RA Medical Bill Woes... Again

If there is one unifying experience that almost everyone with RA (or any chronic illness) in the US has had — besides pain — it’s expensive medical bills.

This is a uniquely American problem.

An expensive round of blood work

Last month, I went to the rheumatologist after having another flare and, coincidentally, it was time for me to have a blood work checkup. I’m used to having blood work done, but this particular round of work was about 10 vials of blood, which is a lot. Almost too much. But, it was done, and I was ready to get the results.

I wasn’t so much worried about the results; I had an inkling that they would not be the best (my rheumatoid factor was elevated, my CCP test was very high, etc.). What I was not prepared for was the bill that would come from having all this work done.

How would an uninsured patient pay a $3,000 bill?

To be clear, I was only billed $148 (and I say "only" because, when you find out how much was billed to insurance, you will see that $148 is a drop in the bucket). Quest billed my insurance almost $3,000 for blood work.

I find that incredibly sickening. I know that I have immense privilege in having good health insurance, and I am also thinking about someone who doesn’t have great insurance and also having RA. How would they survive a $3,000 blood work bill? How would they even go to the doctor? I know that without going to the doctor, I would be in so much more pain; it would literally affect my ability to live and how I feel.

Having insurance is a privilege

Not only that, but you start to realize how much the medical insurance system is essentially a scam. First, you have to go to your primary care doctor, where they have to complete blood work to diagnose you with RA (and sometimes blood work won’t diagnose you if you’re seronegative); then, if you get referred, you go to a rheumatologist where they will do more blood work; then, if it’s determined that you need a biologic, you have to get prior authorization from your insurance, where you won’t have to pay too much if you do have insurance.

Now, remove insurance. You’re paying out of pocket for all the doctor’s visits, the blood work, and then the medicines that are supposed to treat you. With the high cost of all these elements, you realize it’s not possible at all to remove insurance and how much of a privilege it is to have insurance. Not to mention, you have to pay an arm and a leg for insurance if you don’t have a job, and it’s extremely messed up that you have to have a job to have access to decent health insurance in the first place. And even then, you’ll have to pay for that insurance.

Bringing awareness to insurance and treatment costs

There’s a reason why that system is in place, and I won’t delve into it here to stay on topic with the personal experience I have had with health insurance. And though I have good health insurance, I know that a lot of people don’t, which I why I want to talk about my experience to bring awareness to this.

Have you struggled to afford medical care for RA with or without health insurance? Share an experience in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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