If you want to get someone fired up these days, just ask them about health care. It is one of the biggest political hot topics around and why shouldn’t it be? It’s something that affects all Americans. Whether you are young, vibrant, and healthy, or are elderly and need to take a handful of pills every day just to make it to the next, health care affects you in some way. We, the American public, watch our politicians grandstand, create crises, and run this country into the ground. They do their jobs poorly all while earning six figures, getting retirement, and healthcare. Let me tell you a story about what it’s like for the rest of the country.
I have a friend who started a new job early this year, making the most money he’s ever made. He’s thirty-eight years old and single. He waited out the required ninety days of “probation” where he would then be eligible to get benefits. He had really been counting on the healthcare package because of some prior health issues. When it came time for him to sign up for insurance, he realized it was going to cost him almost $700 a month. That was going to be a good chunk of one paycheck. He wasn’t even given the option of getting vision and dental separately, it was an all or nothing deal. Because this wasn’t something he could afford, he opted out of his health insurance.
For the past several months, my friend has had a tooth that has bothered him. He figures he had broken or cracked it and it was always sore and tender. He’d pop some aspirin and the pain would remain tolerable. This past weekend his tooth took its revenge against him by flaring up and causing his face and head to swell up like an egg. He was in excruciating pain. He was unable to eat or drink and even water in his mouth was almost bringing him to his knees. He ended up going to an emergency room and was prescribed penicillin and told he needed to see a dentist as soon as possible. This was a doctor’s visit and prescription he had to pay out of pocket.
He took Monday off from his job (thus not earning any money that day) because the pain had caused him to not get any sleep. He spent two hours of his day calling dentists in his part of the state. Guess what he learned? The dentists he called wouldn’t see him because he didn’t have insurance and he would need to pay for anything they did up front. Have you been to the dentist lately? Do you know how much they charge? The first thing they are going to do is take X-rays, which costs a bundle. So, on his day off, he was unable to find a dentist who would see him and help get him out of his terrible pain.
Tuesday, he went to work. He was able to drive an hour to get where he needed to be but he was in such torment he couldn’t focus while driving. The swelling had not gone down and his head and face were throbbing. He finally called his boss and told her he had to go back to the doctor. So, he took more time off (thus not earning any money again) and finally found another doctor who would take him. His reason this time was to be prescribed pain pills because he was officially at his limit of the pain he could tolerate. Have you gone to a doctor lately to ask for pain meds? They make you feel like a junkie. I can assure you, my friend is not addicted to pain pills, however he needed relief from his torture. This doctor was a medical angel. He prescribed my friend Vicodin for the pain and also gave him a list of dentists who charge their patients based on income. He then also told him that if he couldn’t afford this doctor’s visit, to “just walk right out of here.” He wasn’t going to charge him. He hadn’t used any equipment or done any tests on him. What a great guy!
Using the list of income-based dentists, my friend was able to find one in Saginaw that was a walk-in clinic and it was first-come/first-serve. So, Wednesday morning, my friend took another day off (thus AGAIN not earning any money) and drove an hour to Saginaw to see this dentist. He had X-rays taken (go figure) and it turns out he has broken two teeth and had multiple abscesses which had gone into the bone and were starting to go into his ear and sinuses. He also had a fever of 102 degrees from the infection. The dentist told him he couldn’t do anything until the infections were gone and so now he gets to drive all the way back to Saginaw next week sometime to have two teeth pulled. He’ll be missing more work because of this.
We are now several days into the week and my friend is still in excruciating pain. Vicodin doesn’t really stop the pain the way morphine does. It just makes you loopy enough to not care, I guess. My friend will be off the rest of this week and whenever next week he can go back to Saginaw to have two teeth pulled at his new walk-in, income-based dentist. I can’t see a senator or representative having to live through this much pain for this long because they don’t have insurance. I also can’t see a politician not getting paid because they can’t come to work. Yes, health care affects all Americans. Unfortunately, those who make the health care decisions for us, have no idea what it’s like to be an average American with no insurance.