I have no health insurance. I lost my insurance shortly after I lost my job as a graphic artist in Manhattan in May 2009. Since that time I have broken two toes, broken my nose, contracted a mild case of psittacosis while treating the baby cockatiel I bought who had the disease from the pet store, and suffered a mild stroke.
These are the sorts of events that drive us to buy health insurance and part of the reason why our healthcare system has ceased to practice common - or economic sense.
When I had my stroke this March, the doctor (who knew I have no income since my job loss and ran out of unemployment more than a year before) ordered a CAT scan for me, even as he told me that he "seriously doubted" that the scan would show other than normal. My stroke was a mild, largely self-correcting, stroke. My long term impact from that stroke is an irregular and sudden decrease in verbal fluency (a sort of "loss for words" experience) that feels terrifying to me when it happens, but is completely invisible to others.
As agonizing as it was in the first forty-five minutes, it was not life threatening. It did not merit the expensive trip to the ER that my intuition told me I did not need, but every step along the way was pressured into.
The fear-based pressure began with my research on the web concerning my symptoms and how to handle it. During the stroke I felt an off-the-scale agony in my skull that was even more intense and differently located (much more center of the brain) than my severe chronic daily migraine I have lived with for years. The web told me I was having some sort of stroke - and to seek professional medical help right away.
I delayed; my gut was to stay home, supervised, and wait to see if time changed anything. I called my significant other. He came home, asking if I needed to be taken to a doctor. Eventually I consented to being taken to a LOCAL private doctor's office in the area.
When we got there, they would not see me and insisted I go to Altoona regional hospital. Even as I was incapable of speech in those minutes, my intuition told me "NO!" My heart told me "see the local doctor to check first!" The office completely refused me.
We travelled all the way to Altoona regional hospital. After signing in, I was still on the fence about how necessarily it was. I was about to leave when they called my name. I was afraid to tell them "no" at that point, and let the nurse take down financial and vital statistical information. Ten minutes later, I was in an examination room and the doctor talked to me. Several times he said he "doubted" further testing was needed because it was pretty clear it was just a mini stroke or severe migraine that had self corrected. After thinking about the test for five minutes, I declined and requested discharge.
Then came the bill. Hundreds of dollars to, essentially, talk to two people for ten minutes each. I'm in a serious financial mess that is threatening my credit and my ability to physically survive further in my unemployment. Over what really amount to a series of aggressive pressures on me to seek un-necessary medical attention.
This is a fear-based system every step of the way. It is expensive and punitive against the poor. The current financial issues make me feel completely worthless, that my life is of absolutely no consequence because I lost my job and don't have large sums of money. It's a system that pressures us to use their services against common sense and our own instincts, then bankrupts us. It's a system that needs serious reform.
I am rarely all that sick. Yes, I get my share of cuts, scrapes, and muscle pulls. I've broken two toes and my nose from walking into things because I did not have a badly needed white-cane at the time. But these are typically things a person can handle on their own with some solid information. So why am I on the verge of bankruptcy?
In my experience, the more sound approach to healthcare is the pre-tax health savings account coupled with strong preventative life choices and education on first aid. We need to be more self sufficient to handle the everyday stuff. That includes specific savings accounts dedicated towards paying for our health services, both pre-tax, employer sponsored, and personally funded at our local banks. My veterinarian visits have typically been handled through a dedicated savings account…why not for our own health care.
Healthcare is a business based on fear. Fear drives us to buy health insurance. Fear drives us to go to doctors over things most of us can handle ourselves with a little help. Fear drives doctors to order unnecessary tests just to rule out something their training tells them is highly improbable. Fear drives us to consume these ideas and services - because we don't trust our own intuitions.
Perhaps with more common sense, all areas of healthcare could cost less. We all need that!
(Written September 5th, 2012. It was originally published by Yahoo Voices http://voices.yahoo.com/fear-based-healthcare-11730336.html?cat=5.)
Laurel A. Rockefeller, author
The Great Succession Crisis
E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808
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