For the last few weeks, the topic of American healthcare has monopolized the news cycle, social media feeds, and conversations around the dinner table. While it has been a hot-button issue across party lines for years, the current inception of the bill has ignited frustration and left many wondering how and when the idea of affordable healthcare may actually become a reality.
When I discuss this issue with my parents, the concern for them is affordability and availability, the same as it is for many others. A concern that spans across generations.
My grandfather served in the Navy. I remember as a teenager, my mother and grandmother would drive him to the VA hospital about an hour and a half from where we lived. He would come back with stories about Dr. Sandal, the man named after shoes who ironically wore such hideous ones it kept my grandfather preoccupied and full of laughs at each visit.
My grandfather, if he were still with us today, would now be classified as a pre-existing condition.
I am a pre-existing condition. My husband is a pre-existing condition. Our 5-year old son is a pre-existing condition. Likely at some point in her life, our daughter will become a pre-existing condition as well.
I carried the health insurance for our entire family through my benefits package at work. When I resigned, I forfeited that coverage.
Earlier this week, I picked up the mail to find my COBRA notice from the states. There is no reciprocity for insurance coverage between America and Australia, so we had no need to continue. Out of curiosity, I read through the statement anyway. If we had elected to continue, it would have cost our family $2500 dollars a month.
I had been conditioned for years, even with great coverage, to know that a trip to the doctor’s office, ER, or a specialist would come with a hefty bill, which didn’t include medication should it be necessary.
So naturally, when our son came down with a fever a few days ago, my instinct was to try to ward off any illness with home remedies. The headache and fever turned into an earache overnight and by the next afternoon, he was screaming in pain. I knew there was nothing we could do on our own and that it needed the attention of a professional before it got any worse.
I worried about how much it would cost and if we would even be able to see a doctor. I worried if our son would get the care he needed and set the expectation in my mind that a substantial bill would be handed to me when it was all said and done.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I explained upon arrival to the doctor’s office that we had just moved here and while our paperwork was processing we didn’t have coverage but once everything was sorted out, we would. I am certain I stumbled over my words going on and on about my husband being Australian.
I don’t really know what I was expecting. The thought of being told we couldn’t see the doctor kept running through my head.
We saw the doctor. It was a good thing we did as the ear infection was severe and needed antibiotics. He wrote us the prescription, gave our son a high five, and sent us on our way.
As I approached the desk, I prepared myself mentally for what was to come.
I handed over the note, took a deep breath, and waited.
I asked for clarification three times.
$75 dollars covered the whole thing. Not only that, the receptionist explained that once our paperwork was processed we could submit that amount for reimbursement as well.
At that point, I literally picked my jaw up off the floor. I am certain she nearly called the doctor back to the front area, thinking I had gone into shock.
We needed to get the prescription filled, so we made our way to the nearest pharmacy. More expectation management on my part, as I thought this must be where they inflate the price and prepared myself to spend hundreds of dollars.
$88. That was the total to see a doctor, get treated, and fill a prescription.
I had a moment in the car after we left the store where I sat for a minute, shocked. I tried to remember a time when I have paid less than $100 to see a doctor. I kept thinking.
The answer was never.
After we got home and the kids were sleeping, I thought about the whole ordeal and couldn’t help but scratch my head, perplexed about where that $2500 a month was going. I thought about the millions of people who can’t afford healthcare and the battle that continues back home, as politicians line the pockets of the puppeteers pulling their strings.
The one thing I learned: Universal Healthcare is possible.
Perhaps if those in Washington followed suit from countries that have gone before them in this quest successfully, as opposed to adhering to the interests of insurance companies, there would be real change, real progress, and the pre-existing condition of having their collective head lodged up their backside might cure itself.