Vocabulary Vixen

November 16, 2008

A note about our US health care system…

…It’s broken.
This is in response to Rachel’s post on http://the-f-word.org dated 14th November 2008: “Are the generic drugs in your medicine cabinet safe and effective?” I had no idea about all of that blather she mentioned about generic bioequivalancy, the 80-125% ratio, etc. After reading that post, I am shocked and appalled that the standards are so loose on generic drugs. I have been fortunate and blessed enough to not have the same weird side effects that she and several other readers of your blog have had. I am so very lucky to be on a few different Patient Assistance Programs for the Lexapro and family planning services that I so desperately need(ed) and cannot afford.

I am sharing the following story because it strikes at the very heart of her post, and what she does over at The-F-Word.org, between her involvement on awareness about our public healthcare systems, ED-related or otherwise.

I have no health insurance. I work 3 jobs and hope that I make ends meet from month-to-month. In other words, getting sick is not in my vocabulary. I cannot afford to take the time off of work, any of my jobs. I am on the patient assistance programs for Lexapro, and I am fortunate enough to be on some non-wacky generic drugs: fluoxetine (Prozac), and methylphenidate (Ritalin), that I can actually afford: A grand total of $7.00 per month from Wal-Mart. (Oooooh, Evil! That is the only time I will set foot inside that corporate boil, by the way.)

My husband caught something a few weeks ago that was just utterly horrid. He sat on it for awhile, as he is also uninsured, and hoped that it would go away. It did not, and as a student at the University, he is fortunate enough to be seen by Student Health for free. He had a sinus infection, an ear infection, and bronchitis — OW! Naturally, he had to pay $60 out-of-pocket for five doses of some weird, new antibiotic. It cleared it right up, and he couldn’t be happier. That does not discount the money he had to spend for the prescription, and I can only imagine the amount he would have had to spend going to an urgent care place within the city. Add $49 to the $60 he paid for the prescription. Ouch.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been blessed with OCD and germaphobia is one of the obsessions. Needless to say, I was not happy when my head started pounding the worst I had ever felt it last Saturday (11/8/8). It reduced me to tears, and I lay in bed after a hefty dose of Ibuprofen (i’m usually okay on the generic). I knew that this was going to be really, really bad. Sunday, I woke up and although I could breathe in my nose, my entire face was puffed up and swollen from something. Between that, the pain, and knowing that my husband had just gotten over his own Doozy of the Year(s), I decided to swallow my pride and go to the quick care clinic after work. I don’t go to the doctor unless I feel it very pertinent. Paranoid, yes. Hypochondriac? No.

I paid $49 for a lecture from the doctor about how bacterial infections don’t easily spread, and they usually come in with a cold, etc. I know this. I am an intelligent individual, and I know this. She told me that if I am dealing with this for 7-10 days, then to come back. I had hoped to hit it early and go on my merry way, which was the purpose for going to the urgent care clinic and paying $49, which I did not really have. So, I had to “wait it out.” I was treated as though I was being paranoid and uneducated about the issue. Okay, I’ll “wait it out”. I gave her the benefit of the doubt in a vain hope perhaps she’s cleared my mind and I can deal with it for a day or two more, come around the bend and get better. A bit expensive, but I’ll give it a shot.

Monday came and went, I left work early again, which I cannot afford to do. Tuesday I did not work, and that came and went. Feeling like shite by this point would have been an improvement. By Tuesday, I had then been dealing with this since the previous Friday, once the sore throat had popped up. I had already been reduced to tears in frustration because the situation had not improved in the least. Wednesday came and went. Again, no improvement. The only relief I felt was when I slept, which I could only do marginally. I’ve got a very, very kind boss at the coffeeshop, who helped me out and helped me find replacements in my illness. By Wendesday, it was runny nose, coughing horribly, head hurting, the works.

I’d hoped that I’d feel the tiniest bit better when I woke up on Thursday. No dice. I woke up, and found that I’d gotten a sore throat as well. The sore throat had subsided since the previous Friday. Given my previous experience with sore throats, I decided to take a look with a flashlight once I realized that it was there. I took a look, and something vaguely resembling cottage cheese had overtaken my tonsils. This was not good, I knew immediately that it was not good.

There is a free medical clinic in the city which I reside. I found their phone number on the internet, and gave them a call. They were booked until Tuesday. It was Thursday, and I knew that I could not afford to wait that long. I told the lady on the phone that I could not afford the visit, but I also could not afford to wait that long. She suggested the quick care place (that I’d already visited on Sunday, five days prior to this) to which I replied that I could not afford the visit. I had already blown any spare cash that I had on the visit that previous Sunday. I was very, very frustrated by this point, and I’m sure she heard my frustration over the phone. She then gave me a small adage that: if I waited longer and it got worse, I would have to pay more in the end. Thank you. But that does not solve the problem that I literally cannot afford this visit. They will not see me if I cannot pay the $49 visit fee. I could not, there is absolutely no question. Honestly, how can I go back when I can’t afford it? Seriously.

Out of sheer desperation, I turned to the internet and googled Free Medical Clinic [city that I live in]. I found a list of all of the free medical clinics in the state for low-income individuals. There were 2 open in a city 30 minutes away from me. (A much bigger city). The first one that I called was unable to take me because of the work load, or hours, staffing, etc. The third free medical clinic that I called that day was very kind on the other line. I explained my situation, that I absolutely could not afford a doctor’s visit, but I had to be seen by a doctor. I could no longer “wait it out”, and that the white spots on my throat meant trouble. Again, she was very, very nice and asked if 5:30 that day would work. Thank you!! Yes, it worked, and two hours later, I headed out, made the 30 minute drive, picked my way through One-Way Street Heaven (ha!), and walked into that clinic. It was the His Hands Free Medical Clinic. They were religiously oriented, which is fine. I am not religious by any means, so I politely refused their offer for prayers, but I do know that I was in need, and they were here to help fulfill my need. The doctor came in, took a look at my tonsils, diagnosed tonsilitis and sent me on my way. They were able to give me free antibiotics, and now, 3 days later, I am feeling about 1000% better. I am not yet in tip-top shape, but the important thing right now is that I can walk, talk, and stand without needing to fall over and die.

I am so deeply appreciative of this clinic. They took me in when nobody else could or would. They saw my need, and helped me out. Kudos to this awesome place for taking me in and treating me. My guess right now is that most of the free medical clinics are severely bogged down by the uninsured and poor like myself, as well as those who have fallen ill to the horrible, nasty, dreadful “YUCK” that my husband and I both fell to. This clinic helped me out, no questions asked, and I really have to hand it to them for their compassion. I’ve not had the best experience with religiously-oriented individuals or organizations (thanks to a cross-country running coach in high school, among other things), but I really have to give credit where credit is due. These people were kind, compassionate, and helped me out without question. The medical care was basic, but effective. I got what I needed, no frills.
Our medical care system in the US is so lopsided and broken, that those of us who fall through the (wide) cracks are really, honestly left for dead. I am so very lucky that I live in an area with so many clinics semi-accessible and I was able to find somebody able to take me. Universal health care in our country is very desperately needed. Health care is not something that should be reserved for the elite, or even the semi-elite that can afford it. It is something that should be provided without question of financial situation to anybody residing in the US. Kudos to Europe for acheiving this. I do believe that universal health care is possible, there are frills that need to be taken out of the current system and the resources need to be turned into a wide safety net for the rest of us who are not so fortunate. When I saw the doc at the clinic, he took a look at my throat and prescribed the antibiotics. There was no strep test, and I inquired about this, as I’d always had a strep test in the past. He told me that a strep test is time and money, and I need the antibiotics anyway, strep or not. Strep or tonsilitis (my diagnosis), the treatment is the same: a round of antibiotics. That makes perfect sense to me. It’s not specialized, like I feel that most doctor’s offices are. It’s doctors knowing what they’re doing, what they’re diagnosing, and moving on. People here in the US are generally afraid of going to a universal system because they feel that the care would diminish. It’ll be less flashy, less tests, but everybody would be taken care of. Sure, run the tests for those who really, legitimately need it. But for the basics, it makes sense to have this universal net so that people don’t have to suffer with far worse predicaments than they would have orginally dealt with, provided they’d had access to the basics in the beginning.

This whole dance between insurance companies, lobbyists, and pharmeceutical companies is absolutely ridiculous. It is absolutely stinking ridiculous, and something has to change in how we give care to people. The BS you posted about the generics vs. name brand drugs is just that: absolute and utter BS. It is another example of how broken things are. The generic drugs provided should not be manufactured and accepted from areas that have much less stringent standards than those in the US. It’s another example of the story that I just relayed – how broken things are, and how we need to fix them. I’d like basic medical care, without question about my ability to pay for it. As if those of us in need don’t already have enough hoops to jump through. My goodness.


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