Three surgeries down since the first of April. Our first time dealing with a major medical issue since we left traditional health insurance and went with health sharing. I can tell you it has been a real eye opener! Insurance is a scam and the government involved in it just mucks it up worse. It has been a positive easy experience doing this on our own. I was able to pick which doctors, hospital facilities, and test sites I preferred. I called and shopped prices. Everywhere gives non-insured cash discounts. Each place gives a different percentage of discount and the more we take matters into our own hands and shop around there will be competition and the prices will go down.
The first two surgeries for the 7mm kidney stone, the laser and then the lithotripsy, were done at the hospital in Morristown, TN.. They gave a 70% cash discount! $24,000 worth of surgery cost us $6,700. The surgeons gave us a decent discount too, I think it was 40%. Anesthesia was discounted 50%. Even the CT scan we got a huge cash pay discount!
parathyroids are the size of a grain of rice!
Then I had to have a parathyroidectomy because one of my parathyroids had a tumor/adenoma on it and was causing me to have too much calcium in my body, thus huge kidney stones! Not to mention a list of other symptoms! I had to search around to find an endocrine surgeon. There were only three I could find near me, one in Knoxville and two in Asheville, NC. I chose Dr. Rhodes in Asheville. He specializes in this particular surgery even though he does other endocrine surgeries. He did a fellowship at Yale under a specialist. I LOVED him! He was so thorough in explaining the disease, the procedure, the risks (your vocal chords and nerves run right next to the thyroid and parathyroids). Very kind and patient and knowledgable. I felt very safe with him. So the surgery was done in Asheville NC at
my incision right out of surgery!
Mission hospital. Dr. Rhodes bill with insurance is $3,200 for this surgery, but with the cash discount we paid $800! I did not have to get approval from an insurance company, or use the doctor they would have choose. It was so nice. The hospital bill was $31,681 but we only paid $7,921 because we were paying cash. They make arrangements to make payments with no interest! We did have to pay a small amount up front. I had one diseased parathyroid. It had a larger than average adenoma (benign tumor) on it. The average size is 30-40 mgs, mine was 434 mgs! He had to enlarge the incision to get it out he said. I always do things big, what can I say! He also found I have very low vitamin D so I am on a prescription for that now. Hopefully the remaining three parathyroids will kick in and start working as they were on vacation with that one stuck on high producing too much calcium. If not I may have to take calcium the rest of my life too. Right now I’m just taking tums.
We belong to Samaritan Ministries Healthshare program. This was our first time filing a need. That’s what they call what insurance would call a claim. We pay a monthly share/premium. It’s based on your age. Our monthly share for the two of us is $440. Yep, you read that right! Traditional medical insurance was going to cost us $1,700 a month and that was only 50% co-insurance, we would have to pay half of all our bills! Outrageous! We said no we would get sick and die first. I’m hard-headed! Two years ago I had kidney stone surgery and with insurance we paid a little over $5,000 out of pocket! So how Samaritan works: all us partners pay each others bills. Our share doesn’t go to the ministry it goes each month to a person who has a medical need directly. Each month we get a name and address and prayer request and explanation of their medical need. It’s wonderful. You can send notes or cards, its like a big family helping each other. We weren’t sure how it would be getting our bills paid though, especially three surgeries worth! It has been a breeze! You open a need by telling what is going on and the tests, procedures etc. that you will be having. Then I get bills with the full price and the discounted price on them and scan them into the computer and upload them onto my ‘dashboard’. They are approved and the bigger the discount you get the better. We are saving each other money so just because someone else is paying doesn’t mean I don’t have to look for the biggest savings. Then I get a list of 23-24 people who will be sending me their ‘shares’ for that month. We use PayPal or paper check. Most send it via PayPal. It is so easy. We’ve already gotten over half of the expense reimbursed just in the month of June. The total expense will be completely reimbursed by the end of August. I get notes with some of them wishing me well and saying they are praying for me. Of course this is a Christian ministry. It is the family of God coming together and taking care of each other. I tried to find healthsharing that wasn’t church associated to share with you, but there isn’t any that I could find. There are several ministry healthshare programs. But there are rapidly appearing new options for healthcare now that our system is so broken! I’ve learned about these over the last year or two and these would be options for those of you who wouldn’t be interested in the ministry type.
Direct Care Physicians or pay as you go clinics are becoming very popular and more and more physicians are leaving traditional insurance and doing cash pay or membership practices. We found such a doctor about a year ago. Dr. Berry here in Greeneville opened Patmos (pay at time of service) emergi-clinic several years ago. No insurance just low prices. lab work and tests done right there in his office for very low prices. He was an emergency room doctor for years. Bossman has been going to him for awhile. When I first started with the pain and knew I had another kidney stone I went to see him. Of course it was a Friday! Worst time to get sick, no doctors open. That means emergency room and big bills! Not with Dr. Berry. I went in everyday on the weekend and he gave me IV pain meds just like an emergency room would have for a small fraction of the cost! Our goal was to keep me out of the emergency room until I could pass the stone. Which I couldn’t and had to have surgery anyway. But it was such personal care! He texted and called each day all through all this ordeal to make sure I was good. He has been slowly transitioning to a medical membership practice. Medical membership is wonderful! We pay a yearly membership fee based on your age, when there are two or more in the family joining there is a discount. Then you have many great benefits like fewer patients, no cost office visits (no limit), small charge if he comes into the office on the weekends for you, No cost or discount pricing for test and lab work, discount medications, annual physical, you can jump over to his website and check out what this is all about! You can check and see if a direct care physician is near you HERE.
There are also surgery centers opening up that don’t take insurance and give these huge discounts! Doctors are going together and opening them. You can see the full price, no hidden charges, right on their website. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma is one such place. Check out the website! You will be amazed! Taking traditional health insurance is very expensive for the doctors and that’s passed on to you.
Here is a site that will help you price shop for medical needs.
Free Market Healthcare is the hot new thing. You can read up on it here and here.
We have also found out that prices vary wildly from one pharmacy to another! The largest chains are the highest. Shop around with your prescription you will be amazed! We found the cheapest prices at a locally owned pharmacy. Publix grocery store has a two page list of free medications! It’s worth the time to shop around even if you have high co-pays it might be beneficial to pay cash prices! Here is a real eye opener on drug pricing!
One more thing that will really educate you on why our healthcare is in such a mess, a must read!
Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism
- Chronic fatigue / feeling tired all the time (#1 symptom)
- General feeling of illness that can be hard to describe
- Lack of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Depression or anxiety
- Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
- Bone pain, particularly in the hands, feet, arms, and legs, but can be anywhere
- Insomnia / difficulty sleeping through the night
- Needing naps during the day
- Irritability / crankiness
- Memory loss / feeling like you might be developing dementia
- Gastric acid reflux / heartburn / GERD
- Decrease in sex drive
- Thinning hair (predominately in middle aged females on the front part of the scalp)
- Kidney stones
- Chronic kidney disease / kidney failure
- High Blood Pressure / Hypertension / Erratic blood pressure
- Frequent headaches
- Heart palpitations
- Atrial fibrillation / cardiac arrhythmias
- High liver function tests (liver blood tests)
- Development of MGUS and abnormal blood protein levels
I highlighted the symptoms I had in blue. I didn’t have high blood pressure but mine was borderline and I’ve always had really good blood pressure bordering more on the low side. Here is a good video about hyperparathyroidism if your interested. I had never heard of parathyroids before this!