Rush Limbaugh has the most-listened-to radio talk show in the United States, with 14.25 million listeners a week as of March 2009. While only 37% of his listeners make less than $60K per year, 69% of his listeners make less than $100K per year. Anthony Wright at Health Access Blog has a great article about Rush sharing the details of his latest hospital visit, how he finances his health care expenses, and even recommending that his listeners do the same…
I’m not gonna get health insurance. I’m not going to inflate my bill by 35%. This cost me 30% less than had insurance been involved here. There was not one bureaucrat determining whether or not I was gonna get treatment. There wasn’t a death panel here. […]
I don’t have insurance. “I’m sure he has insurance.” No. I pay cash for it and it was less than the price of a car. And just as is the case with a car you could finance your health care coverage. You don’t have to come up with the whole lump sum, hospitals, doctors, work with you on this. […]
A lot of people say, “Rush, you’re really running a risk here of sounding out of touch when you talk about how you can pay for this.”
I find it hard to believe that he paid “30% less than had insurance been involved“. Yes, many hospitals will give a discount to people who pay cash, and Rush may have some extra pull – being a multi millionaire political icon. But insurance carriers have the negotiating power of a large number of people. The volume of clients an insurance company has as leverage is far more than any one person.
Regardless of how much his discount was, he still ended up with a five-figure hospital bill, which he describes as “less than the average car”. Keep in mind that this was just chest pains, which didn’t turn out to be heart disease. I wonder what the bill would have been if Rush had needed a double bypass? What about a person who gets diagnosed with cancer and needs surgery and several months of chemotherapy? What about a family who has a premature baby and two months of NICU bills?
When people think of the benefits of health insurance, they should be thinking past claims that are less than the average car. They should be thinking of claims that cost more than the average house.
Rush Limbaugh earns about $33 million per year. But the average American household has an annual income of just over $50,000. So for Rush to advise going uninsured seems irresponsible. He points out that hospital bills can be financed, just like cars. While this is true to a point, it’s not as simple as he makes it sound. Hospitals have begun sending clients to collection agencies fairly quickly, instead of dealing with the burden of waiting around for payment.
When Rush talks about how there weren’t any death panels involved in his treatment, perhaps he’s forgotten that the average uninsured patient faces a different kind of death panel – the kind that comes from not being able to afford any care at all. Doctors and hospitals that need to get paid are the death panels to an average person without health insurance.
There are plenty of valid complaints against the current health care reform bills. Those who say that the bills don’t do enough to address the root problem of ever-increasing health care costs have a very good point. But take it with a grain of salt when a multi-millionaire with the ability to pay cash for any medical treatment he might need rails against reform that might make medical care more affordable for average people and talks about his death panel free medical experience.
I found Anthony’s article in the Health Wonk Review, hosted this week by Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters.