Her baby died almost immediately but she still received a bill from the hospital for the child’s services
Healthcare in America is infuriating in a lot of ways. But one woman’s tweet thread about her devastating experience showed just how backwards the system can be. In the tweet, she revealed what happened after her baby died almost immediately after being born. She says she soon got a bill in the mail for $600, though the child didn’t receive any medical care.
The woman is Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OBGYN and author of the book, The Vagina Bible. She posted the tweet in response to a question posed by Senator Bernie Sanders. He asked, “What’s the most absurd medical bill you’ve ever received?” Of course, Twitter had tons of responses about the inane bills they got, many of which made no sense whatsoever. But Jennifer’s response showed a truly harsh reality about the lack of compassion in our healthcare system.
$600 for my son who lived about 3 minutes. He received no medical care. At all. As he died almost immediately he didn’t get enrolled in my insurance plan, so I got the bill. From the hospital where I was a doctor. https://t.co/0Psbv11XtZ
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
“$600 for my son who lived about 3 minutes,” her tweet stated. “He received no medical care. At all. As he died almost immediately he didn’t get enrolled in my insurance plan, so I got the bill. From the hospital where I was a doctor.”
In a lengthy thread, she exposed other infuriating details about the situation.
It was from my own department too. Ha! You asked for absurd.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
When I got home this $600 bill came for Aidan. It was addressed to “Parent of Aidan XXX”...and for a second I thought his death was a dream and I got very hopeful he was alive and then confused.
And then very sad.
And then I called the billing department and literally had to argue with them about my son being dead and they didn’t believe me that I let him die without medical care. I am literally explaining how some babies are born to die. They say, “Too bad.”— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
So I wrote a very threatening e-mail to the hospital CEO and told him I would call the newspaper (this was pre Twitter) and tell everyone how my own hospital tried to bill me for care my dead baby never received.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
And that is how I became a patient advocate.
While it’s bad enough that she received a bill when her child died and did not receive medical care, what’s even worse is the trauma this must’ve caused her.
I’d forgotten about those few seconds that felt like an eternity when I saw the letter addressed to “Parents of Aidan...”— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
I was really confused. I had sepsis and was just home maybe 3 days. My other two were in the NICU. I really thought for a moment he was alive.
And the most absurd thing is it was the low amount of $600 that jogged my brain. No NICU bill could ever be for $600.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 15, 2019
We know that the costs of birthing a baby in a hospital can be absolutely off the chart. But after losing a child, no one should ever have to be battling with an insurance company over such a ridiculous charge. Clearly, the problems with our healthcare system run deep, but this situation is beyond maddening. In fact, it’s downright cruel to present a grieving mother with a bill like that during what must’ve been an incredibly raw and painful time already.
When it comes to healthcare and insurance companies, the priority should really be, well, health. But patients certainly don’t come first, as is made excruciatingly clear in the Twitter thread. Financial gains seem to come before absolutely everything. But people not being able to afford proper treatment in America is not only financially draining, even devastating, not being able to afford healthcare costs people their very lives.
The power of social media, which allows people to share stories like this one, is important. But the fact is, we need compassion from the very structures put in place to care for people. And right now in America, it doesn’t feel very much like we have that at all.