Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hidden Costs of a Hospital Stay

Most people know that hospital admissions with doctors, tests, and the emergency room are all expensive. Even if you have health insurance, there are deductibles and co-pays that can add up quickly. But there are other costs involved with a hospital admission that most people aren't aware of.

My 11 year old daughter has been in the hospital for an illness or surgery every year since she was born. Needless to say, my husband and I have spent plenty of time in the hospital with her. We have learned how expensive everything can be when a loved one is in the hospital. Here's a few things:

1. Food
You may think hospital food would be affordable. Well, that hasn't been the case for the hospitals we frequent. Meals that we purchase in the hospital cafeteria are anywhere from $5 (which will be a small meal with no drink)-$10. That may not seem like much, but multiple that amount for 3 meals a day for X number of days.

Example: $8 meal x 3 meals a day for 10 days (the length of our last stay)= $240
Say what?! If my husband is at the hospital too, then the cost doubles. Oh and sometimes my son visits and eats with us. Yep, that adds up.

The hospital we have stayed at the most with our daughter does offer parent meal trays for $8. You do get more food with this option, but it's not the best tasting since it's essentially the same food the patients can have. It's not necessarily a dirt cheap option at $8/meal. Our hospital offers free meal vouchers for some parents, but we don't qualify. These are handed out to families on state Medicaid insurance. Good for them, but not for us.

We have found that sometimes it's cheaper to have a pizza delivered or go to a nearby restaurant if our daughter is doing well enough for one of us to leave to get the food. Sometimes to save money, I'll purchase a single pop tart out of a vending machine for $1 and drink water for a cheap breakfast. When Jaycee has been in for weeks, we bought some microwavable food (soups, oatmeal cups) or things like chips to have and eat instead of purchasing these things in the hospital.

FYI-We live 120 miles from the hospital, so we can't just go home for a meal. When Jaycee is in the hospital, at least one of us is always there.

2. Lodging
Our hospital allows one parent to stay in the room with Jaycee. Another parent can sleep in the designated parent lounges, which are never completely dark for security and safety reasons. This allows both of us to stay near our daughter, which is what we prefer when she's in the ICU. This is the cheapest option for lodging since it's free. Sometimes, we need a night away from the hospital because sleep is hard to get with alarms going off and the stress of the situation. If our son wants to stay a day or two with us, then at least one of us has to leave the hospital to stay with him nearby too.

Ronald McDonald homes are in the city of our hospital, but these are usually full with waiting lists. We have only stayed there once when Jaycee was first born. Hotels become our next and only option since we live so far away. There are several hotels that offer discounts for patients of a nearby hospital. The discounts vary by hotel. This past admission for my daughter, we needed a hotel room for 2 nights when our son stayed with us during her 10 day stay. The cheapest night we stayed was $126. They aren't giving these rooms away, but it was $30-40 less than what was listed on the website. But you know I'm going to hit the free breakfast at the hotel to make myself feel a little better about the expense.

3. Gas
This is the least expensive part for us, but it's worth mentioning. When Jaycee is in the hospital, I usually stay at the hospital the entire time. My husband will sometimes travel home to pick up things we need or pay bills or bring our son for a visit. A trip or two home means a tank or two of gas. What's another $50?

4. Time Missed from Work
This really isn't an expense but it's a loss. My husband and I have jobs that have no paid time off. If we aren't at work, we aren't going to get paid. We both can't help but think of this fact as we are sitting in her hospital room in the ICU wondering how many days this illness will wreck havoc on her body. If you are fortunate enough to have paid time off or sick days, great for you! But, we aren't those people.

This list isn't made for you to feel bad for me. It's to enlighten those who haven't experienced what we have experienced. It's also written to show that there are layers and layers of stress in these situations.

If you have a friend or family member in the hospital, you can keep these things in mind. Instead of sending balloons or flowers, see if the hospital has gift cards available. We have a couple of people who frequently send us gift cards that we can use in the hospital gift shop or the cafeteria. This is a nice and useful option. If you are going to visit someone in the hospital, ask if you can bring some snacks. (Ask first because there may be rules. We can't keep food in Jaycee's ICU room, but we can keep it in our vehicle.) Gas cards and food cards are also great gifts even for when the family returns home since I'm guessing they might be a bit tired. Anything is helpful, because, as you now know, time in the hospital comes with lots of costs.

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