Living Dangerously: Life Without Health Insurance
Things the U.S. Does Well
The US Healthcare System
There are some things that we do quite well in the United States -- barbeque, for instance. There are other things at which we are less successful -- such as healthcare.
For some time, I have had a suspicious looking bump on my arm. I noticed it right around the same time that I lost my job, and thus my health insurance. Since my doctor does not accept patients without health insurance, it went unexamined.
Until last week, that is, when I visited an urgent care clinic. The interesting thing I learned about urgent care clinics is that they don't have the capability to actually do anything. They can't write a recurring prescription, nor do they run tests. What they can do, apparently, is tell you that the bump on your arm could be cancerous and that you need to see a dermatologist for a biopsy. Of course, dermatologists (unlike urgent care facilities) generally require health insurance. And, even if I could find one that would see me, without insurance a biopsy alone could run a thousand dollars or more.
I know that a lot of Americans have been screaming very loudly about "Obama care," and lauding socialized medicine in the U.S. has long been considered tantamount to treason, but the bottom line is this: if you're poor in America, you'd better stay healthy, because Social Darwinism is alive and well in the American health care system.
Things the U.S. Doesn't Do So Well
Precarious Health Care
The health care system in the United States is horribly, perhaps irretrievably, broken. In other culturally similar countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, citizens don't have to have money to have health care. In such places, it is a basic right available for all. But in the United States, it is a privilege available to only some.
Health care is an immensely successful money making industry, and when maximum profit is the industry's goal, there is no room for compassion. This means that those who need health insurance the most are consistently denied. After all, insuring sick people is bad business -- it cut into profits.
Over the years, I have known a number of people with serious illnesses who desperately clung to their jobs, even when their conditions made it difficult for them to work. They were effectively trapped in their jobs indefinitely, because should they lose their current insurance, no insurance company would ever grant them a new policy due to their pre-existing condition. And, to put it plainly, without continued medical care, they would not be able to continue to live. They live one step from the precipice.
Try Not to Die
But many Americans have already lost their footing and plummeted into the abyss. When I was a child, I was part of that demographic. My family did not have health insurance, and I spent my childhood worrying that I would get sick and simply drop dead because we could not afford a doctor.
Now here I am as an adult, temporarily uninsured once again, and all I can do is bide my time and try not to drop dead before I find another job with health benefits.
A few months after I wrote this article, my husband's health insurance kicked in, so I was able to see a dermatologist about the suspicious bump on my arm. The doctor took one look at it and dismissed it as totally harmless scar tissue. The urgent care physician had simply been wrong. Of course, if I were still uninsured, I would still be walking around thinking that I had cancer.
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© 2013 Alisha Adkins