I had one hell of a ride yesterday. I fell ill very suddenly during lunch (I already had a bit of a cold) and took a cab to go see my doctor. Downtown San Francisco, so it just made the most sense. By the time I got to my doctor I was having trouble breathing. That's when things get all too normal...
I'm on an HMO, through work. Having had health issues before, I have a good feel for what things cost.
At the doctors office, once they saw me everyone put on masks immediately, including me. The doctor checked my breathing and said "you need to go to the hospital. We're calling for an ambulance."
And here was my moment of panic. An ambulance ride is $100 on my health plan, within city limits. The hospital is 30 blocks away. I told the doctor, "call me a cab."
The doctor accused me of not taking this seriously, and the staff were talking about H1N1. "You need quick medical attention, and more than we can provide here," she said.
I replied, "I know, but a cab costs $10. An ambulance costs $100."
I wound up going by ambulance. The paramedics thought I had had a heart attack (I hadn't - but I'm a large man so I understand the thinking). Turns out that I only had the flu after all (not H1N1 but serious enough thank you - this thing does kill). A few hours in the hospital and a couple of IVs later and I was sent home. I'm laid up for a few days, but that beats the alternative.
The sad part is that I was obviously sick. Trouble breathing is a major clue, and I knew it. But the only thing I could think of was the cost differential between $10 and $100. Hell, I can afford the $100 - which I'm now on the hook for.
But this shouldn't be what a sick person, especially one who's doctor tells him to his face "you're in critical condition" should have to think about.
I'm going to be fine. I was damned lucky. It was also so ordinary in today's world. There have been stories posted here on kos so much more heartbreaking than mine that I barely register on the sympathy meter - and that's how it should be. But how many people do you think died yesterday going through exactly the same thing I did - worrying about the cost? One would be too many and I'm certain the number was higher.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is no reason whatsoever for the health insurance industry to exist. Yesterday it nearly delayed me going to the hospital. And I'd bet yesterday it killed someone.
UPDATE: By the way, that pol below should read "Should the health care insurance industry even exist?" Give me a break - I've been sick ^_^