Michael Flor 70 Coronavirus survival who came so close to death in the spring that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes, is recovering nicely these days at his home in West Seattle. But he says his heart almost failed a second time when he got the bill from his health care odyssey the other day.
“I opened it and said ‘holy [bleep]!’ “ Flor says.
The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus: $1.1 million. $1,122,501.04, to be exact. All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages.
The bill is technically an explanation of charges, and because Flor has insurance including Medicare, he won’t have to pay the vast majority of it. Because he had COVID-19, and not a different disease, he might not have to pay anything — a quirk of this situation I’ll get to in a minute.
But for now, it’s got him and his family and friends marveling at the extreme expense, and bizarre economics, of American health care.
Flor was in Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah with COVID-19 for 62 days, so he knew the bill would be a doozy. He was unconscious for much of his stay, but once near the beginning his wife Elisa Del Rosario remembers him waking up and saying: “You gotta get me out of here, we can’t afford this.”
Just the charge for his room in the intensive care unit was billed at $9,736 per day. Due to the contagious nature of the virus, the room was sealed and could only be entered by medical workers wearing plastic suits and headgear. For 42 days he was in this isolation chamber, for a total charged the cost of $408,912.
He also was on a mechanical ventilator for 29 days, with the use of the machine billed at $2,835 per day, for a total of $82,215. About a quarter of the bill is drug costs.
The list of charges indirectly tells the story of Flor’s battle. For the two days when his heart, kidneys, and lungs were all failing and he was the nearest death, the bill runs for 20 pages and totals nearly $100,000 as doctors “were throwing everything at me they could think of,” Flor says.
In all, there are nearly 3,000 itemized charges, about 50 per day. Usually, hospitals get paid only a portion of the amount they bill, as most have negotiated discounts with insurance companies. The charges don’t include the two weeks of recuperating he did in a rehab facility.
Going through it all, Flor said he was surprised at his reaction. Which was guilt?
“I feel guilty about surviving,” he says. “There’s a sense of ‘why me?’ Why did I deserve all this? Looking at the incredible cost of it all adds to that survivor’s guilt.”