies, wondering if medications/procedures are covered, etc. I feel more like a businessman than a physician because I have been conditioned to only see the financial side of medicine, as it directly impacts my practice and paycheck.
Physicians need to write the health care laws, not lawyers and businessmen. That is why America falls behind the rest of industrialized nations.”

11. “Got into a car wreck, completely my fault, and got a detached retina. Easily solvable, if you have insurance or the money for the reattachment operation. Unfortunately, my governor had declined the Medicaid expansion meant to cover me, in an ill-fated bid to become the Republican presidential candidate. So while I sat unable to even see a doctor, the window of opportunity passed, and the retina can no longer be reattached.
Basically, I lost the vision in my left eye so that you could all have the privilege of being exposed to the “Tanned, Rested, and Ready” slogan.” 

12. “My youngest son was born two months early and immediately intubated and taken to pediatric intensive care (NICU). Obviously, their first priority was not “what are you going to name him,” so he was admitted as “Boy [Last Name].” The problem was, the hospital never changed this info after he had a name, and subsequently submitted his bills to my insurance under “Boy [Last Name].” The insurance rejected the claim on the grounds that they had no record of insuring a patient with that name. The hospital then sent me a $60,000 hospital bill (6 weeks hospitalization plus surgery.) Insurance tried to deny rebilling when they finally fixed the error. My only saving grace was that I was on state-subsidized health care (pre-affordable care act) and could not be held liable for anything my insurance denied due to hospital error, so the hospital and insurance companies got to duel it out.”

13. “My parents went bankrupt due to health care costs and my dad still thinks that nationalized health care is “evil and wrong.” Even though he doesn’t make anything close to $250k a year, he still thinks that the rich should be allowed to keep as much of their money as possible. I asked him if he’d be OK with me going bankrupt and being ruined if I got sick. I asked him if that was OK with him.
He didn’t answer.”


14. “A coworker told me about the time his wife went into labor. He called an ambulance to get her to the hospital.
Later, his insurance company charged him over $1000 for the ambulance because he didn’t select one from within his insurance provider’s network.
Call me crazy, but when you need emergency medical transportation, it seems your time is better spent on things other than (in essence) picking out the color of the ambulance you’ll be going in.” (

15. “My son was born 3+ months premature, $400,000+ for hospital, $100,000+ for doctors. Our out-of-pocket was only $1200, wife had Blue Cross. But that was 19 years ago, I shudder to think what our present insurer, United Health Care, would leave us on the hook for now. We would probably lose our house. We also gave permission for doctors to use Surfactant (considered “experimental” at the time), I’ll bet that UHC would turn down any “experimental” treatments now, even to save a patient’s life.
The boy is fine now, but plays too damn much Xbox 360.”

16. “One sort of “meta” comment I haven’t seen mentioned:
As someone who grew up in Canada then moved to the States, the idea of for-profit healthcare still blows my mind. I’ve lived here for years, but I still can’t believe there are for-profit ambulances, or that hospitals are out to make a profit.
If you’re American and have grown up used to the idea of a private health-care system, try picturing this:
Imagine going to a new country and finding out that the police were for-profit, and you had a variety of options for licensed police services. If you paid for a good plan, you’d get sub-5-minute response times, you’d get detectives assigned if your car was stolen, and you’d have a cop patrolling your neighborhood on a somewhat regular basis. If you were on a budget, you’d only get a 10-minute response time, and no detectives assigned to major threats or patrols.
Crazy, right?
Or how about if you needed private fire insurance, not to pay for fire damage, but to pay for firefighters to come if your house caught fire.
It’s just incredible that if you dial 911 because your house is on fire you get the tax-funded fire department. If you dial 911 because the arsonist who set the fire is still in your house, you get the tax-funded police. If you dial 911 because you got burned, you’ll get a for-profit ambulance service.” 

17. “When Obamacare/ACA first came out, I found out I wasn’t able to afford it.
I found another affordable Health Care company and signed up for them. I paid my monthly premium every month and about a year into it, I needed to use it for a doctor’s appointment.
I found out that no one around me accepted it. I researched the company online and pretty much everyone was giving it horrible ratings.
I probably should have done that before signing on, but still … health care is messed up.”

18. “You have no idea. I quit my job that provided health care in favor of a small bakery which did not. Small businesses aren’t required to have it and so she doesn’t. To purchase it privately was in the neighborhood of $280-300 for a mid-level plan. When you’re paid just above minimum wage that’s really outta your grasp. The Obamacare signup was closed at the time. So no health care for me for 8 months or so. I’m a pretty healthy young woman and provided I didn’t hurt myself at work, I figured I’d be okay. I was … up until I got a kidney infection.
I scraped up 200 bucks I did not have to go to a free clinic where the doctor did minimal testing (she understood I was paying out of pocket) and prescribed very general antibiotics in hopes it’d work. They nearly didn’t. I only had pills for the week and by the 5th day, with a fever up above 100, back pain, chills, and nausea, I knew the overnights at the bakery absolutely weren’t helping. I finally, in tears of fear and hopelessness, told my boss I simply couldn’t work anymore and if that means firing me than so be it because the alternative is a 5-10 thousand dollar hospital stay if I get blood poisoning.
It’s a truly terrible and scary place to be. That something a handful of pills could have cured me could cost me a car because I don’t have insurance is insanity. America is a great place … but only for a very select few.” 

19. “In 2001, my wife (girlfriend at the time, age 19), had a brain aneurysm. We didn’t have health care; we were just two kids barely out of school not sure what we were going to do with our lives. 
We’ll be filing bankruptcy on over 150K in medical bills this year. We were going to try to pay it, but it would cripple us for the next decade, and we’ve got two kids we want to go to college and retirement to think about.
Watching the “debate” about nationalized health care is beyond f*cking ridiculous.”

20. “Here’s the timeline from a medical situation I had about a month ago, in Canada:
4 PM – Bad stomach pain
7 PM – Arrived in ER
7:20 PM – Admitted and taken to a bed to lie down
7:40 PM – Seen by a doctor who orders CT scan, and puts in a call to a surgeon. 
8:00 PM – Surgeon arrives, says it’s most likely appendicitis. Going to wait for CT results to confirm.
10:00 PM – Jumped queue for CT scan due to the severity of my situation compared other patients (felt kind of bad)
10:30 PM – Surgeon comes back, says it’s definitely appendicitis and he’s going to operate at midnight.
12:02 AM – On the operating table.
Stayed in the hospital for a couple days, then was sent home with a prescription for painkillers, which cost $2.50 because of my university’s extended health insurance policy. Full price was only ~$10 anyway.
Total cost of ordeal: $2.50
Wait: 5 hours from admission to surgery.
The horrible things I read about America’s health care amazes me.” 

21. “Here’s my timeline from a very similar medical situation I had earlier this year, only in the US:
8 PM – Bad stomach pain
1 AM – Unbearable, so wife drives me to Urgent Care clinic. Forgot my health insurance card at home. Told to call in and give it within the next few days.
2 AM – Seen by a doctor, blood drawn, urine sample taken. IV and painkillers
3:30 AM – Appendicitis is likely, doctor orders mid-abdominal and lower- abdominal CT with IV and enema contrast, changed IV painkillers twice due to ineffectiveness
5 AM – Go in for CT scans
6:30 AM – CTs come back negative, given Vicodin prescription and discharged
10 AM – problem resolves itself except for a bad headache from Morphine withdrawal.
I forgot to call in the insurance information, so a month later I get a bill for the full, uninsured costs: $19,350.
I immediately called in with my insurance information. A month later get the updated bill. The ‘negotiated rate’ with my insurance provider knocked 60% off the bill (they charge people off the street 150% more than insurance companies), and after the insurance company’s portion I ‘only’ owe $2,200 and feel lucky about it.” (

22. “My recent totals:
Appendectomy: $16K (I paid a $100 copay) Sprained ankle (ER): $1,600 ($50 copay) C-Section Baby: $6k (we paid maybe $500) Sleep study: $5k ($50 copay)
I know people that had twins prematurely and the bill was over $300k, though they paid probably less than $1200 out of pocket.
Doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.” 

23. “Last year, I was an American working for an American company opening a facility in Toronto.
I made the decision with the understanding that while I was in Canada, my US Health Insurance would not cover anything AND I was not covered by the Canadian Health Care system (As an aside, my company agreed to reimburse any health costs should they happen while I was in Canada).
About 3 months of working 80 hour work weeks, my immune system pretty much gave out. I began experiencing symptoms of a respiratory infection. Because I was used to the US Health Care system, I was afraid to seek any help. The last time I sought help for the same thing in the US, I was hit with a $200 bill for a 30 minute consultation for what I thought was an inexpensive urgent care clinic in the US. It got to the point that I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t swallow anything without inducing vomiting. Breathing became very problematic.
I woke up one day barely able to breathe and extremely malnourished. I dragged myself to my car and drove the half mile to the clinic.
When I arrived, the clinic was set up like any other professional doctor’s office I’ve ever visited. The waiting room was clean. There was one other person waiting before me. I was handed a sheet to fill out just like any other new doctor has ever asked me to fill out.  The only hitch came when the form asked me for Canadian Health Care ID numbers and related information. I simply filled in: US Citizen. My anxiety began to think the worst. Would they treat me? 
While the secretary was clearly puzzled by my US Citizen status, she promptly called me back. And a nurse was waiting for me in the examination room to record my symptoms and complaints.
About 15 minutes later, the actual doctor came in. He performed a thorough examination. He diagnosed me with a severe respiratory infection and prescribed the necessary medication. After all was said and done, the doctor got up to leave. Out of fear, I immediately questioned him, “What do I owe you? I’m not Canadian. How much will this cost me?”
These questions clearly took him by surprise, and he pried further. I guess to make sure I wasn’t there to defraud the Canadian system. I explained that I was there legally. I was a US Citizen working for a US company to open a Canadian branch. He listened thoughtfully, and immediately eventually cut me off. “$25.00. Is that fair?”
Even as someone not covered by their health system, the Canadians treated me better than any health care I have ever received in the US in my entire life.

24. “The current system is absolutely dehumanizing. When a neurosurgeon has surgical outcome quotas based on a percentage of patients he/she sees and my internist laughs when I tell him hospitals would use conveyor belts for annual exams if they thought patients would tolerate such a measure; there is something wrong with our system. My colleagues in prestigious name-brand institutions tell me patient outcomes are not even in the top five of the true goals of the places where they work. The most talented, caring, good humans I know can’t wait to leave medicine.”


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