My insurance story: the $10,000 kidney stone


Francois de Lame

Francois de Lame

Blog author Francois de Lame

Published September 20, 2013|2 min read

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Insurance feels good. Yeah, I said it. It feels really good when you're on the floor, in a fetal position, crippled by pain. This summer, I was brought to my knees by something no bigger than a pin head: a kidney stone. Everything about this was the worst. Except for my insurance.

Back to the insurance in a moment. First some highlights of what the worst is like, for you lucky readers who've never experienced a kidney stone and the ambiance of a New York City emergency room:

  • Your colleagues thinking they're about to witness that scene from "Alien" when you drop to the floor screaming in pain (you know the scene. But it's too gruesome for me so instead, here are some kids recreating the "Alien" scene

  • Sitting in New York City traffic on your way to the ER. (Unsurprisingly, taxi drivers here have a remarkable ability to tune out screaming and obscenities)

  • Seeing that the average movement speed of ER staff can best be categorized as strolling

  • Waiting for 4 hours for the results of your CAT scan to confirm what you already knew (it wasn't, in fact, an alien)

Delirious with pain, I thought this was hospital triage code for "not serious." Only later did I remember I have a peanut allergy.

A day passed and so did the kidney stone. For me, life continued as usual - thanks in no small part to having good health insurance (and knowing that I had good health insurance). However, for some unlucky folks in the ER with me, that wasn't the case. In between my waves of pain, I overheard a number of conversations between the ER administrator and patients about their insurance. People already gripped by pain and fear had to explain they didn't have insurance. For these unfortunate people, the pain was only beginning. If I had been uninsured, something as innocuous as a kidney stone (although it felt lethal) would have cost me more than $10,000 to treat in the ER that day. But even with insurance, you could find yourself in a tough spot. A Harvard study found that medical bills led to more than 60% of US bankruptcies. And 78% of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance! But they had gaps in their coverage (like high deductibles or limits on benefits) or were too sick to work and lost their health insurance as well as their income (which you can protect against with disability insurance).

Going to the ER is terrible. Not having the right insurance that day is even worse. At PolicyGenius, we want to make sure everyone has the right insurance to cover these unavoidable bad scenarios. Be on the lookout for new health insurance tools to make sure you're not surprised by any coverage gaps. And check out our blog posts on disability insurance and why it's a must-have.