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A few weeks ago, I brought my 18-month-old daughter in for her “well baby” check-up. Thankfully, my employer allowed me to use my lunch break to take her to the doctor’s office. Since all she needed was a check-up and some shots, I thought that I would be back within an hour.
We arrived at the office about 5 minutes before our scheduled appointment time. My daughter and I patiently waited for about 15 minutes until her name was called. We then proceeded to have her weighed and measured. Besides her having a runny nose and a slight cough, nothing was out of the ordinary. We were then escorted to the exam room where we waited for the doctor to come in and finish the exam.
And we waited….and waited….and waited.
After being locked in the room for about 20 minutes, my daughter was getting anxious. She wanted to run around and play. Besides that, it was getting to be about lunch/nap time. When I wouldn’t let her run out of the room, she began to cry – hysterically – for about 15 minutes. I was finally able to calm her down, but of course the crying exacerbated the symptoms of her cold. Luckily, I was able to calm her and she nearly fell asleep, until…
The doctor walked in…53 minutes past our scheduled appointment time. She apologized, and I was willing to give her a pass. Things happen and people run behind. She ran through the rest of the check-up and then noticed her cold. My daughter was wheezing a little bit, which shouldn’t have been a surprise considering she was just crying for 15 minutes. The doctor insisted that we do a test for RSV and give her a nebulizer treatment to help clear the wheezing. When I asked what treatment she could prescribe for the RSV, she said there was nothing that they could do. It was just nice to know that she had it. I reluctantly agreed to the test and treatment.
After the treatment, I was told that the doctor would like us to come back in a week so that she could check her out again. My head was swimming, wondering why I should pay for another office visit, until a few minutes later when the RSV test results came back as I suspected – negative. My daughter simply had a cold. However, the nurse handed me the nebulizer and told me that I was to
rent it take it with me. She called in a prescription for me to use with the unit – which I later I found out cost $40. I declined and left the prescription at the drug store. The next morning, I promptly returned the nebulizer and canceled the additional appointment. Two days later, my daughter felt fine, and I was left thinking about how wasteful that had all been.
How Hurt Are You?
A few days later, when we got home from work, we quickly took our coats off and began to discuss what we were going to have for dinner in a few minutes. My youngest daughter is not very patient, so we try to serve food that can be prepared pretty quickly during the work week. All of a sudden, Holly asked me if I knew what was all over our 3-year-old’s hair. I looked, and was shocked to find that she had a cut on her head. Her cotton blonde hair was completely matted down with blood.
Trying not to panic, we asked her if she was alright. We tried to figure out what had happened. Did she hit her head at daycare? Did her sister hit her with something when we got home? Why was she not crying and acting normal? Did it hurt? How the hell did we not notice this earlier?!?
Holly took her to the bathtub and rinsed some of the blood out of her hair. We both looked at the cut, and we couldn’t tell how bad it was. It didn’t appear to be bleeding still…at least not too bad. Should we bring her to the emergency room? Does she need stitches? It appeared that might be possible. What should we do?
If we lived in most countries around the world, there would be no question at all – we would have brought her to the hospital. Alas, we live in America. Instead of seeking the treatment that she probably needed, we spent the next few hours debating whether or not we should take her to the ER. You see, our “health insurance” consists of a Health Savings Account (HSA) and a $5,000 deductible. So, we could bring her in and get it looked at for probably $1,000 – which means that we would still be liable for $4,000 of out-of-pocket expenses should anything else happen the rest of the year. Or, we could hope that it was just a scratch and save our $1,000. Although the cut was still oozing a bit of blood a few hours later, we decided to keep our money and hope that it wasn’t that bad – and that it wouldn’t get infected…feeling like a s#itty parent the whole time. In all honesty, she may have needed a stitch or two. Unless I wanted to pony up $1,000, I didn’t have the freedom to find out.
The U.S. Healthcare System…Greatest in the World?
Yes, we live in America – where we have the “freedom” to choose our own healthcare…and the freedom to go broke if we get sick. America, where we proclaim to have the “greatest healthcare system in the world.” America, where Americans are made to believe that those pesky European and Canadian versions of healthcare create poor health, long waits, and broke governments. Yet, I’ve never met a European or Canadian who would trade their system for ours. Not one. I wonder why?
You wouldn’t think that legitimately sick or injured people would have to think twice about using a healthcare system claiming to be the world’s greatest – but in America, they do. It doesn’t seem like the greatest system in the world would charge mothers $10,000 to deliver a baby – but it does. Surely, the greatest healthcare system in the world wouldn’t allow the extremely sick or injured to lose all that they have, right? Yet, this is exactly what the U.S. healthcare system does. We need to stop kidding ourselves.
For all the bellowing about how great the system is, you would expect Americans to be the healthiest people on the face of the planet. Yet, according to Bloomberg, we rank 33rd…right below the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the Czech Republic…and right above Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bahrain, Croatia, and Mexico. That is because the U.S. healthcare system isn’t really a HEALTHcare system at all. It has become less about healing patients and more about creating profit.
I can see where people who have never had to worry about paying out-of-pocket costs think that the system works. If you’ve never had a deductible higher than $500, why would you think anything is broken? Clearly, the doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies are fine with it. There is too much profit to be lost by changing the status quo.
However, fewer and fewer people have $500 deductibles. Health insurance that is unattainable and unaffordable has helped to make medical bills the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States – and most of those people had insurance at the beginning of their illness! Still, we continue to delude ourselves that our system is the best.
Yes, we live in America, and these are the personal finance and medical decisions that Americans have to make each day. We have to decipher whether or not the
salesman doctor is prescribing necessary treatments or simply trying to increase profits. The RSV test. The additional office visit. The prescription for something that we didn’t even need. The $1,000 emergency room visit to probably tell me that she just had a scratch and was fine. These things are not about trying to heal the sick and wounded. These things are done to increase profit, to sell more product. Until we figure out a way to treat the poor, middle class, and rich equally – until we remove the profit motive from our healthcare system – not only is the U.S. healthcare system NOT the greatest in the world, it really isn’t a healthcare system at all. It is a profit-making machine disguised as medicine.
Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is to this problem. My guess is that it is to move to a single-payer healthcare system. While no system is perfect, the rest of the world seems to think that it works pretty well. (Imagine how many people would be able to retire early if they didn’t have to work for health insurance. Now, there is a job creator!) Heck, even if a single-payer system isn’t the best system for the United States, it couldn’t be any worse than what we already have.
What are your thoughts? I’m sure you have them, so fire away in the comments below!