Tupelo woman deals with medical bill of nearly $800,000

Peggy Bishop recently mailed a check for $96.75 to the California hospital that helped treat her nearly two years ago.
“I think I’m going to frame that bill,” said Bishop, owner of Magnolia Wholesale Florist.
That payment was the last of nearly $800,000 worth of medical bills stemming from a lupus attack she suffered while was preparing floats for the 2008 Rose Bowl Parade.
Like many small-business owners, Bishop has a keen interest in how the national health care debate plays out. Unlike many of those owners, however, Bishop’s personal experience gives her a dual perspective.
“You couldn’t have asked for better doctors and nurses and the health care I got,” she said Bishop, who was in critical intensive care for nearly a month in Arcadia Methodist Hospital in Pasadena.
While her insurance company managed to reduce about half of the amount, Bishop still was left with thousands of dollars to pay.
So don’t lecture her about the need for reducing the cost of health care.
“I’ve been there, I know what it’s like,” she said. “It took a long time, but I paid what I owed. And I didn’t get help from anybody else. Little by little, I got it done.”
In her view, the national discussion should focus on reducing health care costs before expanding coverage.
“If we can’t afford health care now,” she said, “I don’t understand how covering more people is going to make it less expensive.”
Her sentiment is shared by many small-business owners who are nervous about how much health care reform will cost. The fear that they’ll be the ones paying for expanded coverage.
“It seems small businesses are always the ones paying the price, yet we’re the ones creating the jobs in this country,” Bishop said.
Health care coverage and its costs affect her not only personally, but also professionally. Bishop spends about $50,000 annually to help cover her employees’ health insurance. And as health care costs continue to cut into profits for all businesses, Bishop hopes something will be done sooner rather than later.
With President Obama and his allies pushing reform, Bishop said she didn’t have enough details to know exactly what will happen.
“I don’t know how it will affect me,” she said, “but I’m afraid it’s going to hurt more than help.”
Bishop is no stranger to Washington politics or health care reform. She has gone to the nation’s capital through the years, lobbying congressmen and senators to help ease the burdens on small businesses.
Fifteen years ago, she was talking about the need for health care reform.
“We haven’t gotten far, have we?” she said.
Even after Obama’s speech Wednesday, Bishop said she still hadn’t heard anything to ease her concerns.
“Oh, he’s a good speaker. He reminds me of President Clinton quite a bit,” she said. “But he said there’s still a lot of details to be worked out. I’m just a little old country girl and I hope they’ll explain their plans where everybody can understand.”

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal