February 14, 2008

Life Without Medical Insurance

Well, now that I'm out of quarantine, I can write again.

I spent last weekend in Houston, Texas, visiting my friend Ryan with another friend Ryan (no relation). The weather was gorgeous - sunny and dry in the 70s the whole time we were there. Nothing beats getting on a plane in beautiful sunshine and coming home to find it's 3 degrees.

(Travel anecdote: When we went through security in Grand Rapids, they took my toothpaste away. Clearly, a dissheveled college grad with a tube of toothpaste poses a threat to national security. I offered to dump half of it to get it under the 3.5 ounce limit, but they shot me down. My Colgate presumably went to some impoverished airport security person's kid that night. A few days later, we went through airport security in Houston. To my horror, the guard there plucked my bag from the x-ray machine and pulled out a pair of scissors. Not tiny scissors - big, sharp orange Fiskars scissors. Good scissors. Scissors which I had no idea were in there. After my initial shock and worry of ending up in Guantanamo Bay, I nervously admitted I had no idea how the scissors got there. They took them and, presumably, they went to some impoverished airport security person's kid that night. I have no doubt they were in there the whole time, and I soon recalled that the Grand Rapids security person had made a joke about the scissors, which I met with a confused laugh because I was completely unaware I had them. He saw the scissors and left them, but took my toothpaste. Moral of the story: Toothpaste is more dangerous than scissors.)

Anyway, not long after I returned to the Michigan Winter, I came down with a nasty cold. My nose ran all day, non-stop on Monday, and something was wrong in my chestal-region. Wheezing, coughing, hacking, thick-multi-colored stuff coming out, I was pretty convinced it was my annual bout with Bronchitis. Mom encouraged me to visit a doctor. Since I hadn't been to one in a year, and since I had an upcoming job interview, and since this might be something serious, I told myself I'd cut my losses and visit the doc. Mom told me to go the Spectrum Pavillion because, she and I assumed, it would be a similar price to the clinic up the road and there wouldn't be a wait.

So I drove on icy roads in a drugged stupor to the Spectrum Palace of Medicine. I put in my name, was given one of those hospital shirt-smock-gown things, and was placed in a room. It wasn't busy, but they still managed to make me wait. I think they forgot about me, because the attendant told me it would be just one minute and it turned into twenty. I fell asleep, and they woke me up and moved me across the hall.

Finally, the doctor saw me and, after a little banter, informed me that I was suffering from what they call "The common cold," just a considerably vicious strain of it. Since the cold is a virus, antibiotics wouldn't do me any good. He told me I'd be fine in a few days, and said I should pick up some Claritin D. A nurse came around and gave me a thick packet of information that I'll never read, detailing my common cold. I went to check out, and awaited the price tag. I wondered if it would be $75, or at most $100. The nurse behind the counter looked it up in a little book, and gave me the total: $135. I asked her if she was serious (I'm normally very polite, but when I'm ill, I get downright belligerent). She told me she was, and I begrudgingly handed over cash to pay for it all.

As I walked out, I realized this: I paid $135, or ten hours of wages, to be told I had a cold, nothing more.

And my question is, how is that economical? I have a financial cushion. I live with my parents. I'm not paying rent or a mortgage. I can make it work, but not everybody can. As attractive as socialized medicine may be, I don't think that's the answer. The government isn't going to make things better for everyone in the system. I need only to think about how long I have to sit at the secretary of state's office to renew my driver's license, or about how it costs the government $300 for a hammer, or how we still can't find Osama Bin Laden, to realize the government needs a lesson in stewardship before we hand over our health care system.


Jon said...

Screw our health system and our travel infrastructure. If Canada weren't a total polar waste...

mary said...

Amen brotha...I bill that crap every day and wonder how aspirin can cost $8.00 a pill...I don't get it myself. Hope you're feeling better though. Happy birthday month!