If you’ve been following this blog over the last 3 months then you have followed my struggle and difficulties with pneumonia, see here, here and here.
This has been a very difficult thing. Not so much due to the illness but more related to the problem of health care.
You see I don’t have health care right now. I can’t afford it, even though my job offers it. This is the first time in my life where I haven’t had the security of health care. I’ve never really been sick before, and I think the worst thing I’ve had to endure would be…well not much comes to mind. I’m totally thankful for a lack of debilitating illnesses and other aliments that required frequent doctor visits.
My heart cries for those who have a continual relationship to the health care system, as it often can be difficult and stubborn, especially when things take longer and cost more than they should and a person can afford.
What breaks my heart more is those who are sick and without health care.
My recent illness give me insight into the world of treatment without health care.
I’ll start by saying that I am quite fortunate to come from a upper-middle class family with upper-middle, and upper class friends. This luxury afforded me the ability to see a family friend doctor for free for my basic diagnosis and treatment of my recent pneumonia. The struggle came when I needed x-rays to determine what exactly was happening in my chest during the pneumonia. The first time I went into have an x-ray done (since my doctor doesn’t have that equipment, because he has a private practice) I went to a local hospital. Where if I had coverage the x-ray would have cost probably no more than 40 dollars. But because I didn’t have health care and didn’t have the time to seek out alternatives (which I’ll get to) I ended up paying (well my mom paid, thanks mom) around 300 dollars which is about 1/2 of the price if I didn’t pay “cash” (payment in some form on that day).
The real hassle came when I needed a 2nd x-ray because my doctor is a thorough (good to have) doctor. He really just wanted to make sure things were clearing up and doesn’t have the god-given ability to just look into the inside of my chest.
After a little research, it was discovered that the county health clinics could do an x-ray for significantly less, about 50 dollars.
This is a good option.
Here’s where things get really difficult.
The clinic that I found opened at 7:30am. I woke up early one morning around 8am and gave the clinic a call to try and schedule an appointment. When I called they said all of their walk-in appointments were filled for the day. In order to get one I would have to come in and sign up for one at 7:30am.
Next day. I went down to the clinic and arrived at around 7:25am. I got in the line and waited to receive my number to see a doctor. I waited around an hour or so for my number to be called and then was promptly told that they only accept 5 “new” (never been seen there) patients a day. I would have to be 1 of 5 new patients in the front of the line to receive treatment from them, but it was possible to receive treatment. Luckily before leaving I asked what time people started lining up in front of the building. They said 6:30am. I almost cried.
The very next morning (and mind you I’m not a morning person). I got up and drove over to the clinic once again and arrived around 6:25am and got in line. I was around 4th in line. There’s no way I wouldn’t be one of the 5 new patients. Basically that day I spent from 6:30am to 11am then 1pm to 2pm at the clinic that day.
The next challenge was getting my results, which long story short, they wouldn’t give me over the phone, but had to show up at 7am to get in line and wait some more just to have them see me for about 5 min to tell me I’m all clear.
Here’s where I’d like to make some comments about how this system, while doing a lot of good for those without health care is really flawed.
I must point something out. First I didn’t fit in when I showed up to the clinic, it is in a poorer part of town that is mainly hispanic and I come from the upper-middle class part of town. My dress, my mannerisms, and my ethnicity just didn’t fit in. I just have to wonder what people thought of me. At one point I felt a bit guilty because I knew that most of these people probably needed these services more than I did. While someone did point out that the place is for people who don’t have health care and I didn’t have health care so I was just as entitled to the services as anyone else, it still didn’t sit right with me.
Another thing, I am fortunate enough to have a very flexible work schedule, I don’t really have set hours and have control over the schedule of my work, which affords me the countless hours that I spent at the clinic. I actually read 2 1/2 books during my total time in the clinic. But what about these people who don’t make a lot of money, can’t pay for health insurance and are missing work to be here for hours on end. It seems that the mere task of getting well is costing them more than what little money it costs for treatment. Getting well is costing their livelihood.
This shouldn’t be. It is a shame that we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and it is costing people their lives to get healthy. I would like to be hopeful and say that people weren’t sacrificing food just to get healthy. In the sense that people would give up a days work that feeds their family so that they can pay money that they don’t have to get help for an illness that would have been prevented if they had been able to see a doctor on a regular basis.
I feel trusted into this world which I never would have been exposed to if, myself had not gotten sick without health care.
I’m not sure what a proper response to this would be, maybe Will Samson will have some ideas about providing across the board health care from a governmental standpoint. But what I do know is, next time please think really hard about complaining that you had to sit in the ER for a long time (which your health care will cover the cost) or that you didn’t get to have a 4th opinion or that your prescription drugs cost 30 dollars (because drugs WITHOUT health insurance costs almost 5 times as much).
My heart is out for those who must suffer in these conditions for the majority of their lives. I myself more than likely will get health care sometime in the future, therefore not having to experience a clinic again.
I urge you to find ways to provide heath care for everyone. Especially those who live in 3rd world countries. I’ve not experience that, but from what I know, I know it’s exponentially worse than what I had to go through.
This could be an amazing testament to what Christians can do. I think it is a very missional and social way of thinking about what Christ would have encouraged people to do. I think health care should cost around 200-300 dollars a month for a family. What if churches started encouraging members to pledge money on a regular basis to pay for some family’s health care. I’m sure there are affluent Christians that easily spend 200-300 extra dollars on things they could cut back on.
I hope this post at least sparks some conversation about what the Church can do to meet this very real and urgent need.