Earlier in September, 24-year-old Nicholas Madison had returned to his Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home after traveling around the U.S. He was hanging out with friends when a sharp pain stabbed into his neck. Within an hour, his neck was paralyzed.
In a panic, Madison urged his friends to take him to the hospital. Once there, he was forced to fill out paperwork in excruciating pain before a doctor could see him. “I was in agony and they made me fill out a form. Absolute BS,” Madison told Upvoted.
When a doctor did finally see him, he was told his symptoms were life threatening. If he arrived an hour later, he would be fully paralyzed. If it was several hours later, he could be dead.
Madison was diagnosed with Subdural Hematoma, a bleeding around the brain that is caused by a rare genetic disorder that prevents blood from clotting and is commonly known as Severe Hemophilia Type B.
Fortunately for Madison, he required no surgery and doctors gave him Valium for the pain and anxiety. He was also given the blood clotter Recombinant Factor VIII and was kept in the hospital for five days so doctors and specialist could watch over him.
By October, a notice of his outstanding balance arrived in the mail. Madison was expecting the bill to be around $200,000, but when he saw the total, he thought it was a mistake. After calling the hospital, it was confirmed that there was no mistake.
Madison was even warned that his hospital bill could be even higher, if not lower, than the stated amount because the hospital hadn’t factored in the specialists who came in to monitor him. He told Upvoted that the specialists would come in for 40-second visits to ask how he was doing, to which he always replied with “I’m fine.”
Even worse was the fact that, at the time, Madison did not have medical insurance. He was actually set to start a job as a project coordinator at PNC Bank less than two weeks after the incident which would have granted him health insurance.
Madison then turned towards Reddit and posted the receipt. “Reddit gave me insane support. I had a couple people willing to pay for my attorney fees had it come to that,” he said.
According to the hospital, however, what Madison received was not actually a bill. UPMC spokesperson Susan Manko told Upvoted in an email:
“I want to clarify that what you saw posted on Reddit recently was NOT a bill from UPMC. This was a standard application form for Medical Assistance for a patient seeking help covering the cost of care. The amount shown on that form was NOT billed to the patient or to anyone else. We work very hard to take care of our patients, medically and financially. And we provided $364 million in charity care and Medical Assistance subsidies last year, more than any other healthcare provider in the region.
“The number shown represented hospital charges. The complex way in which hospitals are paid nationally was established by federal, state, and private entities over many years. Most importantly, hospital charges are almost never what is actually paid by insurers or patients. Federal and state governments determine payments for their beneficiaries, and most insurance companies individually contract on pricing. The vast majority of people without insurance are covered by some form of financial assistance.”
The most expensive item on the bill is likely the Recombinant Factor VIII — Madison must now continue taking the medication which costs around $200,000 a year.
Now happily employed, Madison’s medication is covered by insurance, but he can barely manage paying the high copay and deductible, he says.
Madison is still, however, waiting for his final bill to arrive in the mail. He has also hired an attorney to help negotiate his bill. He ended with:
“[The US healthcare system] is corrupt as fuck. It’s a basic human right to have healthcare in a civilized society, that is, and the fact that it’s there for the sake of profit makes me sick.”