Adventures in health care and other random crap
What I got for my trouble was a severely wrenched ankle - that I was already nursing, a set of X-rays that showed my ankle bits a bit out of order, and the inability to walk. I could not take a step without excruciating pain. Luckily, I remembered that when Mrs. B and I bought our house two years ago we found an old hand-carved cane in the shed. She wanted to toss it. I thought it was cool, in spite of the paint chipping off. So I kept it. Don't you know I was beyond thrilled to find that cane on Monday. So, funny as it looked I found myself a couple hours later hobbling at a snail's pace with this cane into an urgent care clinic a few miles from my house. I figured it would be as fast, maybe faster than a traditional emergency room. Mrs. B walked next to me, though I'm not sure what she would have done if I'd fallen, since I'm nearly twice her weight, I think.
Anyway, after checking in, handing over my insurance card, and a $20 co-pay, I found a seat just a couple of feet from the check-in window, and over the next eight-plus hours I waited for my turn to see a doctor. Clearly, I was wrong in my assumptions about the speed of these places and the definition of "urgent." So while I sat, I people-watched. And I observed and overheard about 40 people check-in during that period. About two dozen of them did not have have insurance. I know this, because the nurse's aide doing the check-in asked each person, like she'd asked me. Then she'd tell those who said no that there was a $70 clinic fee for the uninsured. Interestingly, there were two categories of non-insured. I heard a few answer that they were flat-out poor and could not afford the $70 fee. Most of this category counter-offered with $10 or $20 or whatever they had on them. The nurse's aide gratefully accepted. The other category of uninsured folks chose their words carefully when presented with the $70 fee. BTW, the folks in the second category were pretty much all very well dressed, verrrrry well dressed. As much as I make fun of the looks-obsessed among us, I can tell you that my working knowledge of fashion is good enough to know that these folks were all dressed in things I couldn't afford on average. So when told of the fee the folks in this second category answered cautiously to the effect of "The sign at the door says you have to treat me even if I 'don't' pay, right?" The nurse's aide nodded wearily each time. Category two would then respond to the effect of "Well, um, then no I'm not going to pay anything."
It wasn't necessarily that they couldn't pay. They said they weren't going to.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany about why health insurance costs so much. I'm not mad at the genuinely poor folks who just couldn't pay and had a legitimate urgent medical need. But those folks who by their own indirect admission could pay but wouldn’t are screwing the rest of us who at least try to pay for medical care.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe hospital corporations are almost cruel in what/how they charge for certain types of care and accessories. Hundreds of dollars for minor injections, $1,000-plus per night if you have to be admitted, $30 or $40 for use of an assless hospital gown that you don’t get to keep, and so on and so forth. But what medical facilities charge isn’t all the fault of corporate greed. Hospitals pass some of the costs on to the federal government, which in turn finds a way to stick health insurance companies for some of those costs. And the health insurance companies then raise the rates of the people already paying for their medical care, in order to compensate for folks like those at the urgent care clinic who refused to pay for even a portion of their care.
Oh, and even though it’s gonna make me seem calloused, if I paid for my visit, and you could have but didn’t, and we both arrive at about the same time and have ailments that are similar in seriousness, I’m seeing the doctor first. And I’ll trip you and drop a chair on your head if I have to, to make sure you don’t see him before me. It’s the principle, dammit!
So I finally made it out of the “urgent” care clinic at about 6 p.m. Monday, hopping on a pair of shiny new crutches. Mrs. B was kind enough to carry my cane for me.
Have you ever seen a news report about a person “accidentally” walking through airport security and forgetting that he had a loaded pistol or a Bowie knife in his carry-on? I have, and about 50% of the time I’m skeptical. I think “that dude is a nut job who was planning on taking hostages.” Well, my handy-dandy cane? The one I was so grateful to find on Monday, considering it had been a cast off by my house’s previous owner? It’s a weapon. Seriously, I don’t mean it can be used as a weapon. It is a weapon. As I was lounging and waiting Monday, feeling sorry for myself over my ankle, I started fiddling with the cane. It loosened up near the top, right below the handle. So I gave it a tug, and it came apart. Turns out it’s one of those secret-sword canes. The sword part is rusty. So who knows how old the thing is or if it was ever “used.” But can you imagine how I would have stammered and blustered if there had been a metal detector at the clinic? Not sure I could have explained myself to security. I guess those “I didn’t know it was in my bag, officer” excuses are legit sometimes.
Here's my rusty sword cane. I took a break working from home today to try to figure out how to restore the thing. It'll make for a great conversation starter some day.
Finally, where health is concerned, I’m glad to hear that Nick Bollea, teenage son of legendary wrestler Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, is OK following his jaw-dropping car wreck from a few days ago. I say a prayer for his friend and passenger though, who remains in the hospital in critical condition.
Not sure how to say this delicately, so I won’t: This kid should not be driving. In fact, if he wants to make a career out of something involving forward motion, he should be a mail man. They do lots of walking, and on a good day they walk fast. In the 10 months or so the Bollea family lived in Miami Beach, young Nick decided he wanted to pursue a career as a race car driver. He crashed a car at a race track during a practice/time trial. He was behind the wheel of the family Lamborghini, when it inexplicably burst into flames and burnt to a crisp. And he was pulled over and ticketed at least once for speeding.
OK, I'm done. I'm gonna pop another Motrin and go to sleep. One more thing: Up late, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in, and watching bad movies I stumbled onto 1990's Dark Man. And I finally figured out what about that film has been bugging me all these years. The bottom half of Liam Neeson's title character's face gets burned off. He has no lips. And yet he still manages to perfectly pronounce "Ms," "Ps," and "Bs." How is that possible?
I know. I'm going to sleep right now.