Are you going to be finishing all of that mastodon meat?
Cost of Modern Medicine, Insurance Reform, and Death in the Paleolithic
Two months ago, I fell on the ice, was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, got emergency surgery, and two/three days later was released from the hospital. The paperwork I waas handed on my release indicated that the costs to that point were $20,000 US (all covered). I estimate that this injury will cost, medically speaking only, about another ten grand, so the total cost of this injury is going to be, let’s say, $30,000.
A few weeks later, a tooth crown that I had had repaired several years ago (“This may last six months, one year tops” said the dentist) finally came flying out of my mouth at a random moment. So now, I’m getting that fixed. Associated with the tooth crown falling off of its perch on my lower left mandible was a nasty little mandibular infection.
So the dentist put me on antibiotics and we started the process of figuring out what to do next.
This tooth needs to be fixed with either an implant or a bridge. The raw cost, before insurance, of both procedures totals to about $3,500. So, about one tenth of the knee surgery. But, there is a question about what insurance will cover (they don’t like to cover implants for some reason), so we sent off a request for information along with x-rays to Delta Dental, the insurance company.
Delta Dental screwed up the paper work, so about two weeks went by and we learned nothing, and could not start on the work. So we redid the paperwork, and now another three weeks has gone by, again Delta Dentals’ fault, and not only do we still not know anything, but the infection is back, somewhat worse than it was before.
So now I’m on antibiotics again. The pisser is this: If Delta Dental covers my implant, they still would only cover part of the procedure. If they don’t cover my implant, they will still cover the new crown, because they cover crowns (to 60 percent only). A bridge requires three crowns. So, when you do all the math, the answer we will eventually get from the Delta Dental insurance company … a “yes” or a “no” on the implant … will make a difference of about $800.
A mandibular infection can be a very serious matter. I’ve got an open hole in my jaw where bits and pieces of root canal stuff occasionally falls out into my food. And the dental insurance company can’t handle the paper work to the tune of going on a month and a half of time.
There are certain contrasts that come to mind.
In the paleolithic, I probably would have lived form the knee injury, but only after a long period of painful recovery, and I undoubtedly would have lost the use of my right leg. But my fellow hominids would have brought me bits of mastodon and cooked roots, the occasional kidney from a deer, maye a dead lizzard, and so on. I would live. In fact, I might even have been able to do something useful. But, in the paleolithic, this tooth infection would likely have killed me. These things, eventually, are often fatal in the absence of dentistry and antibiotics.
Yet the surgery costs ten times what the dental work costs. Also, people tend to complain mightily about the cost of dental work. But really, given what you get (you get to live!) it is really a bargain.
And, finally, Delta Dental leaves something to be desired. Listen; If I suck on my tooth I can taste the infection inside my jaw. Thanks Delta Dental. Great work. I’ll bet your fucking CEO never had to wait this long for what amounts to emergency dental work.
I’ll update you later on how it all works out. At the moment, if you have a choice, and one of your choices is Delta Dental, I’d consider the other choice. And let this be a lesson to us all!