How much does it cost to stay healthy? Steven Brill’s recent TIME cover story, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” took an in-depth look into America’s health care nightmare, prompting a national discussion about Medicare, drug companies and insurance.
We asked you to use CNN’s iReport to tell us how the high cost of health care has changed your life. The results were eye-opening: from a two-week hospital stay that cost nearly half a million dollars to a $23,000 bill for prescription medicine. Read more below and share your stories with us.
ACL reconstruction surgery: $30,877
Eric Cooks, 33, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was recently charged $30,877 for ACL reconstruction surgery. Thankfully, Cooks has insurance, but he was still shocked by the cost. “The healthcare system needs reform and I am not sure if the Affordable Care Act will be enough; these prices are crippling,” he said. “People are avoiding going to the doctor even with insurance leading to potentially more expensive chronic conditions. Overall, access to quality preventative care and specialists is still lacking for those without insurance.”
Stitches & scar repair: $22,000
After being bitten by a dog, 26-year-old Mallory Kerley was billed approximately $22,000 for stitches and scar repair. She later found out that the doctor was not part of her insurance plan and has been working with her insurance company for nearly a year now to try to adjust the costs.
Double pneumonia hospital stay: $999,932
Alexandria Brooks, 46, of Hernando, Florida, was recently charged $999,932 for a month-and-a-half hospital stay for double pneumonia, which later developed into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). She wanted to share her story because that one bill was just $67 short of one million dollars. Another one of her notable bills: $36,806 to be airlifted to a different hospital. “People ask me about my bills. I am grateful that I had insurance; however, it is not preventing my credit and finances from being ruined. Such a large deductible despite HUGE premiums paid and the disputes between the insurance and the providers leaves one very vulnerable, insured or not,” she said.
Open heart surgery: $428,903
Elise Hay’s daughter, Nora, was born with heart problems and needed surgery when she was four days old. After the two-week hospital stay, surgery, tests, and medications, the cost was nearly half a million dollars. Luckily, Hay and her husband have health insurance through her employer, so their out-of-pocket costs were only $2,395. “As a parent, I’d do anything and pay anything for the health and safety of my child,” said Hay, who lives in Los Angeles. “If that means paying half a million dollars for her to have a healthy, beating heart, I’d do it. How? I’m grateful for my employer-sponsored health care coverage and thankful that I don’t need to have an answer.”
Pulmonary arterial hypertension: $68,000 plus $23,000 in medication
It took doctors about nine months to diagnose Kevin Paskawych of Marietta, Ohio, with pulmonary arterial hypertension, and all those diagnostic tests – plus four days in an Intensive Care Unit – added up. Plus, he now takes six very expensive drugs each day to manage the condition. He’s uninsured, so he relies on organizations for people with his illness and pharmaceutical company programs to pay for his meds. “The threat of high bills and insurance copays are frightening many patients away until it is almost too late,” he commented.
Please note that these exact numbers are self-reported and have not been independently verified by CNN or TIME. While costs for procedures can vary widely based on the doctor, hospital, and insurance plan, these numbers are in line with average and/or typical charges.