Location: The United States Of America
Central conflict: “Is access to affordable health care a right or a privilege?”
Honestly, y’all. Honestly. You know those memes about white girls who can’t even? That’s me these days. I am a white girl — nay! A white woman. And I can’t even.
See, I was raised to believe that when others need help and you can help them, then you do. It’s not a question of work ethic or entitlement or principle or trust. It’s the simple matter of being a human.
Those homeless men and women who you avoid eye contact with on the street? Those are people. And those families who are making ends meet because they have access to food stamps? Those are people. Those college grads who can’t find a job in their field, let alone a job with benefits, because the economy was run into the ground by people much older and wiser than we are? Those college grads who have the bleak misfortune of falling ill in some way and would strongly prefer not to die yet, so they sink themselves into medical debt that they have little to no way of paying off? Yep, those are people, too. Or should I say, we are people, too.
By most accounts, I’m a healthy individual. As a teacher, I did catch a nasty case of pneumonia, but that was resolved with a trip or two to the Minute Clinic at CVS. Granted, it took me several months to get better… because I was trying desperately not to spend the entirety of my paycheck on getting well, just so that I could continue going to my job. It’s a vicious cycle, this one. We are overworked and under cared for in this country. The hustle and bustle is in our blood and we are utter failures at evaluating our own needs. There is no work/life balance. Life is work, work is life. Make all the money and hoard it up! There’s no time for rest, you can rest when you’re dead! For now, slap a band aid on whatever hurts and chew some raw coffee beans because millennials are a dime a dozen and no one has the time for a drip coffee maker anymore, anyways!
Returning to my story:
On Tuesday evening, I was walking to the dumpster that’s located on the grounds of my apartment complex, taking the trash out. It was about 10:30 pm.
As I rounded the corner, I realized there was a cat in front of the dumpster.
“Hi, kitty. Just tossing this out, don’t mind me.”
The cat did not seem to mind me. It came and rubbed its body against my leg as I threw the bag in the garbage. I looked to see if it had a collar. It didn’t. It was scrawny and gray and purred pathetically.
“Okay, kitty. Maybe I have some tuna or something. I’ll go check.” I didn’t have any tuna. I’m a vegetarian. I was lying to the cat. I don’t know why.
As I started to walk away, I felt a sudden, sharp pain. I yelped and looked down. The cat had bitten my leg, right on the shin. And now it was just sitting there, gazing up at me.
“Crazy cat,” I muttered. “I was being nice to you.”
Still, I didn’t take the cat’s actions to heart. I gave it some food. I went to bed.
End scene. Until the next morning when everyone started shouting the word “rabies” at me.
“But it seemed normal. It didn’t seem rabid, it wasn’t foaming at the mouth! It was just a cat. Cats are weird! They do weird things. But I guess I can’t be sure. Maybe I didn’t see it that well. No, it hasn’t been around since then. Better safe than sorry.”
Fast forward. The Emergency Room, 9 pm. A nurse enters.
“The first injection, the immunoglobulin, is $15,000. Then there are four subsequent shots. You have to complete the entire series. No, there is no alternative, unless you have the cat and you can observe it for signs of rabies. This is your only option. Rabies will kill you. And it will be painful. But your insurance won’t cover this. Do you want to proceed?”
So, there you have it, folks. Life comes at you fast, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
If you’re not American, then this will probably blow your mind. If you can seek the treatment that you need, when you need it, without weighing the worth of your life against the cost of a nearly unpayable bill, then count your many blessings.
If you are American, then you know that this is the system and the system is broken. Allowing private organizations to profit so outrageously on the sick and the dying is a travesty. Sticking ever increasing price tags on life saving materials is appalling. Not convinced yet? Check out the cost of an EpiPen, which is an absolute necessity for those with anaphylaxis, as any doctor will tell you. But any insurance plan will call it non-essential. Again, this forces you to weigh the what-if hypotheticals of your life against the very real $600 cost that you might not even be able to afford.
But why are these things so expensive? According to this idiot, who effectively increased the price of cancer medication to the point that it helps nearly no one, the answer is simple: Because they can be. Capitalism, bitches.
Can this be fixed? I don’t know. What I know is that I’m 26 years old, I pay $500/month for a catastrophic health insurance plan that I rarely have cause to use, and when I do need to use it, it doesn’t cover anything.
This isn’t working, America. Let’s find a way to do better.
P.S. There are now EpiPen alternatives on the market. Praise.
Lead image found here.