On Health Care

Daily Post prompt: Is access to medical care something that governments should provide, or is it better left to the private sector? Are there drawbacks to your choice?

I live in America, a first-world country with a third-world health care system. I’ll give you some examples.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I was hit on the head rather badly. I did not have health insurance at the time so the several hours that it took to have an orderly–not a doctor, not a nurse or even a medical assistant–sew up my head cost $3600 and there was no follow care. That was a long time ago. Nowadays, it would probably cost double that or more. I had to pay that back. It took me a good long while considering that the accident left me unable to work.

Male has a lesion on his brain that he got falling out of a tree as a kid. When he became an adult, this lesion started causing seizures. One day, he was driving down the road and had a seizure. He lost control of the car and crashed into a restaurant. Fortunately, no one was injured at all, not even him. The police came and found him flopping around like a fish inside his car. They called an ambulance and took him to the hospital. All told, the incident cost almost $40,000 in medical bills. Just the ambulance ride alone was several thousand dollars.

I have major depressive disorder. I’ve only been diagnosed with it for roughly five years even though I’ve always had it. A couple of years ago, my depression got so bad that I had no choice but to seek psychiatric help. The process of getting antidepressants through the state took seven months and it was not free. It cost about a thousand dollars for medication even though I was unemployed at the time and had no income other than state unemployment checks. Even on unemployment, I made too much money to qualify for anything. I cannot afford therapy. I see a state psychiatrist once every three months for all of fifteen minutes.

I used to have private health insurance. I paid for it myself. It started out at $99 a month just for me, just for a basic policy with a huge deductible. Still, I thought it was worth it in case anything major happened. Three months later, it went up to $109. Still reasonable, but really, only three months later? Every few months, it went up again until, not even two years later, I was paying nearly $400 a month for insurance I could not even afford to use. I had to cancel it. Now, I add medical costs to my car insurance just in case I’m in a bad car accident. Other than a car accident, I am not covered for anything. I make too much for free or low-cost health care, but not enough to pay for it on my own.

I haven’t seen a doctor in over a decade. My teeth are rotting from the inside out and I can’t afford a dentist. I pay for an eye exam out-of-pocket every few years just so that I can get contacts and glasses to see. I have no idea if there’s anything medically wrong with me and I won’t know until it becomes a problem. There is no such thing as preventative care in my world.

These are examples of a broken system. I have been working for a living since I was fifteen years old. I’ve paid a lot of money into the federal, state and local tax systems. You’d like to think that if something drastic does happen, you’re covered. That is not the case. America spends billions of dollars a year giving aid to other countries. While I do not begrudge that money at all, I wish we also took care of our own. The fact that homeless people have better health care than I do because I have a job and pay for a roof over my head just strikes me as wrong.

That said, I don’t trust the government to provide health care. If my dealings with the California Department of Mental Health are any indication of the speed and ease of government services, we’re in trouble. On the other hand, I don’t trust the private sector either. The private sector is motivated by profit as exhibited by my insurance example above. They do not have an incentive to reduce the cost of health care as it decreases their own bottom line.

So, my answer to whether health care services should be provided by the government or by the private sector is neither and both. Private insurance companies should not have insane profits at the expense of the poor, but do I want the government to provide all of our health care services either. Health care costs should be regulated like the stock market. There should be government oversight of the health care industry to make sure that there isn’t a 300% increase in private health insurance cost in less than two years and that we’re not charged $500 for a bandage. Americans should not be declaring bankruptcy over medical bills, but they are forced to all the time. I would gladly pay for my own private health insurance again if it was affordable. Make health care accessible and reasonably priced.