This is the bill for my hospital stay after I fractured my skull two years ago. Had I not had been young enough to be covered by my parent’s health insurance, I’d have been responsible for nearly $40k – and that’s ignoring other bills, like the $2k charge for the fifteen minute ambulance ride to the hospital.
In the two weeks since I wrote about the aftermath of that injury, one of my doctors caught a new problem: a fucking heart problem, of all things.
He added one more prescription to the eight on file for me at CVS. The pills stack up on the bureau in my room. They stack up because I don’t take them as consistently as I’m supposed to. Because some of them have weird side effects. Because a dozen pills a day is a lot to remember.
Most of the prescriptions have a minor price tag, a few dollars mysteriously not covered by my health insurance. $5, $10, $15. Nothing outlandish, but it adds up.
It’s lucky this doctor caught the heart problem. A tell tale sign showed up when his assistant took my vitals. I’d never have brought it up otherwise – the occasional racing heart, shortness of breath, full body weakness. It’s the least of my problems.
Before I left, I had my co-pay – $40 this time – for seeing this doctor, one of the best neurologists in one of the best medical systems in the country. $40 might seem like nothing in comparison to all that…and yet, I have health insurance. In the context of monthly visits to specialists, co-pays compete with groceries. And that’s with health insurance.
Without it? Who knows what these dozen daily pills cost. And were I still making as little as I used to, I doubt I’d have made that $40 appointment. On minimum wage, no one would have caught my heart problem.
We need to demand a system of health care that won’t force me and millions of others facing the same grinding combination of poverty and a failing body to cold quit prescriptions and avoid doctors as soon as we find ourselves without decent health insurance and maybe even when we have it. To those who mealy-mouth responses about realism and earning what should be a right, people like Hillary Clinton among others, I’d like to force them to watch millions of lives fall apart in the absence of free access to doctors.
And if we don’t make health care a right? Well, maybe I should hold onto those extra pills accumulating in my room – consider it a stockpile for a darker future.