Our favorite young waitress was bringing us more sweet tea. As she approached, my wife noticed a little “limp” and asked her about it.
“I got a rash on my leg yesterday and it’s worse today,” she said. “It bothers me when it rubs on my pants.”
Assuming our customary Mom and Pop roles, we chatted about what the cause of the rash might be, considering possible medical solutions. The young lady’s next line was a stunner.
“I guess I will go to the emergency room after my shift,” she said.
We gasped simultaneously – “the EMERGENCY ROOM?! Why would you go there?”
Her response: “Well, I don’t have insurance so whenever I need medical care I just go to the emergency room. They don’t make me pay the bill right away.”
My wife and I exchanged baffled looks and started asking questions. We wondered how, on a server’s wage, she could afford to make payments on what must be an outrageously expensive emergency room visit. Maybe she doesn’t pay at all.
“Why don’t you go to an ‘urgent care’ clinic?” we asked. “There’s one across the street and it probably charges one-tenth of what the emergency room will charge you.” She gave us a curious look.
We also suggested she could stop in at one of the many nearby drug stores who offer affordable minor-medical care and even free advice from the pharmacist. She didn’t know there was such a thing.
Then we pointed out that our county provides a list of free and low-cost medical clinics. But it occurred to me that it would probably cost her a day of work to even get in the door of a government clinic.
The young lady seemed grateful for the Mom and Pop advice, and hopefully she will seek out one of the alternatives we proposed.
Our short conversation with a hard-working young waitress reminds me how badly screwed up so many things are these days: the ridiculous cost of medical care, the failures of our education system, inadequate parenting, bumbling government, our crazy tax system, the challenges of employment, and more. How does a young woman get to the age of 25 without knowing how to get appropriate minor medical care? Where were her parents? Her teachers? Will she still be a low-wage worker ten years from now, or will she have moved up and out? Why is even minor medical care so expensive it is out of reach for many workers? Should restaurant owners pay higher wages or benefits? Would that squash one of the few remaining industries (and employers) left in our teetering economy?
Our waitress will get a W2 from her employer at the end of the year and will probably take it to H&R Block because, like most Americans, she is afraid and ill-equipped to tackle even the simplest short-form tax return on her own. And her tax preparer will tell her that because of the new Affordable Care Act she will have to pay a fine next year if she does not obtain a health insurance policy on her own. I doubt she has ever heard of the ACA — it isn’t listed on I-Tunes. She doesn’t really know what health insurance is, how it works, or how to get it. If she did learn and understand the ACA requirements, would she choose to pay the fine or to buy the insurance? Or would she just continue to use the emergency room?
Lost in the discussion of the ObamaCare mess is the fact that hospitals are still required to provide medical care to anyone who comes in the door, regardless of ability to pay. And a large percentage of the people within our borders have no more knowledge or sophistication than to go, when sick, to the building where the sick people are. The ACA personal “mandate” is a joke.
If there is one good thing about the ObamaCare fiasco, it might be that Americans will finally stop and think about the economics of health care in our country. We only got to this point of helplessness and chaos because for generations we have been dependent on employers and/or the government for our health care. The concept of shared risk for shared cost – insurance, by definition – is still very valid. Sadly, that can only work in a prosperous free market economy, which may now be little more than a distant memory in the age of big government. Every time a government bureaucracy replaces a segment of the free market, disaster results. A train wreck, even.
The bad thing about the Affordable Health Care Act is that it makes health care more Un-Affordable. It is clearly about control, politics, and big government, not cost.
The failure of our elected leaders to deal with the festering health-care issue a long time ago led us to the calamity we face now. They, and we, had better get serious, because, contrary to the campaign speeches, we know there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Oh, speaking of lunch, the gyros were great.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
All over the country, I’ve seen it the same
Nobody’s winnin’ at this kind of game
We gotta do better, it’s time to begin
You know all the answers must come from within