Free Healthcare: Anecdotes are cool. (in Debates)


Godpanda September 18 2010 5:50 PM EDT

I'm going to have to ask you all to stick with me a moment on this thread. Before I get to the debate portion of it, I'd like to share with you something that just recently happened to me.

About three weeks ago, my foot started to hurt around the ankle. Pretty mild stuff that I hardly noticed after I woke up. Went to work and my foot became increasingly more painful throughout the night. Started to become slightly painful to walk and put weight on it, but nothing that stopped me from getting around.

My foot had become red, sensitive and rather swollen. Went to work the next day with a profound limp, barely able to get my shoe on. A number of friends advised that I head to the ER the night before and early that morning. But, as you may guess, I didn't have health insurance. And what's a bit of pain in the long run?

The next day I couldn't walk at all. The pain was terrible and the swelling was... Well, not pretty. So I was headed to the ER via taxi about 15 minutes after I had woken up. I stayed in the ER for a few hours on intravenous anti-biotics on what they diagnosed as cellulitis, a relatively common bacterial infection. I was then prescribed some anti-biotics and painkillers and sent happily on my way. The cost for being admitted to the ER was 640 dollars. I paid that in cash from my limited savings. This decreased all further costs for that visit by 40% (Or so I was told, at least. Not sure really how that will affect the final cost). So hooray. Not fun, not a great way to spend my money, but not bad considering.

Two days later (and two missed work shifts) I started being able to walk away. But the swelling hadn't gone down, nor the heated skin. And walking was far from easy. 3 days later, the infection decided it didn't like my foot anymore and started to race up my leg. A week after the first pain and about 4-5 days after the first ER visit, the infection had spread to just below my knee.

Now, I need to really try and explain what was going through my head without just making it a sob story. I was barely sleeping because of pain and worry that my foot wasn't getting better on the medicine. And I was absolutely terrified of having to go back to the hospital. I couldn't afford it. I'm in pain, I can't work, the infection is rapidly spreading and both online information and my doctors had told me how vital it is to NOT wait on these infections if they're spreading. And what is my concern? Money.

I was literally risking the future use of my leg and, to some small degree, my life to preserve what money I had and any future money/credut I may have. Capitalism is amazing.

Regardless, I finally had to go back to the hospital the next day as I was finally convinced by my parents/friends that no amount of money was worth risking my life. Pretty duh, you might think, but we live in a society where life is money. I was admitted to the hospital for a bit over 2 hours. I saw a bill for 1500 dollars within a few hours that I couldn't pay. And for the first time in my life, I was in debt.

I haven't seen any further bills yet. But as anyone who's ever been to the hospital can tell you, it's not cheap. I'm applying for financial aid and the such, but regardless of how this plays out with it, I'm going to be very, very in debt. I'll probably owe more money than I make in a year.

Now, honestly, I've dealt with most of this with as much humor as possible. Infact, the one thing I've not felt is angry. It's no ones fault. I got sick. It happens. But I won't ever forget how bad it felt choosing between my health and my future life. And, in the end, it was something relatively simple. To have to go through that with something more serious. Or to have to go through that same thing with a spouse... Or a child? No one should have to go through that. Ever.

It's so easy, sometimes, to write people off as stupid. "Should have had insurance!" And so, perhaps, they should. At my job, I qualify for medical insurance, but I wasn't offered it. It was a condition of moving to a full-time position that I stay on the books as part-time, for a few months. And I got sick during the transition period. Pure bad timing.

How many others have had bad timing in their life to the cost of their quality of life? How many contracted some terrible disease two weeks after being fired from a job they had for 15 years and before they could find another?

And here we are (In the US) having a debate about public healthcare. I'm not trying to start a conversation about the nuances of this subject. Or the politics of it (Though I understand that politics will play their part regardless.)

I would give up so much to help people not have to go through what I went through... And to help people not have to go through things so much worse. So what are your opinions on this? I know this was a long post, but I really wanted to talk about this and to try and better understand why so much of our society is against free healthcare or just more accessible/cheaper healthcare.

I don't really regret what happened to me. Would I prefer to spend all this money on something else? Yeah. But I learned a lot more about the true value of money and of life. Indeed, I learned a lot more about life from this than I could have guessed I would. So, to me, a small price to pay. I just wish people didn't have to learn it like I had to.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] September 18 2010 6:03 PM EDT

A while ago Emma fell over in a soft play area badly, and when she got up, couldn't walk on her ankle. We were advised to take her to A&E striaght away.

Claire called me at work, and I left to meet them at our local hospital.

We waited for 6 hours (after beeing seen by a pediatric nurse within 30 minutes, who checked Emma over and gave her some painkillers), and in the end had to wait again for an X-ray of her ankle to make sure she hadn't fractured anything (compounded by Emma's existing complication of weak leg joints).

Thankfully, at the end of it all, it was nothing more than a bad sprain. And all the anxiety we had about our daughters health and future were eased by treatment from marvelous staff, even if we were frustrated by the wait.

Never once, did we ever had the added concern of how much this would cost, or whether we could afford to take Emma to be checked over. Which would have been damning and very difficult to cope with, as we're finding it hard enough to make ends meet as it is, having virtually no savings to our name and already in debt.

If we would have had to pay, we wouldn't have thought twice about doing so. But I know we wouldn't have been able to afford it.

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] September 18 2010 7:08 PM EDT

Why didn't you got to a family physician when your foot started hurting? It's a lot cheaper than the ER.

Godpanda September 18 2010 7:17 PM EDT

Family physicians aren't free... And in these cases, all most of these doctors would do would be to charge someone a hundred dollars for the visit and send you to the ER anyways.

Sickone September 18 2010 7:35 PM EDT

Honestly, the problem is framed a bit oddly.
It's not really a problem of "free medical assistance" vs "fully paid medical assistance", but rather that of "EXORBITANTLY EXPENSIVE medical assistance".
There is no good reason a trip to the ER should cost that much money, if anything, it should probably cost more in the vicinity of a trip to a decent restaurant - the actual space doesn't justify those costs, the people working there aren't really paid all that well either, the equipment and consumables used don't really cost that much either, and so on and so forth.
The only reason the prices are so high is becuase the hospitals (which are also businesses) CAN get away with it thanks to the many people that DO have "good" medical insurances, which also only afford to be "that good" by also trying to shaft as many people as possible and so on and so forth.
Agriculture is subsidized in the USA, especially corn, I find it very hard to find an excuse as to why medical assistance to "uninsured" people isn't also subsidized (or, better still, subsidized INSTEAD).

All of thios can be solved in a lot of ways, but the key problem lies in the fact that as long as the hospitals themselves are run as make-as-much-as-possible businesses, that's not going to change for the better any time soon.
Heck, all it would really take is a couple of hospitals that are government-owned, which would be run as non-profit organisations, charging just enough to keep a near-zero ledger (while also not having to pay any taxes).

Cylo September 18 2010 8:56 PM EDT

Titan, have you tried to make a doctors appointment lately? Only reason I ask is because when I call to make a doctors appointment no matter how big an emergency it is the appointment is usually 2 to 3 weeks out. They are that full they say and tell me if it is really important and it can't wait 2 or 3 weeks then go to the emergency room. So I highly doubt he could have gotten a visit to the doctor that day, or even the day before it got as bad as it did. The local doctor probably would have told him to go to the ER if he couldn't wait the time for an open appointment.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] September 19 2010 3:58 AM EDT

Cylo, that was how my old family GP worked. Wanted an apointment? You coold book one for 2-3 weeks time. I found that very strange, nd never helpful. If it was an emergency you could get yourself down to the surgery for opening time, and see if they could squeeze you in some time. But you had to go there in person, and wait. Which was never conveient, and you were better of just going to A&E anyway...

Since moving and joining a new Doctors, they split the practice day in half. Mornings are reserved for emergencies, and you can phone in on the monring to book a space, while afternoons are reserved for appointments (Depending on booking you can book an appointment for the morning, or be seen as an emergency in the afternoon. IT's quite flexible). This works so much better for us.

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] September 19 2010 4:47 AM EDT

I make doctors appts. all the time, maybe I just have a good physician, but I can usually get in within a few days, many times within 1-2.

QBJohnnywas September 19 2010 5:40 AM EDT

Do you know what, if you believed certain terrors of the debating boards you would think American healthcare was that much better than British. You would think that all treatment was instantaneous.

GL, your latest doctor is far closer to what I've had at my doctors, both in London and out where I'm living now. Phone for an appointment before 930am and get seen same day if it is serious, next day if not. Additionally - although these are in danger thanks to our new government, there are out of hours drop in centres - Sundays for instance when your regular doctor is closed. Plus there is NHS direct a phone service that will send out doctors in emergencies. For serious stuff just call an ambulance.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] September 19 2010 8:03 AM EDT

Yeah, we have NHS direct, which is awesome. Claire's used it many times for Emma. Problem is, it's being cut by the new Government. :(

We also have the walk in centres, which yu can just turn up to, but they're so much like A&E I just lump those together. ;)

Usually if you turn up at A&E and it's not serious, they send you next door to the walk in centre. ;)

Admiralkiller September 19 2010 2:04 PM EDT

Not sure exactly how Alberta health care works but I am pretty sure it's free here.

Me and my family have paid small premiums in the past but it was so small that one doctor visit easily paid the premiums twice over. It's nice to have a peace of mind that in the event of an emergency I wont have to owe in order to have my life saved.

Zenai September 19 2010 2:47 PM EDT

I completely understand how you feel GW. When my wife had seizures and had to be rushed to the ER at the time thought of money went out the window. All I wanted was to make sure she was ok. Same thing with my eye (which has gotten worse by hitting both eyes now), all I wanted was for it to end and everything to be ok. It puts things into perspective that is for sure. Now our family owes 9k for my wife and I now have a 3k procedure that must be done within the next 2 years that I must pay in cash since our families credit is now in the crapper. Still overall the peace of mind that these problems have been/can be solved is worth the cost to me.

AdminQBnovice [Cult of the Valaraukar] September 23 2010 12:06 AM EDT

You should have died GW, but before you died you should have changed your name!

Seriously, how did this thread avoid a tirade about how you failed the personal responsibility test by not having a savings account with 20 grand in it or $500 a month private insurance?

AdminNemesia [Demonic Serenity] September 23 2010 12:09 AM EDT

I think it has to do with just how far certain people and organizations are willing to go just to make profits. 2 things that really should not be for profit for the majority of the industry are health care and education.

AdminQBnovice [Cult of the Valaraukar] September 23 2010 12:20 AM EDT

I'm honestly torn. I firmly believe that medicine has faltered in it's research and development mission because of the bottom line mindset. Many folks argue that without the trillions of dollars they've made treating symptoms that we'd be without many of the advances they have made.

I just know it seems as if we've given up finding causes for our maladies and resorted to selling crap that makes our miserable situation tolerable temporarily. Meanwhile the population is obese, crazy, and unable to function without serotonin enhancers and speed. Our food supply is maliciously addicitive and made of the cheapest crap available. We're choking on our own greed.

Medicide!

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] September 23 2010 12:22 AM EDT

Nat you know that for profit education is better right?

AdminNemesia [Demonic Serenity] September 23 2010 12:33 AM EDT

That's only because of how little attention and lack of support the public education has. I saw most Iraqi kids with better text books than kids have in most public schools. All of those text books are funded by us of course.

Demigod September 23 2010 12:50 AM EDT

2 things that really should not be for profit for the majority of the industry are health care and education.

I'm glad you added the qualifier "majority of," but I still want to point out that research universities can benefit from being run in a for-profit manner, and healthcare (read: pharmaceuticals) benefit greatly from the chase for the almighty dollar.

That being said, the profiteering from healthcare means that the real money lies is in finding treatments, not cures. On the localized side (hospitals/medical offices), it also means that quality of care is skewed by what insurance pays. Length of hospital stays, costs of procedures, amount of rehab, and even some tests are tempered by profit margins. In the end, the consumers/patients end up getting not only the better drugs & equipment, but also the seriously bloated premiums -- so bloated that many cannot come close to affording it.

Our (U.S.) healthcare is far from perfect, and something needs to be done to improve it... but I can't find a perfect solution, and it seems no one else can, either.

I'm willing to bet a bright, shiny nickel that if I ask the first self-employed client I see tomorrow, the person will tell me he/she doesn't have healthcare coverage because of the cost. Unless there's a spouse with benefits, it's a safe bet.

Lord Bob September 23 2010 1:09 AM EDT

Seriously, how did this thread avoid a tirade about how you failed the personal responsibility test by not having a savings account with 20 grand in it or $500 a month private insurance?
He hasn't been posting lately.

I will say it's quite nice to see all these good stories coming out of the superior health care systems around the world from you guys. Now if only this country would cut the nonsense and catch up to the rest of the civilized world.

horseguy001 September 28 2010 10:33 AM EDT

Being a Canadian I was very fortunate to not have to pay a dime for all the operations I needed after some medical emergencies I had. Even my facial reconstruction was covered since it wasn't cosmetic. The quality of work was top notch too, I don't have many noticeable scars.

Point of this is I have my old job back now, and am back on my feet again after a minor set back. I own my house, just bought a new car (really like those 2010 Lancers!) and have no bad debt.

I am afraid to think where I would be in my life if I didn't live in a country where these services were provided and I had to pay out of pocket.

Kefeck [Demonic Serenity] September 28 2010 3:20 PM EDT

One area where I feel this country fails even more then health care is dental care. Right now they want me to get all 4 of my wisdom's out of my mouth and the bill is going to be just a little bit over $1,000. My dental insurance won't cover it either. :(.

Is dental care in the new health care system anywhere? I sure hope so.. :)

QBOddBird September 28 2010 3:22 PM EDT

Aye, I brush/floss my teeth like crazy because I quite frankly cannot afford to visit a dentist. I checked with a local dentist the other day - because I feel like I should go back - and it'll be $200 to get my teeth checked and cleaned. I never imagined it would be so much for something so simple. T_T

sebidach [The Forgehood] September 28 2010 3:33 PM EDT

I am forced to go to the dentist every half year by state insurance. I _hate_ it. But I only have to pay for any dental surgery that occurred because of hooliganism. ;)

Demigod September 28 2010 3:37 PM EDT

OB, tell them where to stick their x-rays and see if the cost drops to $50-80.

Admindudemus [jabberwocky] September 28 2010 4:06 PM EDT

I'm willing to bet a bright, shiny nickel that if I ask the first self-employed client I see tomorrow, the person will tell me he/she doesn't have healthcare coverage because of the cost. Unless there's a spouse with benefits, it's a safe bet.

i am self-employed and i have coverage for both myself and my daughter. it was actually too expensive for us to be on my wife's (public school teacher in texas) and the more economical option was me paying for it.

to be honest, most of my income goes to just providing insurance for sloan & i.

SoIo September 28 2010 4:08 PM EDT

I have a very mixed view of the health system here in the States. Firstly, I was born in Toronto, CA and am a dual citizen by birth (CA/US) and in Canada, obviously the health system is different to say the least. I broke my hand punching my house and went to the ER (no insurance).. Had to get surgery (pins put in my bones, metacarples between wrist and finger for my right ring finger. What do I owe? About $1800 to the hand specialist who performed the surgery and saw me at his own clinic after the incident. NO ER bill. Why? I saw ER bills but shortly after I started receiving them, I had already been accepted for their low-income help stuff at the hospital so it said the amount then said it covered all of it. What did it cover? Oh about the other $10,000 in bills from the hand. I broke my hand and only owe $1800 whereas the original to owe was about $13,000 before the help thing went through. I guess all I can say is hospitals should help people without insurance like they did me.
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