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Universal Health Care?

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After excitedly exiting my apartment on the way to hear James Murphy DJ at the Hiro Ballroom last night, I slipped down the stairs and really jammed my ankle badly. Determined as I was to shrug it off, we made it two blocks before turning back, which was much more excruciating, hopping back, than the two blocks out. I iced it and figured the morning would reveal it to be a minor or serious injury. I woke up and, after cursing the fact that my bed is at the top of a ladder, realized it was serious. I called in sick to work and set about trying to figure out if I needed to get treated.

I haven't studied much in regard to how and why universal health care can work (to the contrary, my father who lives in Canada often makes a point of saying it is a bad system resulting in long waits and inferior care). But I was really angry this morning when I had to spend two hours sorting out this insurance company from that, this plan from that, this doctor is not in the plan, this doctor is but the insurance won't cover it unless i have a written referal from a general practicioner doctor, this expense is covered but only if x is true, this situation isn't covered if you go into the emergency room because x and y need to be present for z to be true, which deems it an actual "emergency." The result of all this crap is I'm afraid and reluctant to do anything about an injury because I may end up with a big hospital bill on some loophole technicality in the insurance coverage. I had a friend at my old job who went into an emergency room because her retina had become detached. Inside that hospital, they referred her to an eye specialist who immediatly performed surgery. Afterwards, the insurance company wouldn't pay it because her eye thing "wasn't an emerency" and, even if she did go into the emergency room, she should have checked if the eye specialist was "in the plan." Since he wasn't, they washed their hands and said "sorry."

When I came to New York I worked without insurance for awhile, and I kept worrying and waiting for when I got to the promised land of benefits and salary, thinking all health problems would be solved. I don't feel that way, at all. Malcolm Gladwell, who started a blog recently, made this analogy about the strange situation we are in, that you are insured once you have a job:

...the idea of employer-based health care is just plain stupid--and only our familiarity with it and sheer inertia prevent us from rising up in rebellion. I always try to think of a suitable analogy and fail. The closest I can come is to imagine if we had employer-based subways in New York. You could ride the subway if you had a job. But if you lost your job, you would either have to walk or pay a prohibitively expensive subway surcharge. Of course, if you lost your job you would need the subway more than ever, because you couldn't afford taxis and you would need to travel around looking for work. Right? In any case, what logical connection is there between employment and transporation? If you can answer that question, you can solve the riddle of the U.S. health care system.

Interesting to consider. Gladwell also wrote an article for the New Yorker on this topic. For today, I spent (well, my roomate Max spent, though I promise to pay him back soon) $70 on an air cast and crutches. Why is it again that $50 of my paycheck every month goes toward my health insurance?


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  • Blake
  • Chicago, IL, United States

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