According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide have depression. Sadly, at least in the United States, your health insurance coverage dictates what treatment options (or lack thereof) you’re allowed to get. So what happens if you’re stuck between mental health concerns and financial trouble?
Nicole Vlaming experienced this firsthand. She was having suicidal thoughts. She went to an emergency room for help, which is absolutely the right thing to do – what we’re told to do, in fact.
She posted about her experience, and the resulting bill, in a post that went viral on Facebook.
She starts with explaining her initial treatment in the ER:
It’s time to go public with this shit. Two weeks ago today, I walked into the ER because if I didn’t I was going to kill myself. I was stripped of all my clothes and possessions, given disposable scrubs and put in a room for the next 5 hours. In the US, this costs nearly $3,000.
She owed almost $3,000, which, to be clear, didn’t include any medications or actual care. She continues:
I was then placed in the behavioral health ward until Sunday at noon. Three nights, two and a half days. Because it was a weekend, all therapy was scaled back, both in number of sessions and the quality of sessions. During one we simply played a trivia game. I sat around watching TV all day and chatting with a Vietnam vet. In the US this costs nearly $10,000.
Sure, she was monitored and received some counseling services. But three days of scaled-back care for $10,000? And that’s not even all the charges:
During this stay, I had blood drawn twice. That was another $3,800. Not shown are the “physician charges” that bring my grand total to over $18,000. I saw an MD once and had once daily sessions with a psychiatrist. Those sessions consisted of rating my depression on scale of 1-10 and asking if I want to hurt myself or anyone else. Real stellar care. /s Oh, I almost forgot to point out the $145 for 3 days worth of meds. I normally pay less than $50 for an entire month.
It’s natural to assume that her health insurance would cover these costs. You’d be mistaken.
My employer sponsored insurance does not cover inpatient mental health care in any capacity. I do have a supplemental insurance plan that will hopefully cover $6,000, leaving me on the hook for over $12,000.
You want to know why people don’t seek help? This is why.
It’s really sad. She did exactly what she should have done. She sought help when she needed it, and now she has a crippling amount of medical debt to contend with. As a country, we can do better. In fact, we have to do better – for her and other vulnerable populations.