What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by Amanda.
A medical bill arrives in the mail almost daily.
Sometimes it's a simple list of expenses related to our last doctor visit. Sometimes it's a note from the Children's Hospital stating that our insurance has been billed. Too frequently it is a letter from our insurance company with the list of what has been paid and the longer list of expenses that have been denied. (Always coded in indecipherable, needs a ring decoder from a cracker jacks box, letter and number combinations.)
Today the bill was over $5,000 for Ariam's recent MRI. (The one she had to have because her extra large and lovely Ethiopian head had stumped the American pediatric growth chart.)
The MRI was clear.
The bill was a shock.
Most people who live with comfortable, employer provided, group insurance, will never see the actual numbers related to their child's medical care. You will pay your copay and walk away. But the reality is that the numbers related to lab work (like all of those stool samples after an internationally adopted child arrives home!) MRIs, x-rays, hospital visits, and specialist vistis are astronomically expensive. These bills are a reality that many of us with private insurance struggle with silently. Grimly filling out forms for assistance, manipulating numbers, trying to decide if medical bills will be so high that it would actually make sense for one parent to quit a job in order to qualify for help (by falling in a lower income category.)
It is embarrassing, it is a silent fear that hangs over our head. Although we pay close to $700/month in insurance premims for a family of three, we often feel like we are somehow "less than" for not having group insurance and for struggling with medical bills.
Our MRI bill from the hospital will now go to our private insurance company. At least 50% of the cost will be denied because we have the best policy money can buy - but it still requires a 50% copay on almost all procedures. If that were the end of the story I'd be crippled in agony and we'd be broke very quickly.
Fortunately we qualify for additional assistance through our local Children's Hospital (a donor funded program with reasonably high income limits) and therefore the final bill will circulate through their billing department, landing back in our mail box much lower and much more manageable.
We will not go bankrupt. But someone, somewhere (probably many someones) will. Because their employer does not offer group insurance. Or because they lost a job and COBRA has run out. Possibly because they are on private insurance plans with lifetime limits or huge annual out of pocket deductibles. Too many people will be dropped from their insurance plan when an illness can be traced back to a preexisting condition.
Yesterday someone on a forum I participate in suggested that it is unethical to adopt a child and then accept any form of medical assistance or supplementary financial aid. The word fraud was tossed around. "Taxpayer burden" was put out there in writing, without shame.
What I want you to know is that this issue is not one of political ideologies. Or it shouldn't be. Children are never a burden. Children are the best investment we can make with our taxpayer dollars. Whether you are for or against large government and government subsidized health care you must agree that no family should be financially crippled by a child's medical bills.
We have a right to be parents, in whatever manner we choose. Our child is no different than anyone else's biological child. Any child could have special medical needs. We simply made the choice to adopt a child with a known need and did our homework on what types of additional assistance we'd need when she came home. There is nothing unethical about that. People who adopt children with special needs are not sneaking them into the country, laughing behind immigration's back. It makes no sense to me that some people feel that an adopted child with a special need has a lesser right to use donor or taxpayer funded assistance programs that are already available to anyone who qualifies.
It pains me to know that there are people, especially other adoptive parents, out there who believe that I don't have the right to become a mother through adoption unless I adopt a healthy child who will remain healthy for life (impossible to predict) or always have incredible, all covering, insurance (also impossible to predict.) Choice c I suppose would be that I am independently wealthy and plan to pay all medical expenses in cash. (Wonderful! Wish that were us! But if it were I bet we wouldn't have adopted a child with special needs. The irony is that the majority of kids adopted with medical needs are adopted by low-mid income families. Not the wealthy.)
In some people's opinion, if I do not meet the above criteria then my child is a tax payer burden. Does this also mean that she should not be allowed in public school (expensive tax payer burden!)? Should she be denied access to early intervention programs? How about the adoption tax credit? Slippery slope people...slippery slope. Be careful the way you use the term "taxpayer burden" as you may find that with close examination you are one yourself!
At some point in life we will all be taxpayers (most of us will be taxpayers at all points in our life!) And at some point in life we will all be recipients of the benefits our taxes provide.