This Shouldn't Happen in America
Barring the possibility of self imposed myopia or blindness, determining that the health care system in the U.S. is not serving the needs of all of its citizens only requires waiting in doctors' offices or emergency rooms across this nation.
Once at the doctor's office, one will overhear people seeking treatment, with approximately half of those scheduled to be seen by physicians haggling over which forms need to be filled out, which plan will or will not cover whatever procedure, whatever consultation or whatever diagnostic test and what referral forms need to exchange hands between providers.
In most emergency rooms across the U.S., the average wait to be seen is 3 to 4 hours, no exceptions, well, maybe if your head or an extremity is hanging by a thread of tissue but, that is not a guarantee. Bear in mind, that is an average when in reality, a trip to the emergency room can last all day into the night, depending upon the time one arrives there.
The mother of my daughter's bandmate, the wife of a minister and first lady of the church, covered under her husband's plan, was treated for an endocrine condition.
Faced with the dilemma of not having enough money to fill the complete prescription she had been given by her doctor, she asked the pharmacist to split the prescription, buying some of the pills, with the intent to purchase the remainder of the order at an unknown time in the future.
I suffered from recurring gastric distress, which was first observed in my local emergency room. My primary doctor, when I went to her for follow up, indicated she believed I'd probably contracted a stomach virus. I was back and forth between the hospital emergency room and my doctor for an extended period of time.
Finally, after one final attack that sent me to the emergency room, I underwent emergency gall bladder removal. My gall bladder disease was discovered during diagnostic tests when whatever dye was used for mapping my gall bladder could not be seen as my inflamed gall bladder blocked the flow of the liquid. My gall bladder disease went undiagnosed for 3 years. Please make note, I am enrolled in what is considered a really good insurance plan.
My dear friend, a wonderful cultural performer and storyteller, received a call from the clinic she frequented. The clinic apologized and explained to her they had overlooked some abnormal results indicated in her PAP smear, urging her to come into the clinic as soon as possible.
An hour or two later, my girlfriend received another call from the clinic, informing her that her insurance would no longer cover her treatment at the clinic. She was still advised to seek some form of follow up to investigate the test results. Luckily, her condition turned out not to be life threatening.
My former husband had worked for a municipal gas company as a meter reader. He fell two and a half flights through a floor in an abandoned building where he had been sent by the gas company. He lay unconscious for hours in the basement of the building.
He suffered nerve damage to his neck and lower spine. He was prone for several months, unable to walk. He applied for workman's compensation. The insurance carrier providing coverage through his job would not accept his doctor's findings and tests. He fought the decision for several years, to no avail.
One of my oldest and dearest friend's mother, a retired school district secretary, was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a radical double mastectomy. The radical procedure removes part of the underarm area, damaging muscles and nerves. She was sent home after the surgery in 3 days, unable to use her arms properly.
My sister, a paralegal for an established New Jersey law firm, was diagnosed with and eventually succumbed to colon cancer. She was diagnosed at Stage 4. She was a 47 year old mother with one child of 19, my nephew.
Due to the aggressive nature of the her cancer, in addition to traditional, approved chemotherapy treatments, she and her husband decided to try a suggested trial chemo treatment.
A shunt had been placed in my sister's chest to accommodate the use of an I.V. tube to avoid the need to keep finding a vein and reinserting tubes for receiving her treatments.
The administration of the experimental/investigational drug was to occur, by slow intravenous drip. One possible adverse outcome of the use of this drug was explained to be the possibility of complications from a perforated bowel, if the tumors on the colon wall shrank too quickly from the treatment.
This procedure was supposed to occur, without any medical personnel monitoring her during the process in case my sister experienced some adverse response to the treatment, with the drip set to proceed over a 42 hour period, while my sister sat at home.
My friend, a self employed craftsman, was diagnosed with a previously unidentified congenital heart condition. Instead of the usual three valves found in the human heart, his heart only had two.
That this condition was not diagnosed until he was an adult in his forties is also a troublesome reality that needs scrutiny.
He was diagnosed and told he needed to have heart valve replacement surgery or he would die. However, because he had no insurance, he was informed he could not be admitted and would have to leave the hospital.
When he protested being dismissed from the hospital, invoking the Hill-Burton Free Care Program, which states facilities should provide uncompensated services for those in need, hospital security was called to escort him from the facility.
His friends and family, including myself, made calls to a variety of social organizations, seeking information and aid to direct us where to go, what to do to save my friend's life. This was all done without any assistance from the hospital that had diagnosed his illness.
Deborah Heart and Lung Center agreed to do my friend's surgery, which he was told, had he not received the procedure, he would have died. He was recently put on a list to receive a donor heart. Deborah does not perform heart transplants.
Because of insurance restrictions related to the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) , a federal program designed to aid the elderly, blind and disabled in America with limited income, his choice of hospitals, in proximity to his place of residence in south New Jersey, is limited.
There are two hospitals near his location. One hospital is a few minutes away by car, located in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The other hospital is more than an hour away in upstate New Jersey, near New York.
The hospital considered the best for the care he needs is said to be the hospital in Philadelphia. He has been advised by a counselor not to seek treatment in Philadelphia. The reason? The hospitals in Pennsylvania, unbeknownst to patients on a list for transplant, have rejected candidates from New Jersey due to fear of difficulty receiving payment.
For each of the individuals spoken of here, there would be an exponentially expanding effect of suffering and denial if each person in this narrative could tell of the people they know and knew and those they've met during their trials as they have sought treatment and/or medication in the United States.
The health care system in the United States is fraught with serious problems, sorely long overdue for reform.
Doing nothing is not an option.
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New York, New York, United States