When I was first diagnosed, the neurologist pushed a pile of information across his desk at me and told me to go home and digest it – and come back in a week with a decision as to which drug I wanted to start on immediately. It was understood that I would be starting on a drug. There was no discussion about alternative therapies or treatments or about the option of NOT taking anything. I just needed to choose a drug and start immediately. So I did. I chose Betaserone – and I started within 2 weeks of my diagnosis. I experienced all the side effects that they warn you about: flu-like symptoms, uncontrollable shaking (assumedly from a spiked fever in the middle of the night), injection site irritation and general malaise. I briefly considered going off the drugs altogether, but the doctor scared the crap out of me about permanent disability if I went off the drugs – so I just sucked it up and stayed on Betaserone. For 5 years I shot up every other night. I didn’t know how bad I felt or how much it had changed ME until I went completely cold-turkey off of it 2 1/2 years ago. I wrote about that decision here. It was a good decision then – and I’ve felt better since quitting the drugs than I have since being diagnosed. So what’s the problem? I had to get new insurance which meant a new doctor – which meant questions and second-guessing. “Ok,” reasoned the new doc, “it’s gone well for you as far as we can tell, but there’s no guarantee you won’t have a major relapse – one that you can’t come back from. Is it worth it?” UGH.
“It’s Like Deja-Vu All Over Again”
I had made the decision once. Now I’m second-guessing myself. All the old insecurities came up. The what-ifs were eating me up. So – “let’s get an MRI and take a look,” went the internal dialogue. I’ve been off the meds for 2 1/2 years – now would be a good time for a “look see” to check if there’s been any change in my noggin. Based on what’s found – I’ll be armed to make a good decision. There are new drugs now – I won’t even have to consider injections again. Knowledge is power. Let’s gather all the available information and make the best possible decision. Makes sense. Let’s do this.
MRIs Cost How Much?
As I mentioned, I had recently changed insurance companies based on my husband’s employer’s decision to no longer offer health insurance. This came about because the insurance company they had been using was increasing the premium by 75-100%. WHAT?!?! Yep – you read that right. So – I completely understand the employer not being able to absorb that type of hit – and I’m ever so thankful that “Obamacare” exists in the U.S. now. Prior to that – I wouldn’t have been able to get other insurance due to a “pre-existing condition” clause that allowed insurance companies to exclude those of us with the audacity to actually contract a disease. But I digress.
Since I hadn’t dealt with this insurance company before, I started the process of pre-certifying my procedure (the MRIs). Yes, I was told, I could get the MRIs. Of course I need to satisfy my deductible ($750) and then it would be covered at an 80/20 ratio. In other words, the insurance company would pay 80% of the costs and I would pay 20%. Next task: find out the actual pricing on MRIs. My doctor wanted me to have them done at the hospital where I had them done in the past to be able to compare them. Also – the MRI at the hospital is a 3.0 Tesla MRI – a very sensitive MRI machine. OK – this all makes sense to me. I’ll need the MRIs done both with and without contrast. That will be an additional cost of course. My neurologist wants MRIs of my neck, upper and lower spine. Still good with all of this. It all makes sense. I call the hospital – no one can tell me how much it costs to have an MRI done. WHAT?!?! No joke. I spent a couple of days calling all over to try to track down the information I needed. Lumbar MRI – $4622; Cervical MRI – $4561; Brain MRI – $5110; this does not include the cost for the Radiologist to read the MRIs. I was on hold for 25 minutes with their office and finally gave up. So – my responsibility will be approximately $3600 + the Radiologists charges and the cost of the contrast.
Actually, the decision was pretty easy based on the cost projections: I’ve decided not to sink my family’s budget and just think “happy thoughts” and hope for the best. Seriously. My rationale (other than I can’t afford this) is that I’ve been doing so very well off the meds for the last 2 1/2 years, I’ll just assume that is going to continue – and I’ll treat the symptoms as they come. If they come. When they come? Who the hell knows. This is MS. Everything changes day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. So for now – I’m grateful for however long I get to feel good. And see. And hear. And move. And think.
When I posted the numbers involved in my MRI plight on the FUMS Facebook page, I heard from a lot of people all over the world who were grateful that they had the government provided healthcare that they have. Elsewhere. Not in my home country. I’m beyond disappointed in the United States. We the people – deserve better. For a “Christian Nation” – we don’t act much like it. Taking care of each other seems like the first and guiding principle of Christianity. Why have you forsaken me – and all of us who had the audacity to contract a disease? There but for the grace of God go each of you (and your children and your grandchildren) . . .
What’s your take on healthcare costs – and what’s it like where you live? I’d love for the community to share your stories. Sharing is caring!! Please leave your comments in the comment section below this post. Thanks.