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Should I have had to mortgage the house?

Current Events, Friends-Romans-Countrymen, Math and Science, Politics and Activism

Right now, in the USA, there is a big debate going on about whether or not it is time to bring some level of socialized medicine to that country. On one side of the debate are the more liberally inclined folk who believe that people shouldn’t die in the street or lose their life savings because of an illness. On the other side are people who believe that you should be planning ahead and paying for any illnesses out of pocket.

Now I’m in Canada, and we have social medicine, so let me give you a little run-down of recent events. I’m going to tip a bit deeper into my personal life than usual, but I think it’s necessary to drive this point home.

In the spring, I came out of a 6-figure salary job and have been, since then, self- (read un-) employed. I have no health insurance except that which is provided by the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. So, when I was struck, on the 5th, with one of the more painful afflictions that can occur: pancreatitis, I had my wife take me (at no cost) to the doctor’s office. Pancreatitis feels like having a large, rusty sword stuck through you from right to left, then twisted at an irregular basis… FOR DAYS… while someone punches you repeately in the kidneys. The doctor sent me to emergency, where I was treated with morphine and admitted to hospital care for a week. At the hospital I was fed 8 litres of IV fluids a day for 4 days and 2 litres of IV fluids for another 2 days, plus IV antibiotics twice a day for the whole time. I received 2 CT scans, 2 chest X-rays, an ECG, and an ultrasound. I received Dilaudid on demand for the duration. I was in rough shape for the first 2/3 of that time, for sure.

And except for the $180 per day for a semi-private room for the first 3 days, and $40ish for the outgoing prescription at the end, the cost to me was precisely $0.

Now, had I been in the USA for this little event, where would I be now? Without a health plan, I’d be paying out of pocket from the doctor’s office, to the emergency room, to the hospital bed, and out. I’d be saddled with a bill for THOUSANDS of dollars, when I can afford it least. I would have been put in the situation of choosing between medical care and financial health.

So the question, to people who are dead-set against social medicine is straightforward: Do you believe that I deserve to have to mortgage my house to pay for this acute pancreas attack, and if so, why? What if I couldn’t pay for it even then? Would I deserve to die (yes, you can die from pancreatitis) simply due to lack of financial means? When you have your heart attack after the next stock market dump, so you have no money but for the land you live on, would you rather someone brought you an ambulance or that they simply said “fuck him, he can’t pay” ? Should you lose your life savings because your grandmother gets Alzheimers and needs round-the-clock institutional care? It’s not a matter of private insurance because not everyone has nor can get private insurance.

And that’s the rub – nobody thinks it can happen to them. I’m not even talking about some long, debilitating disease like cancer here… I’m talking an acute attack of whatever. Hello middle-class! One bacon breakfast can put a big dent in your life savings.

How any society can call itself civilized when people regularly get put in the position of having to choose between medical care and living indoors is completely beyond me. Nobody needs to be nor should be put in that position in the western world (or anywhere else for that matter, but one thing at a time). Nobody. I just can’t imagine any person living in what we’d call the western world thinking it is appropriate on any level to deny medical care on the basis of financial means, or to bankrupt someone because they got an unexpected illness. I’m not talking breast implants for wannabe-tarts and old ladies who have succumbed to the omnipresent tug of gravity either; people who what that kind of elective crap can and should have to pay for it. I’m talking about general, necessary medical care that we all need at one time or another in our lives.

So to my American readers, I implore you to think long and hard before rejecting the concept of social medicine, because the next person who needs it might just be you.

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