A few nights ago, my daughter woke up, screaming and crying. My husband went in to check on her (mainly because he was still awake) and when I arrived on the scene, I was told it was not due to a nightmare (which is what I thought). It was because she was screaming in pain. Apparently, her ear hurt. I thought it was from changing her earrings but she said no, it hurt inside her ear. This? Did not make me happy.
Since it was 11:00PM, there wasn’t much we could do about it. We gave her some Tylenol, put an ice pack on her ear and put her back in bed. The next morning, I called the doctor to schedule an appointment. My daughter is not a complainer so when she says something hurts, I listen. I was able to get her an appointment for that afternoon, talked to my supervisor to get the afternoon off, picked her up from school and off we went to the pediatrician. Sure enough, she had a raging ear infection. The doctor called in a prescription and a few minutes later, we had an antibiotic in our hand (the pharmacy is at the opposite end of the shopping center where the doctor’s office is located. Yeah, I’m that lazy) and we went home.
This whole event cost me $24.71. That’s it. I knew that I was fortunate because of our insurance and my job but it wasn’t until I started looking more closely at the cost of everything (‘cause I do that) that I realized just how fortunate:
- The doctor’s visit. My husband’s employer pays the cost of our insurance so there is no employee contribution. The insurance pays the doctor. All we have to pay is a $15 co-pay and the rest takes care of itself. If we didn’t have insurance, we’d be out at least $100 or more just to be seen by the doctor (the visit lasted maybe 10 minutes). Pretty big difference for a nominal amount of time.
- The antibiotic. Because of our insurance, we paid $9.71 for the antibiotic. Our pharmacy is kind enough to include the actual cost of the prescription on the receipt. For the one my daughter is on, if we didn’t have insurance, we would have been out $96. That’s a ton of money for a 10 day course of antibiotics. Our insurance afford us a huge savings.
- Paid time off. One of the benefits of my job is paid vacation and sick time. If I have a sick child, I get to use my sick time and, because I have an understanding supervisor, I can pretty much go to him 10 minutes before I need to leave, let him know what’s going on, and I can go. He doesn’t give me a hard time and doesn’t question if I’m being truthful. Given that, I lost absolutely no pay for having to take my daughter to the doctor. If I were paid hourly, I would have lost a substantial amount of money.
- Transportation. Since I must have a car to get around, I was able to just get in the car and go. I didn’t have to wait for a bus, pay for a cab or anything else. Not only did it save me money but a ton of time, too.
All in all, the doctor’s visit and prescription pick up took an hour. I wound up taking 3 hours off of work because I didn’t know how long the wait at the pediatrician and the pharmacy would be and I wanted to be safe. For that hour, what I paid out of pocket is pretty reasonable. When I think about what it would have cost me had I not had insurance or paid time off, I would have been really upset that something as small as an ear infection could have cost me 3 hours of pay and over $200.
The intent of this post is not to be an indictment of our health care system or rant about the cost of medical care. Nor is the intent to brag about the fact that I have insurance when so many go without. No. The intent of this post is simply to illustrate what, up until now, I have taken for granted. The only debt I’ve never had is medical debt. But after breaking down what a simple ear infection could have cost me, I now understand how a major illness or injury can financially cripple people.