Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Why The United States Needs A Better Health Care System

I'm not a big fan of stairs; as a clumsy person, they make me nervous -- you never know when a step will betray you. And last night I was reminded of why after I took a fall on the stairs at the house where I'm house-sitting.

It wasn't a terrible fall, but it was enough to do a pretty good number on my right knee and ankle. I've got a moderate sprain, a bit swollen, pretty damn painful, but not so bad that I can't walk -- albeit slowly and carefully, with intermittent sharp pain when something moves outside of a very, very limited range. In short, this sucks, but it's not bad enough to require a visit to the doctor.

And that's all for the best, since even if it were bad enough to need medical attention, I wouldn't have any good way of getting some. I have no health care insurance, I don't qualify for any state medical aid, and I certainly don't have the money for a doctor's visit. In my particular situation, I am fortunate that if it were really bad, my mother could be relied upon to front the dough, but if it weren't for family help I'd be up the proverbial creek.

Another example: when I was about sixteen or so, I got a shard of chicken bone stuck in my foot. The dog had brought it in and left it on the floor, I stepped on it, and a small piece broke off deep inside my right heel. It hurt like hell, but I couldn't get it out. Mom didn't have coverage for us back then, and I knew she sure as hell didn't have money for a doctor (she was working an awful supermarket job at the time), so being a dutiful daughter... I just didn't tell her. I was reduced to performing minor surgery on myself in my bedroom with tweezers and a pocket knife, and couldn't manage the job. So I walked around with a foreign object from the garbage stuck in my foot for six months. It was often excrutiating. I managed to fend off one impending infection, and finally after long months the bit of bone came out on its own, to my great relief.

Nobody should have to fucking live like that in what is supposed to be the richest country in the world. In fact, nobody should have to live like that, period, but the fact that even this very wealthy nation can't provide even the simplest medical care, even for kids, is disgusting.

I live in a city where much of the population frequntly has to let a child's fever rage unchecked -- often until their situation becomes so dangerous that permanant injury is a possibility -- until they can take them to a doctor; and when they do, the debt they incur in the process makes it harder still for them to take good care of their kids even when they're well. In Memphis, the only doctors to which many people have access are those working in the emergency rooms, where they can't turn anyone away... there are no GPs, no annual checkups, no preventative care for these people.

My knee and ankle are going to be fine even without a doctor's care; a few days of hobbling around are probably all this involves. But it pisses me off that if I were more badly hurt, without familial help my only option would be to sit here and suffer... and it pisses me off that there are lots of people in this city alone who are in exactly that situation. I'm not going to advocate any particular approach to health care in this post, but I will say this: any system in which anyone is excluded is a gross failure.
3:57 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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