One family’s story illustrates task of controlling cost of health care

Amanda and Akiva Zablocki face a hospital bill of anywhere between $ 600,000 to $ 1 million for their one-year-old son Idan’s upcoming bone marrow transplant.

“It’s between three and six months in the hospital and then the next six months at home,” said Akiva Zablocki, Idan’s father. “We’ll be even more in a bubble than he is now.”

Idan has Hyper IgM, a rare disorder that causes immunodeficiencies. A trip to the Zablockis’ Manhattan apartment means changing into scrubs to reduce the amount of germs introduced to his environment. Idan’s transplant will be a tremendous financial toll.

“One of the hospitals actually sent us a lot of brochures about fundraising,” said Amanda Zablocki, Idan’s mother.

So far, the Zablockis have raised $ 140,000. Their insurance promises to pay a fraction of the cost, but their ultimate out-of-pocket expenses are still unknown.

“The fact that we’re insured and it’s still expensive tells me that there’s something wrong, there’s a disconnect there,” Amanda Zablocki said.

The Zablockis story sheds light on the out-of-control cost of care in the United States, where citizens spend twice as much as other industrialized nations on average.

“There’s been very little federal regulation,” said Miriam Laugesen of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “Restraining costs is really hard when insurers can have so much flexibility.”

Through health care reforms, penalizing hospitals for high re-admission rates, increased regulation of insurers and the mandate that all be insured, experts say we could see a drop in costs. There is still so much mystery, however, surrounding how medical prices get set, something Laugesen and her colleagues are starting to research now.

“I think there’s a significant savings to be made in terms of drugs and devices,” Laugesen said.

For the Zablockis, there is hope, hope that one day Idan will have a normal life and hope that as more and more Americans gain access to health care, less and less will have to deal with crushing medical costs.

“Before, it was very much behind closed doors,” Amanda Zablocki said. “Insurance companies knew, hospitals knew. It’s now part of the conversation.”

Still, there is a long road ahead before we’ll see significant savings.

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