I wish I had a really great story for how I twisted my ankle last week. Like I was partying with Mick Jagger or saving a baby from impending death or even I tripped over the cat, but no. The only reason I twisted my ankle on the stairs is because I am a klutz.
Am I the only one who immediately thinks of this kind of injury in financial terms? I didn’t hear a snap so it’s probably not broken so at least I won’t need a cast. Xrays? Will I need Xrays? How much is my deductible on Xrays? How many follow up appointments? How much for painkillers? Do I really need painkillers? How much time off work?
After looking around to see who had witnessed my graceful decent and finding only Mr. Fluffernutter laughing at me, I took a deep breath. Hey! I can walk on it. Maybe I don’t need to take off work and go to the doctor and get Xrays and crutches and spend the next 6 months trying to pay off this stupid little accident.
It was a stupid little accident, and I am insured. But like many of us, I am single and I live paycheck to paycheck, and a stupid slightly bigger accident could set me so far back financially I might never recover. So as I ice my foot and admire the rainbow of colors that make up my bruise, I consider myself lucky. I take my over the counter medications and wonder what a broken ankle costs. I realize I cannot just call my insurance company and say, There are doctors’ fees and radiologist fees and cpt codes and deductibles and plans and waiting rooms and pharmacies and paperwork and billing. There is no comparison shopping for broken bones. There is only hoping you got the best insurance you could afford and then waiting for the bills to come in and sorting through the paperwork hoping they didn’t overcharge you.
This is an exceptionally imbecilic way to run things. Health care in the U.S. costs about twice as much per person as in the rest of the developed world: about $10,000 per person per year. And let’s not even pretend we are getting better health care than everyone else. Our life expectancy rates 50th among 221 nations. (Monaco ranks first with a life expectancy of almost 90 years old. That’s over 10 years longer than in the U.S.) We also rank poorly in measures such as low birth rate, infant mortality, STDs, obesity, heart disease, and COPD (lung disease). Does that sound right?
I am not shy about advocating for Universal Health Care so that everyone has access to health care providers when they need them, but I also expect costs for someone like me to be manageable. A minor accident should not have you running for your calculator, and a major one should not bankrupt you. If you are unemployed or make too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to pay for ACA, you should not fear going to the doctor for minor problems that only become major when not treated. Our hospitals should not be closing due to unpaid bills from patients who had no other access to medical care. We really suck at health care as a country. And I’m sick of it. Also, I am voting. Anyone who wants my vote needs to promise me that next time I fall down the stairs, my first thought won’t be how much it’s going to hurt my bank account.