Money is a funny thing. Before there were paper bills (money), people traded cows for horses and corn for milk. We’re a lot more sophisticated now, now we exchange paper for food, diamonds, a vacation, a car… Name the price and we’ll just add more bills. A piece of paper with a monetary value. We work more hours, go to school, and work additional jobs so we can earn more paper.
Insurance is another funny thing. We invest on life insurance while we’re alive, for someone else to cash it when we’re dead. But it’s okay because we are buying a better future for our loved ones, and we get peace of mind knowing those we currently care for will be taken care of when we’re gone.
Speaking of funny, health insurance is another funny thing. We can complain all we want when we’re healthy and paying high premiums, but when we’re sick, get hurt, or naturally age, we literally can’t afford to be without it.
Taxes; super funny that should come up. We all complain about paying taxes. The rich, the poor, everyone complains, and some with more reason than others because there’s a lot of inequity in how much people pay. The difference with taxes is we don’t always see where our money is going, and it doesn’t feel like an even exchange. We don’t think about taxes when we cross a bridge, wave to our kids as they get on to a school bus, wait for plows to clear the snow off the roads, or pick up a textbook and wonder how we got it without having to go and pick it up at a store, and our taxes pay for schools and libraries, that not all will attend. The enigma of where our money is spent is why we complain.
My daughter is traveling through Europe this summer. She’s been to the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, and now is back in Scotland before she hops over to Ireland and then Switzerland after that. Aside from the fact that I have daughter-envy from all the fun she’s having, I also worry about her being away from home. I worry about her getting sick or hurt too, as well as how much I would have to pay. In the States I have health insurance to help me pay for whatever comes up, but what about when she’s overseas?
My insurance agent told me in Europe there’s an upfront cost at most hospitals. If my daughter needed care, she’d be responsible for 30% after that initial upfront cost.
Here in the U.S., I shudder at the cost of medical care. From the moment we’re asked to put our finger in one of those little gadgets to check our pulse, the dollars start adding up ($130 to take my pulse – yes, that really happened). This is why we have insurance and why we pay high premiums. Because if taking your pulse costs $130, how much will you pay for the cast, ice pack, aspirin, or thermometer? Not everyone can afford to pay for health insurance, but in our country, nobody can afford to be without.
So, getting back to my daughter and her travels, despite my telling her she was not allowed to get hurt or sick while she was away, she went and twisted her ankle in a biking accident. I know, kids don’t listen.
Her foot immediately swelled up to three times its normal size and she had no other choice than to go to a hospital in Copenhagen to have it checked out. Before she went, I told her to keep all papers, invoices, etc., to later file a claim. 3,000 miles away, I was worried about my daughter, but I was also worried about how much we’d have to pay.
“A traveler who breaks a bone could face bills of around £7,000 in Morocco, compared to £15,000 in Singapore and £25,000 in the US – just shy of the Office for National Statistics figure for the average yearly wage in Britain.” This is money…
The great news in the end is that she didn’t break any bones, the shocking news is that she didn’t have to pay a dime (or in this case a Euro) to find out. She said the care was wonderful, the place was clean, and the equipment was state of the art. They took x-rays, wrapped her ankle, gave her crutches, and sent her on her way.
When she called to tell me, I was beyond relieved. Her ankle wasn’t broken. But I also felt another kind of relief. The kind that comes when you realize you’ve been holding your breath and you didn’t even know it. As much as I hate to admit it, the worry of cost was almost as great as the worry for her health. It really shouldn’t be that way, but it is. The outrageous cost of medicine in the U.S. takes a toll on our mental wellbeing as well. Not having to worry about how we’ll pay our bills is actually good medicine in itself.
I don’t think it’s right that most Americans can’t afford something as important as healthcare. Everyone, rich or impoverished, should have access to the kind of medical care he or she deserves. The care my daughter received was not free; someone paid for it. Maybe tourism paid for it. I really don’t understand how those things work. But what I do understand is something has to happen in our country, someone has to take responsibility, and someone should step up and finally see health care for what it is: not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.