It’s not the story that grabbed me. The Star Tribune’s reporting has gone down the tubes along with their disappearing staff, but they did the semi-annual “boy, young people don’t have insurance a lot of the time and that sucks!’ piece. It’s here if you want to read it.
The thing that always does it is the damned comments. I don’t even know why I read them.
The sense of entitlement, which the commenters tend to reproach the young folks for, is actually squarely placed on their own shoulders. Saying “I didn’t have it, so I don’t know what you’re whining about,” or, worse, “they need to learn to budget for medical costs” makes my head spin. First off, just because the older of us had things a little harder (I think, for the record, that we sometimes invent how hard things were, but I digress) doesn’t mean that we should wish difficulty on those who follow us.
But secondly, and more importantly, when we talk about lacking insurance and the problems that causes, we’re talking about not having something that is the difference between financial solvency and disaster. You can’t budget for a crisis. You can’t budget for cancer treatments or a heart attack or a car accident.
But let’s get even more simplistic. The whole idea that has been pushed forward of late–of these Healthcare Savings Accounts (where you don’t have insurance, but “save” money that you use and bank up if you don’t use it) is an entirely wrong-headed way to look at public health.
If you look at healthcare as an individual choice of budgeting and responsibility, you’re missing the point. If Person A and Person B each have strep throat and Person A has healthcare and Person B does not, what exactly do you expect to happen?
Person A is going to go to the doctor, get incredibly low cost medication, and get over it.
Person B may go to the doctor, but they may not. If they don’t, Person B can infect Persons C, D, E, F, and G before they decide it’s time to spend the $100 or so on a doctor’s visit. Not even taking into consideration the possibility that there might be complications or secondary problems from the initial infection, Person B just cost our healthcare system money by infecting 5 people who otherwise wouldn’t have been infected.
When I first moved back to NYC as one of those young college grads with no NY health insurance and no full-time job with benefits, I got an ear infection. Because it didn’t hurt too much–just itched and popped, I mean, I knew I had an ear infection–I decided it would probably just go away. This went on for a few weeks. Then one day at work, I moved my jaw and had the most horrible pain in my ear. It was so bad I started to cry.
I finally decided that it was financially time–I’d been putting it off because I had no money and no full-time work–and went into the doctor’s office. I had to take the afternoon off work because the pain was so bad and thankfully got into see the doctor that afternoon.
He looked in my ear and found a severe and grotesque infection in my ear. Ever since then, whenever my allergies act up or I get a cold, there’s about a 30% chance I’m going to get an ear infection. Which means a trip to my doctor. Which means antibiotics. Because the insurance that I had was one with a high deductible, you had to weigh whether or not going to the doctor was worth the $100+ dollars you would inevitably spend.
Having good insurance now, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’d just go in. And you know what? Had I had the insurance I have now back then, I would have gone in and saved myself and my insurance companies the money from repeated trips to the doctor for this stupid, stupid ear that gets infected at the drop of a hat.
Prevention/immediate care is the most important part of healthcare. We still just don’t get it. And we’re wasting money on strep throats that end up in the ER and infections that start out simple, but wind up complicated. Wake up. It’s in our financial and moral best interests to find a way to cover everyone.