It’s no secret America’s healthcare system requires patients to dig deep into their pockets, but one Aussie still got the shock of a lifetime when he received an invoice for $US9000 after going to the emergency department.
Andy*, who grew up in Sydney but is currently stuck in New York, came down with symptoms of COVID-19 in early March.
He walked to the nearest emergency ward but after spending five hours there, they decided not to test him as he was only showing mild symptoms.
But a few weeks later, Andy received an invoice in the mail which meant he had to fork out a staggering $US9000 ($A13,700) for the less-than-ideal treatment.
“Obviously that’s really expensive,” Andy told news.com.au.
“And I still don’t even know if I had it (coronavirus),” he added.
“They wouldn’t test me.”
After coming down with a sore throat and a fever, Andy got in contact with medical authorities.
“I didn’t want to go to the hospital,” he said.
“I called my regular doctor, but they didn’t want a bar of me.
“They directed me to the state government, who then directed me back to my GP. It went in a big loop. I basically spent four hours on the phone.
“Finally they said ‘we’re too scared for you to come see us so you need to go to the hospital’.”
The stranded Aussie walked into the nearest emergency room and no-one asked him if he had medical insurance.
“After five hours of waiting, they told me they didn’t want to give me a (coronavirus) test,” he said.
“At that stage they had barely any access to tests.
“(The) people (they were) giving the tests to were high-risk patients.”
Instead, emergency nurses did a blood test and a chest X-ray on Andy, to make sure he was a mild case. Fortunately, he was.
“They told me the answer is go home, stay at home for a couple of weeks,” he said.
A few weeks later, Andy got the bill in the mail. It was a whopping $9000.
“Would it cost them $9000 to do it (those tests)? No,” he said.
“Did I pay for a few other people (at the hospital)? Yes.”
Luckily Andy has private medical insurance, and fully expects to pay the bill. However, others won’t be quite as lucky.
The Australian has a philosophical approach to the whole situation, though.
“This is how it works,” he said. “Anyone who goes to the emergency room, they can’t turn away. So if you factor in all those costs, it’s a lot.”
Essentially, they charge some people more than others, to cover all their costs.
“I have nothing bad to say about it all. That’s life.”
Kris Skandakumar, originally from Melbourne, is also stuck in New York, and he isn’t quite as happy with the US medical system.
“The health system is very different to an Australian hospital,” he told news.com.au.
While Australia’s curve is flattening, New York still has piles of bodies rotting in the streets.
“What’s going on at home makes me a little bit jealous,” Mr Skandakumar admitted.
“People in Australia can get tested (for COVID-19) if they need it. But it’s a different reality for us. News out of New York is pretty bleak.”
*Andy asked his last name be withheld for privacy reasons
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Originally published as Aussie’s shock $9K US medical fee