Reform or Deform? Part One

Ibuprofen, two babies, a pot of tea and a rat taught me to be wary of trusting the government with something as huge as my family’s health care.

People have asked why I’m concerned, so this is the first of three columns written to answer that question. You may read Part Two here and Part Three here. These are stories of my experiences; simple food for thought. I won’t delve deeply into the current health care reform bills or the politics behind them. Those details are found easily enough online.

Some are concerned about this from a fiscal standpoint. Others are troubled by the prospect of an even bigger government. My apprehension is rooted primarily in practicality, as is often the case with mothers. Based upon my own experiences with various forms of health care, I am anxious about how these proposed changes could impact my family’s well-being. Truly, we need to fix what is broken—–but I cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation as it is now written.

Over time, I have hit just about every point along the health care spectrum. I have lived through tough years without insurance, utilized pregnancy-related Medicaid, been covered by my husband’s active-duty military service, and have paid out the nose for coverage through big health insurance companies.

Because of that, I have compassion for the uninsured, sympathy for those who depend upon government-funded services, and understand both the blessings and curses found in military health care and HMOs.

Several disturbing experiences occurred while my husband was an active-duty sailor and our only medical choices were to take it or leave it. Because of what we saw, I have no desire to see my country choose that kind of system.

I remember coming down with a nasty case of pneumonia one winter. Although Tricare—–the military’s version of an HMO—–existed, we were not allowed to use it. When a military dependant came down with something, she had to go to the base hospital’s clinic.

Herding cattle always came to mind during those lengthy clinic visits. It didn’t matter why you were there—–it always became an all-day event.

That morning, I was weak with a 104-degree fever, and the clinic was packed. Every metal folding chair in the sterile waiting room was taken and the only place to sit was on the floor in the hallway. So I, and several dozen others, sat shivering for hours on the linoleum, against an icy cinderblock wall. My only comfort was the pillow I made of my husband’s shoulder, and later, his lap when I could no longer sit up.

When my name was finally called, I was mortified to discover that the waiting room was set up like a classroom. Rows upon rows of people faced the front of the room, where the nurse and the scales were positioned. My face glowed red with embarrassment as I got weighed and had my medical history taken in front of an audience.

After a brief visit with a doctor—–conducted atop a gurney behind a thin curtain—–I was diagnosed and sent to the in-house pharmacy. At least we sat on chairs as we waited several more hours for my antibiotic and the military’s miracle cure-all: a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen.

Since I eventually became well again, I suppose one could call the health care adequate, even though it was drastically below the standards most Americans are accustomed to. I’m well aware that other recipients of free military medical care haven’t been as lucky.

After a night on the town, one of my husband’s shipmates tumbled over the ship’s railing and fell two stories onto the metal deck below. The medics gave him 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and sent him to sleep it off. He never woke up, dying that night from a massive cerebral hemorrhage that they just—–missed?

Certainly, medical negligence can happen regardless of who is paying the bill. But free health care can often be the costliest of all, as we learned while stationed in Scotland and were forced to utilize its National Health Service.

Come back next week to hear about the babies and the tea—and why America’s supposed gap between care for the rich and the poor is nothing compared to what it could be.



3 replies on “Reform or Deform? Part One”

  1. Wow, that’s some story. I know that the Canadian system has been used (inaccurately) by some folks in this debate, but I have to say that I have NEVER experienced anything like your story above. That’s just awful. Here, I cheose my own doctor, can change at will, can see specialists, and go to any hospital ER I choose, and not give anyone a penny!

    There are so many models of universal health care out there. It’s a pity that people are only being told about the bad ones, and not the ones that provide exceptional care.

    Beverlee in Canada

  2. So the government already runs a health-care system, for the military. The people that are risking their lives to ensure our freedoms. And an all-day wait and ibuprofen is the best they can offer? This is EXACTLY why I fear a government-run health system based on any model. It is not the logistics of the system that raise the hairs on the back of my neck–it is the track record of virtually every ‘system’ that the government has run. I can’t resist bringing up what the lady said to her congressman at a town hall meeting recently, “Social Security is broke, Medicare is broke, Medicaid is broke, and somehow you expect us to believe that you can make room in these programs to cover the health-care of the country?” {paraphrased}

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