BY SHARON MARTIN
My maternal grandmother was crippled. Her knees would swell, and the doctor would draw out the fluid with needles. She didn’t complain as she worked around the house, a crutch under one arm.
Fortunately for my mother and sister and me there were medical advances, thanks in part to the bioengineers at OSU, one of our stellar state schools.
At a pre-surgery class, they told me about TED hose, hosiery that helps prevent blood clots. They are practical and inventive, like a lot in American medicine. And they are expensive.
“You will receive your first pair in the operating room,” we were told. And since we would want to change our bandage and hose each day, the nurse suggested we acquire a second pair.
“You can get them at Walmart for about $40 or you can get another pair from us.” The hospital price was $300. They must have special spiders weaving them in the basement.
Look at any hospital bill and you will see the outrageous sums charged for things like “self-administered medicines.”
Why? Hospitals have to charge insured and paying customers enough to cover those they treat who cannot pay.
And corporate hospitals must show a profit, so this makes for some interesting practices. For example, each doctor at the hospital gets to send a separate bill. And they run insurance before the visit in hopes that prospective patients will pre-pay prospective balances.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
What if every single American citizen had insurance? What would it save us if insurance was spread across a population of young and old, healthy and ailing? What if the insurance program was nonprofit, with reasonable salaries for administrators minus the million-dollar bonuses?
What if medical decisions were made by medical professionals based on each patient’s needs? What if rural and city hospitals each had what they needed? What if they didn’t have to worry about shareholders or golden parachutes for fleeing CEOs?
And, here’s a big one: What if emergency rooms were for emergencies and not a way for Medicaid patients to get care without a co-pay?
No patient in need should ever be turned away from a hospital. No family should ever go bankrupt seeking medical treatment. And no one should get a free ride hanging on the coattails of the insured.
Do the American people have the will and compassion to fix the medical mess we are in? It starts with voting for representatives who don’t blindly reject the feeble first steps we’ve made.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer