I Just Want to See a Doctor

Go with me on this one for a bit. Forget about the logistics. Forget about cost. We need a single payer healthcare system. Why? Well there are many reasons, but I’ve just run into one of them. Our current system encourages – actually requires us to first find out who to blame, then who will pay, then which doctor will accept the patient, then finally a possible doctor visit. I’m thinking specifically about workman’s comp.

In our current state of affairs, workman’s comp is a good thing to have, especially for those who are injured on the job and can’t pay or whose employer exposes his or her employees to unnecessary dangers.

On the other hand, there’s me.  I fell during a team meeting (a running sort of wake-you-up exercise) and bruised or maybe fractured a rib. Not a huge deal. But I’m in a lot of pain, I can’t sleep, and I need to see a doctor. Luckily I have good insurance and thought I could just go to the doctor. No. That would be too easy. It was on the job, I MUST use workman’s comp. So now I am home, waiting for my boss to answer my email and tell me which forms to fill out and how long I’m supposed to dance until I can see the doctor.

So here’s where I feel the actual problem lies.  In our current health care circus, it is necessary to determine fault and to hold other people/entities responsible for medical bills.  It is necessary because there are too many variable in our system: do you qualify for  a subsidized health plan; if you do qualify, is the subsidy enough to make it affordable (high premium, insane deductible, sketchy coverage); and if you do have insurance are you able to find a doctor on your “network”; what if you are out of state; and if you don’t qualify or can’t afford insurance then who will pay when you go to the doctor?  Because let’s be honest with ourselves, healthcare was never an optional thing for anyone who wants to live with dignity for any reasonable length of time.

That is the problem.  None of our “solutions” so far has addressed any part of that problem.  Instead, we seem content (or our government seems content) to create little bandages that attempt to address, but never solve one specific failing of our system.  Workman’s comp is one of them.  It should not even be necessary.  OSHA and Unions keep companies in check when it comes to safety and if there are any needless injuries clearly caused by a company’s irresponsibility, there should be consequences.

But in our current health care system far too many people who get injured, can’t pay the bill, so their only choice is to seek outside help.  So if it’s on the job, maybe we can get the employer to pay for it.  If we were injured sky diving and weren’t asked to sign a waiver (unlikely of course) then we could sue the sky diving company.  Or think about the classic McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.  A story that has practically become legend.

We are a litigation happy country, and we are often disgusted by the amount of lawsuits that go through the system every day.  And it is disgusting.  Partly because some of these lawsuits really are frivolous and the amount of money that changes hands is exorbitant.  But we forget about all of the other “lawsuits” that don’t go to court but are settled at the hospital or at work.  I stayed for six days at the hospital without any insurance and at the end the hospital and all of the doctors were able to write of 90% of my very high bill.  This happens all the time.  And we get angry at the hospitals for jacking their costs, when we really should be angry at our government for not envisioning a system where such things don’t happen.

Let me take a step back at this point.  I admit I’m not a hospital administrator, an economist, a politician, or even a political scientist.  I am just a person who is irritated.  I’m irritated because it seems clear to me that so many of our problems could be solved if no one needed to look for someone else to pay their medical bill.  It is more complicated than this, I’m sure.  But I keep asking myself, “why do so many lawsuits have to do with injuries”?  “Why, when I told the receptionist at instacare that I was injured on the job, did she then immediately give me a map to the Workcare office, which then required all sorts of documentation and verification from my work?”

Why do we first look for the responsible party, then insurance, then an available doctor, then an hour wait to be admitted?  Because without a government run (in our case, because we are apparently a democratic nation, a people run) single payer (taxpayer probably) system.  If we didn’t have to worry about getting the treatment we need, would we be so adamant about finding “the responsible party”?  I tend to think we would not.