I haven’t always been so fortunate as to have healthcare coverage. Before it was a law to provide healthcare to part timers, it was almost impossible to get health insurance through your job. Companies kept their costs down by letting you work up to 37 hours a week, almost full time, but right on the line of the number that would obligate them to offer you healthcare.
I spent many years without health insurance. Luckily I have been relatively healthy, but when I did get to the point of no longer being able to tough it out and made my way to a clinic, I was always hampered down by a big bill that could take me over a year to pay. Still, it was better than paying crazy monthly rates to insure myself and my spouse. The choice was food, a shirts on our backs, and a roof over our heads; or almost, but not quite enough to cover health insurance for 2 adults.
We weren’t wasting any money. We were both employed nearly full time. We had a cheap apartment, and our 12 year old car was a gift from an old family friend. We literally stayed inside our home when we had paid vacation time. We even had a period where we ate two meals a day consisting of peanut butter sandwiches. Yet we were in debt because we couldn’t cover all our bills, including that rare visit to a clinic. We even went to a free budget counselor to help us get out of the hole. She was flabbergasted that we were living on so little and said that there was nothing she could do for us. We had already cut back every expense and then some, and we were living on half the minimum food budget for two poverty level adults. It was depressing to know that you were poorer than poor and had no way out even when you were doing everything right within your means.
Things did eventually improve, but back to the topic of healthcare, there was no way we could ever afford it without help not forthcoming from our jobs, and we were in an age bracket that even with our minimal income, we did not qualify for state provided care.
All of this, of course, made me very conscious of expenses. It was hard to not notice how terribly expensive prescription medicines are when you have to pay for them straight out of your own pocket. A doctor’s visit that would cost you a $10 co-pay was so out of the question, if the doctor was willing to see you at all without insurance. Even the ‘free’ clinic resulted in hundreds of dollars for a single visit, because you had a job and they based your fee on your employment status.
When I finally did get those three extra hours a week and a workplace offered health insurance, I was even more disappointed to see what sort of waste happened in the medical industry. I went to a doctor’s office for a chronic problem I was experiencing. The doctor wrote down all my symptoms. He wouldn’t offer a diagnosis or recommend a solution for my problem, but instead sent me to a specialist for each separate symptom. He gave me a prescription for a name brand painkiller for the time being. I hadn’t been to a ‘real’ doctor in nearly a decade, so I trusted this was what needed to be done.
I paid a copy for the visit and went home no different. I also did some standard type tests that he deemed necessary-pee in a cup, draw some blood, that kind of thing.
I picked up the prescription and realized it was a name brand pharmaceutical which was essentially the same over the counter thing I had in my medicine cabinet, just in smaller doses per pill.
I went to 4 specialists. One told me I didn’t need to see him, this wasn’t the sort of thing he specialized in. After the 5 minute consult, I left none the better and paid the higher specialist copay.
Another made me redo the same tests in the same diagnostic place the doctor used. I asked if they were the same tests and from the same test place, could they not just use the same set of results. There was a convoluted answer that amounted to no, everyone preferred to do their own sets of tests. Being so very cost conscious, I immediately felt it was a waste of money and that each of these duplicate set of tests was just being done to make money off of the insurance. I began to see why insurance is so ridiculously expensive. I paid a copay and went to my next appointment.
The third one was much like the first. The last one dealt with a symptom, but not the problem. More copays. More duplicate testing. And let’s not leave out having to return to the second specialist who told me there was nothing in their specialty they could do for me, but hey, pay the copay for hearing that. Each of these things was billed to the insurance.
I went back to the doctor’s office when they had their results. They said it was inconclusive what I had and that I was young, I could take it, and it would likely go away, whatever the heck it was. Another copay and with no answers.
A few weeks later, I got bills for multiple duplicate tests because the insurance only covered such a percent of this or there was a deductible on that. All I could think was no wonder insurance was so expensive. And these folks were getting rich at the expense of the insurance companies and the patients.
Needless to say, this experience soured me towards doctors and insurance. I resisted visiting doctors and had other negative experiences that tainted my outlook on both. It seems clear to me that our whole health system is diseased. It’s broken. Prescription medicines are way to costly, insurance is crazy expensive without assistance from work or the Marketplace, a lot of waste happens inside what seems to be a doctor/specialist mafia that bleeds the system. And ultimately, it is the little guy who suffers for it.
I lived in a third world country for several years. There’s a whole lot of things that make life poor and difficult in countries like that, but one excellent thing they had going for them was this: doctors. A single doctor could see anyone in your family-male, female, young, old, pregnant-and he would use his hard earned college education to examine you, run only necessary tests, give you a diagnosis, and look for the right remedy. He had your best interest at hand, both for your health and your pocket. He knew his best calling card would be your health and for the patient to gain access to health, he couldn’t gouge the patient’s pocket by putting forth some pharmaceutical’s agenda. Anytime I went to a doctor, I came out feeling that I was in good hands and with a clear idea of what was wrong and what needed to happen to get better.
I got so sick one time, I seriously felt my life’s end was near. I’m here now because of the care I got through a third world doctor. He focused on my health issue, he put me on a regimen that not only covered medicine, but vitamins, diet, natural remedies, and changes of habits that put me on the road of recovery. He did not shove a prescription at me and send me to specialists. He did not shift me over to a hospital. He did not leave me in debt for ages even though there is no such thing as health insurance in a place like that.
On the other hand, my brother was in a similar life’s end situation here in the States. He went to a doctor who sent him to the emergency room. That hospital transferred him to another. He had no conclusive results. He was given only pharmaceutical solutions and a some vague suggestions for changing his lifestyle. He Is now in huge debt to both hospitals with the bill from just one of them coming to the price of a house. The price of a house because his insurance found a loophole. The price of a house so he could live. His life is worth way much more than a house, but what does that do to a person who almost died, isn’t even half recovered, and then is suddenly planted in the middle of such deep debt? The thought did cross his mind that death would have been cheaper. There’s something so wrong with this picture.
I totally believe that the entire system needs to be cleaned up. But looking at it over the years, I see that it’s diseased to a stage 4 level. You can’t fix it without doing a lot of surgery to remove the bad parts, and the bad parts have spread all over. Just fixing healthcare coverage isn’t going to ever be a magic solution. Obamacare couldn’t be a perfect fix.
But, it’s a fix in the right direction. It’s a fix that would have helped the ‘little guy’ I was through a decade of my life. It’s a fix that still might help my brother, therefore giving him hope for life and not regretting death. It’s a fix in favor of so many people in so many situations.
This is why I am so thankful that changes offered up by our present government, which would have taken us backward favoring the money-making disease factor in the healthcare system, did not make it through the first major step. I am concerned that more attempts will be made to help the rich at the cost of the poor, but some faith in our government as a whole has been restored. A little bit.
But on the chance that it should go the wrong way, I can refer you to a very good doctor abroad.