Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dropping the S Word on You Today

The other day I was sick. Whether it is a bacterium from food or just another head cold passed through the millions of germs we come in contact with, we always seem to be ill down here. And so, I have become pretty chummy with the medical staff at the Center.

Visiting the doctor here is a pretty straight forward process: checking the charts, taking blood pressure, temp, weight, height (still about a quarter inch under six feet) and explaining the reason for the visit.

The major difference is the financial aspect. Never have I been asked to wait while they call my insurance provider. I’ve never been denied treatment or told to go to another hospital because my insurance doesn’t stack up. I have never had a letter delivered to my mail box that surprises me by saying I owe $500 for whatever lousy treatment they gave me (thanks Mr. Knee Doctor). And never once have I been outrageously overcharged for a simple procedure. In fact, several visits and counting, I’ve yet to pay a single penny to receive care or treatment. Brace yourself for the bad words about to come out my mouth: here at the center I work at, we have socialized medicine.

And today was no different. The doctor spoke with me, did the usual steps of checking my lungs, looking in my throat and ears and nose, and then diagnosed me. We sat at her desk as she wrote out my prescriptions and gave me the typical spiel about do’s and don’ts with the meds I’d receive. As we finished, she transferred me to the nurse who asked me to sign an acknowledgement I was being given the prescriptions and then she handed them to me on the spot.

In the United States I avoid the doctor’s office at all costs; knowing damn well that to enter one might redefine the expression “at all costs.” When it becomes time to return to the United States, the richest nation in the world, I know I will be overwhelmed by the penny pinching application form full of “pre-existing conditions” that insurance refuses to help out with followed by the list of when I will and will not be covered. A wonderful attempt to help make already rich men and women in the health industry that much more wealthy. Hell, even a $10 co-pay will feel like a rip off. And it feels that way, because, maybe in our heart of hearts, we know it is. What portion of my pay check each month will go towards assuring me that co-pay?

Paul Farmer says that “Clean water and health care and school and food and tin roofs and cement floors, all of these things should constitute a set of basics that people should have as birthrights.” From all the personal experiences I’ve compiled in South America, I’d have to agree. And call me a socialist or a communist or whatever else you can spit at me, but I’d venture to say that it’s about damn time every citizen in the United States can receive the type of treatment every one of my impoverished students and their family members receive at the Working Boys Center.

1 comment:

Kristel said...

Oh Pat, you are not alone in thinking the way you do. Now that I'm seeing it from the inside, I can tell you that every other day I'm frustrated that I have to check to see if a drug is on the $4 Walmart list or if the patient qualifies to go home on oxygen because in the end that's cheaper than keeping them in the hospital 3 more days. It really does suck and I have to say it has required a bit of my time to call around and find the best price of prescription or to push mom to sign her kid up for Medicaid....it just sucks. Things would be much easier if we could treat everyone as equal, not by debating on giving a certain medication because we're certain the patient won't be covered for the one we really want to give. I have many other examples of these things going on that I've been involved with and I wish there was a better way.