She approached the counter nervously and asked to speak to a pharmacist. Her hands were shaking and voice quivering as she explained that her hours had been cut at her job, and she was dropped from the company's insurance plan. However, since she still maintained part time status, she made just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid. She had various panic and mood disorders, and without insurance, she would have to pay about $1,000 per month for her medication.
She started to cry as she pleaded for us to help her in any way we can. There was just no way she could afford $1,000 per month for medication. However, going without them meant putting her mental stability and ultimately her life in jeopardy.
Not knowing what else to do, my pharmacy manager (a great guy) called social services on her behalf. Nine times out of ten, this causes you to wait on hold for 30 minutes until you finally speak to someone who tells you there's nothing they can do. This time, he got lucky. He still waited for 30 minutes, but when someone finally picked up, they were actually able to help him. He was able to get her set up with an appointment with a Medicaid "triage specialist" first thing the next morning.
We explained what she needed to bring to the appointment and gave her 3 days worth of her medication at no charge. Our efforts to help calmed her down as she was no longer crying. She was still shaking a bit, but she was very grateful. As she walked away, all I could think about is that she'll most likely be denied coverage...
This highlights a major flaw in this country. Health care, in our current system, is a privilege instead of a right. If you are lucky enough to get insurance through your job, or if you make enough money that you can afford the $12,000 per year for the average insurance policy, you get access to health care. Everyone else is fucked.
What kind of society do we live in when we have to choose between being able to pay a mortgage or pay for health care? How can we live with ourselves when we have to look at patients struggling to get by and tell them, "Sorry, you can't have the medication that keeps you healthy unless you can afford to pay for it." Or, "I'm sorry it's too expensive for you to see a doctor."
Just about every other industrialized nation in the world has some form of national health care. We stubbornly resist. Just like we stubbornly resist to join into agreements to cut carbon emissions. Just like we stubbornly resist to adopt the metric system. Just like we stubbornly resist accepting the scientific consensus that climate change and evolution are real. As much as we love to make fun of France in this country, France's system of national health care far exceeds our own. France is ranked #1 in the world in health care by the World Health Organization. The United States is ranked 37. Perhaps it just might be a good idea for us to stop insulting France just long enough to look at what they're doing with health care and try to incorporate that into our own system.
The only 2 arguments I hear against it are wait times and that it will increase our taxes. As for wait times, do you think that person who currently has no coverage at all right now cares about the wait times? Canada, with all its supposed wait times is also ranked higher than the United States in overall health care. The cost of Canada's health care plan is also less per citizen than the average cost of $12,000 per year for the average health care policy in the U.S. In fact, the United States pays the second most in the world for health care as a percentage of GDP. We're ranked first in per capita health care spending. For spending all that money, you'd think we'd be better than 37th in the world.
And don't give me the socialism argument. Socialistic institutions seem to be just fine when it comes to the police, fire departments, education, public works, etc. In the name of the free market, why don't we privatize all of those? Yeah, stupid idea, right? About as stupid an idea as privatizing health care insurance.
There's no good reason for people to be denied health care simply because they can't afford to pay for it. I dream of a day when the United States stops dragging its feet and finally adopts a superior model that is more in line with the rest of the industrialized world. Maybe then we can actually have something to back up our persistent claims of being the greatest country in the world.