With a single tweet, writer and political consultant Marisa Kabas catalyzed a conversation about the financial inaccessibility of health care in the United States.
On Sunday, Kabas shared a photo of her recent hospital bill with the caption “How is this country real.” The bill shows she was charged close to half a million dollars before insurance for surgery to remove fibrous tumor cells from a particularly fragile region of the brain. The tweet, which has more than 35,000 likes as of Tuesday morning, has commenters aghast.
“This is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life,” one user wrote.
“I hope you’re feeling ok. No one should ever have to worry about this bulls***, but especially when one is recovering from surgery/in treatment,” said another.
Specifically, Kabas’s care—her surgery plus her hospital stay—cost an eye-popping, jaw-dropping $476,025.98. While her insurance mercifully covered $475,365.98 of the bill, she was on the hook for the remaining $660, much to her frustration.
“I pay $1,100 per month for this insurance. If you think I should still have to pay an additional $660 for surgery, you have brain worms,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Kabas also shared a photo of the itemized bill, but the breakdown caused even more confusion. For example, she had been charged $14,666 for her recovery room, $30,876 for anesthesia, and $182,744 for operating room services.
“$200K for operating room fees? How long was your operation, a month?” user @ElizabethEThorp wrote.
“None of these charges make sense. A CT scan costs >$6k?? The [United States] health system is seriously messed up,” user @aliveandkickin wrote.
For context, nearly 40% of American adults do not have an extra $400 on hand in case of emergencies, according to a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve in 2018.
The co-founder and editorial director of the political action organization Crush 2020 and a former staff writer for Fusion and The Daily Dot, Kabas is no doubt all too familiar with navigating the twists and turns of the U.S. health care system.
She has acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that is often caused by a type of pituitary tumor known as a pituitary adenoma, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Since she was diagnosed in early 2018, Kabas has chronicled her experiences with the condition and its treatment on Medium extensively.
Back in February, Kabas, her boyfriend, and her parents flew to California for the surgery, which, Kabas wrote, “could mean I’d be rid of my Acromegaly forever.” But the operation hit a snag when Kabas’s neurosurgeon, whom she identified only as “Dr. F,” discovered that the tumor cells were embedded so deeply in the medial wall that they took more than twice as long as expected to remove: nine hours.
That evening, Kabas regained consciousness, though she was so woozy that she described the experience as akin to “being born as a fully grown adult.” Two and a half months on, she still experiences double vision and apparent sinus leakage.
It’s safe to say that her recovery wasn’t aided by the arrival of the astronomical hospital bill. Many commenters took the opportunity to rail against what they say is the dysfunctionality of the existing system. One even cited statistics on the number of people who file for medical bankruptcy in different developed countries.
“Health care in the U.S. is basically one big, state-approved Ponzi scheme,” one user wrote.
Kabas herself even weighed in.
The “entire system is broken from start to finish and needs to be destroyed. Being sick should not bankrupt you,” she wrote.
Depending on the results of upcoming imaging and bloodwork, Kabas could be in for additional surgeries, according to her most recent Medium post.