Healthcare for the Uninsured: The Vicious Circle

by Robin Forman

So, I went to a pretty good college.

I come from a pretty good family.

I’ve even have a decent job.

So why is it that I spent a good 30 minutes on the phone the other day plotting insurance fraud with one of my best friends?

Because I don’t have health insurance and I’m sick and I need medicine. Now.

If I were a child I would technically qualify for S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) — were the president not slashing it.

And I’m not alone…at all. According to The New Republic somewhere between 40 and 47 million Americans lack health insurance. (The National Coalition on Health Care also cites those figures from a U.S. Census report in 2005.) Part of the problem in exacting a figure is that people move in and out of coverage constantly. A better figure for understanding this problem is that over a two-year period somewhere between 80 and 90 million people (more than a quarter of the U.S. population) will go without health insurance at some point.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to be sick, scared, alone and without option?

Let me take you on the journey through healthcare without insurance:

First there’s the initial panic of realizing you’re sick with no real place to turn. Not to mention you probably can’t skip work to try and deal with this because if you do you won’t get paid and any sort of healthcare that's not covered by insurance will be out of the question. If you have to pay for uninsured antibiotics how will you get groceries that week or even month? What about the fees even at a free clinic?

Next, perhaps like me, you try to go to one of these free clinics. It seems to me that if you’re a woman and you’re headed to a free clinic everyone assumes you’re there for an abortion or emergency contraceptives. What a dreadful stigma to walk into. Now, if you’re lucky, unlike I was, the clinic will be where they say it is. Then you will be able to pay a fee for the visit (generally below $100,) wait several hours for sub-par treatment, then be prescribed medications for which you will have to pay full price.

Or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to let your condition get to the point where you have to be rushed to a hospital. Where you will incur tens of thousands of dollars worth of bills and ultimately end up with a prescription for a follow up appointment which will cost you somewhere around $150-$200 without insurance. Without a follow up, the condition will likely persist or a new one will appear.

Do you see the vicious circle?

I know that writers on this site (see "Capitalism & Poverty in America" and "An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh") as well as countless others have often asked this, but I must pose the question again. We should all pose it until it gets answered. How is it that the richest nation in the world can’t take care of its own?

(Photo by Betsssssy of San Francisco via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Anonymous said...

In the UK I lived 3 years under the National Health Care system. Don't let anyone tell you that National Health Care doesn't work. The UK system was fast, the physicians actually listen to you and were skilled. I never paid for a doctor visit and only paid a small deductable on medicine.

In Italy same story albeit Italians are slower than the English, the medical care in any case is first class.

The vested interests in the US will never allow a national health care system unless middle America rebels. If middle America had a chance like i have to live under National Health care for a few years, they would indeed rebel. But for now they are destined to be scared to death by TV commercials telling them that it is better to live under the American system

there are other many other points I could make, but I will reserve one more tangential observation:

I travelled in the US recently and noted that insurance companies and medical firms are investing in new buildings while a lot of what I saw around them looked worn down.

Wake up Americans! You are being conned

Jeff Siegel said...

Don't feel alone. I'm white and about as middle class as they come, and health insurance is an adventure for me every year. That's because I'm self-employed, and the system -- based as it is on employees getting insurance from from their employers - doesn't include me. This year's insurance search was particularly cruel, since I will probably have to change doctors to maintain my affordable policy.

The solution is no-fault health insurance, a concept pioneered by former U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana. But, thanks to campaign cash from the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industries, we'll never see it. Just ask Mrs. Clinton.

Dusty said...

The number of uninsured is closer to 50 mil than 40 mil. I know more people without insurance than I do with insurance.Of course I too do not have health insurance and I am sick as well.

Even the middle class is getting rooked. They know it too, or are at least waking up to that fact.

Big Pharma and the insurance industries are two of the top five lobbying companies, when it comes to spreading around the bribes..I mean lobbying money.

Robin, Daughter of the Desert and American Bad Ass said...

You know, I really wish the middle class would rebel to get health care reforms. But everyone seems to have kind of just accepted things as "es muss sein" as Milan Kundera would say. "It must be!"
When I was a camp counselor one of my co-counselors was from Canada where her health and dental were covered by the government.
I applied for yet another health insurance plan last week. If they approve me (here’s hopin’!) I’ll be paying an arm and a leg for it...and then paying a large deductible and 25% co-insurance for the surgery on the arm and the leg.

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