Diem Brown Blogs: My Health Insurance Headache

Diem Brown Cancer Blog: My Health Insurance Headache
Bills, bills, bills
Courtesy Diem Brown; Inset: Picture Perfect/REX USA

updated 07/12/2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

originally published 07/12/2012 03:45PM

In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.

So my ovary removal D-day is set, although I'm still debating pushing the date back as I'm wrestling with the idea of doing another round of hormone fertility treatments to harvest more eggs.

During this mental tug-of-war, I've been ambushed by incoming bills from my cyst removal surgery in June. I had ONE operation, so logically I should expect ONE bill, right? Nope.

Instead, through raw fingertips and fringed nerves, I opened 37 bills for my ONE operation – some bills from the hospital, some bills from my insurance, and then other bills from X-ray and anesthesia labs.



After the 37th bill, I screamed with anger, "This is crap!" There should be a single, easy to follow, online method for paying every hospital bill. And how about if you hit your insurance max cap pay out for the year, you can opt out on getting bills because your insurance should take over and handle them directly?

Right? Or have I gone crazy? I mean, why stress a patient out with 37 bills?

As I cooled off from my rage, I began to realize just how huge these health care reforms are! I'm a patient during a milestone time for healthcare reform.

I'm going to preface all of what I'm about to say with this – I believe in capitalism and I believe in welfare/government programs for those who are in need of help. I don't want to be stuck in some "political box" because the things we all need and want out of government are all personal to us and our experiences. With that said ...

I don't believe in piles of paperwork, wordy mantras, and making simple human issues more complex with government involvement. Most people I've spoken to on both sides of party lines say that in general they don't trust politicians. I don't blame them.

Think back to when you were 12 years old and caught in a lie. What did you do? You gave the longest, most detailed explanation of what "really" happened. My parents never took the bait. So basically at 12 years old, I learned: More words equal more lies.

Now I have to ask: Why is this healthcare bill some 2,000 pages long? The Constitution of the United States was only four pages. I get nervous with all those "words." However, there are four things I love about the healthcare bill in normal "pedestrian" speak:

1. Everyone gets/has to have health insurance at some point.
On a social level it’s the right thing to do and economically, uninsured ER visits total billions of dollars treating the uninsured. If everyone has healthcare then this cost, in theory, should go down.

2. Kids under 26 can stay on their parents' insurance.
Right after college I remember thinking, "I don't want to waste my money on health insurance so I'm gonna get a gym membership instead and just NOT get sick." Yeah, it was a stupid thought process, I know, but right after college is a transition stage and you are bombarded with school loans and starting your career. It helps to have this bit of hand-holding.

3. Insurance companies won't be able to reject pre-existing conditions
I don't need to explain why I love this! I have had my own personal health insurance for six years because I was too afraid of taking my employer's health insurance, knowing that if I got fired that no insurance company would then pick me up. But now, thanks to this bill, I don’t need to have that fear.

4. Hospitals have to move personal health records online.
I'm hoping this also includes having every hospital have a simple online bill pay (hint hint, Mr. 37 bills for one surgery! )

Despite some of the positives, there is a MAJOR part that this healthcare bill is missing: Shopping for health insurance across state lines!

Competition among health insurance is good! I would love for there to be a GEICO of sorts for health insurance. Show me a little cartoon mouse who squeaks and says, "When health insurances compete you win" (squeak) or a red headed "Flo" with hot pink lips showing us how much we save with her price scanner in hand! (Yep, I watch too many commercials.)

I don't know why no politician has raised a rally flag to this idea. I'd volunteer in a split second to carry that torch! The health insurance coverage across state lines concept has had so much coverage in the media but no real movement politically. I'm dumbfounded by this!

Now instead of going into the cons of the bill, I'm taking my mom’s advice: "Don't complain about something unless you have a better idea."

I want to be a part of this healthcare reform debate. I want there to be a simple way for patients to view ONE bill online and make the insurance companies easier to deal with. I want doctors to know they are amazing in my book – don't knock them as "the bad guys" in this, because they are the miracle workers!

I'm proud of how I'm coping with my illness this time around. During my first bout with ovarian cancer I ran from or ignored "adult" responsibilities. When I got 37 or more bills back then, I just threw them away, overwhelmed. Today I'm trying to be more organized and in control.



Throughout all this, I found two more really cool things.
1. This is a tax deduction no one ever told me about!
You can write off medical bills that exceed 7.5% of your income (doctor visits, dentist visits, medications, and even health insurance premiums – if you are out of pocket). EX: If you make $50,000 in 2012 and your medical bills are $30,000 you can write off $26,250 from your taxes, since 7.5% of $50,000 is $3,750.

2. If you help pay someone's hospital bill who is not your dependent, then you can deduct that amount from your taxes!
TurboTax has all the information, but sounds pretty dang amazing if you ask me!

I'm trying to gather as much information as possible to make the patient experience easier. I want to share both my emotional and real-life experiences with you along my ovarian cancer/egg freezing/menopause journey. I'm excited to learn from your comments as well.

Already, so many of your comments have inspired me to ask more questions and sparked more ideas in my crazy Gemini head. Thank you – I know this blog went a little AWOL but with all the healthcare bill hoopla. I wanted to share my feelings and start a conversation.

Okay, now back to watching those cute GEICO and Flo insurance ads!

Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy, and her quest to educate others about ovarian health exclusively for PEOPLE.com

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