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Health Care in the US Should be Affordable and Accessible

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EDITOR’S NOTE:&nbspThis article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.

On this extremely hot summer day, the ear-splitting siren screaming through New York’s streets is coming from the ambulance I’m in—on a gurney on my way to the ER. That only makes the siren, loud as it is, all the more alarming.

I fell. The pain, its location and intensity, suggests I’ve probably broken my hip.

The kind face of the emergency medical technician hovering above me asks questions softly and I confess that I’m in terrible pain. Other gentle hands are busy taking blood pressure and doing oxygen counts. These EMT workers, employees of the Fire Department, are good at what they do.

At the ER entrance, the gurney’s lifted out of the vehicle, wheels are dropped, and it’s rolled inside. Under a ceiling of bright white lights, it passes—and so I pass—one cubicle after another. I catch bits of voices, speaking in several languages.

My friend, who’s come with me to the ER, roots around in my purse for my insurance and then heads for the admissions office. Alone, I close my eyes to shut out the glare of the ceiling lights. I want one thing: relief from the pain. Oblivion would even be more appreciated.

My friend returns to my cubicle and asks, “Is this the only insurance you have?” I panic. Will they not accept me? But they have to! It’s the ER! That’s the reassurance I offer myself and then I tell her, “Yes, it’s all I have.”

She looks doubtful.“What?” I ask desperately. “What?”

“Don’t you have some kind of supplemental?” And she begins to try to explain, but I can’t deal with this right now. All I want is relief from the pain. Any other moment, I’d worry about the money, but not now. I can’t! Instead, simply to remain half-calm, I remind myself that I have insurance, that I have a Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO, a plan that offers a wide range of healthcare services through a network of providers who agree to work with members.

After vital signs are taken, I’m moved to a hospital room and given pain meds that don’t offer oblivion, but do help. There, I learn what the X-rays show: a hip fracture. Surgery necessary. Operating rooms all taken. It may be two days before they can operate, the orthopedic surgeon tells me. My friend whispers that every extra day in the hospital will cost a mint. She then appeals to the staff to expedite the surgery. They can’t.

At that moment, I don’t care if the hospital costs a million dollars a day, I just want to get better. However, I, too, want the surgery to happen, within the hour if possible, since my leg is now frozen in a distinctly awkward position, thanks to the way I fell, and I realize that it won’t be straight until the operation’s over.

Two days later, after successful surgery, I develop an infection, pneumonia, and the days in the hospital begin multiplying into weeks. My doctors are so busy they can only visit once a day, if that, but the nurses, well… they’re the healers, the angels, though they themselves are desperately overworked.





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Thanks !

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