To the Editor:
Last year around this time I started feeling out of sorts. By the middle of summer it seemed like maybe I had a year left. I could barely walk and was sleeping most of the day. Finally, I went to see a terrific orthopedic surgeon at MDI Hospital. He withdrew about a half cup of synovial fluid from my painfully swollen left knee and sent it to a lab. The lab found the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. I was put on a month of oral antibiotics and a week of IV antibiotics just to make sure. I had an advanced case.
My health gradually improved, thanks to the good folks at the hospital and afterward some time spent with an excellent physical therapist. My worries were over. Thankfully, I did not have to lie awake at night wondering about how I was going to pay for all of this, because I happen to be a beneficiary of one of the best social healthcare programs on the planet. I am a veteran who makes good use of the VA healthcare system. Not that I ever appreciated being dragged into the Vietnam War, but I do now very much appreciate this particular benefit. It is comforting, I will tell you, to shuffle into a hospital feeling miserable and not be looked at like you are merely a source of revenue. And it was truly wonderful to later receive an itemized list of all the costs incurred for my treatment with “Paid in Full” at the bottom of the page. Thank you, dear taxpayers of America. You didn’t even notice the expense, any more than you noticed what you spent to send me off long ago to a very costly war.
What keeps me awake at night is this. Several weeks ago a hard-working good friend went through a series of very expensive medical tests that ultimately proved his heart to be in good condition after all. Recent vital numbers didn’t appear to jive with older ones and they just needed to make sure he was okay. No problem, it turned out, after all. So, wasn’t he relieved? Not exactly. His decent healthcare-provider insurance covered most of it, but he was left with “out of pocket” expenses of $30,000! For tests. Tests that he didn’t actually need. It’s like if the fire department came to your house on a false alarm and then gave you a $30,000 dollar bill for informing you that your house wasn’t on fire. That is deplorable.
America claims to have the best health care system in the world. It is not even close. What it does have is the most expensive one. And, as has been made painfully evident by the COVID-19 virus, it is one of the worst. Isn’t it about time America lives up to its self-proclaimed exceptionalism and offers health care for all of its citizens, just like every other advance country in the world? Shouldn’t we be electing people to office who will work diligently towards that end? This is surely a matter as important as national defense and human rights. It is clearly a matter of life and death. It is also a matter of plain human decency. Americans deserve better.