English, born Germany, 1922–2011
Two Japanese Wrestlers by a Sink, 1983–87
Courtesy, The Art Institute of Chicago
A health scare and subsequent trip to the emergency room has prompted the recent receipt of a number of medical bills. We are self-insured, but due to prohibitive costs, we selected a policy with a large deductible. To date, our bills approximate $10,000 and we will pay the majority of that out-of-pocket. It will probably take us many years in one form or another.
We still don’t know what happened. An MRI that was ordered in the hospital kept getting pushed back, due to other incoming emergencies. While the care we received in the emergency room was impressive, it fell off after we were sent to the floor. Frankly, little of our stay was about care. I believe that the tests ordered and symptoms documented were based on two factors. The smaller portion allocated towards diagnosing a problem, the larger portion aimed at preventing a lawsuit.
Last year, the small company my husband and I own broke even, but we are teetering on the edge. These medical bills, a recent dental estimate of more than $3400 (yes I brush and floss), a trip to the auto mechanic and various potential plumbing bills feel like an undertow that we can’t escape. It’s funny. I’m educated, white, hardworking and smart. I possess both practical and theoretical skills. Yet, despite hundreds of applications in dozens of fields, I have not been able to get a job, not even part-time. I never planned on becoming one of the marginalized.
Of course, healthcare is but a small example in a much larger storm. We will weather this as best we can. Unfortunately, healthcare and its brethren are but symptoms of a larger disease that continues to go unaddressed in this country. Here are some examples:
- There is a Chicago man suing a playground equipment manufacturer because his daughter fell off a slide and broke her arm. The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses and emotional damage. These slides have been pulled across the country because of falls and injuries. They are poorly designed and should be pulled. But I doubt there was any intent to harm. Can’t all playground equipment result in falls and injuries? Shouldn’t there be some shared responsibility? Who let her go on the slide? As for emotional trauma...please. My cousin fell off a giant slide when we were kids. She ran home carrying her spleen in her hand. There was no lawsuit; in fact, she’s a successful physician today.
- On the flipside, I know of a young litigation attorney who recently travelled across country for several nights to obtain a deposition. This attorney had the option of obtaining the deposition via teleconference, but elected to travel instead. I could be wrong, but I believe the cost of the trip exceeded the cost of a teleconference. It’s not the law firm that paid the expense, but the parties in the lawsuit. Certainly this type of behavior drives up insurance costs thus driving up healthcare costs. Yet I guess this behavior is common and accepted in the industry. Pity.
What’s the larger disease? We are. Conservatives allow the right wing and tea party to scare them into submission while Liberals refuse to see where they are contributing to the problem. We are all complicit.
Today, while competing on a supposedly “fun” quiz game on the news, a man could neither name the Governor of Illinois nor state the Square Root of 4. He was a State of Illinois employee. I would like to condemn him, but when the morning news features quiz games, Kanye West, Brangelina and Chinplants as feature stories it’s difficult. We would rather be entertained than informed and we have become stupid, selfish, fat and lazy in the process. The sad thing is, we don’t care about anything or anyone that is beyond our scope of immediate gratification.
People keep saying that they are trying to protect this country for their children and their children’s children. Why protect something so broken, when a change of attitude create something wonderful for everyone? When are we going to take some responsibility for the world and individuals in it? We are circling the drain. If we aren’t willing to consider individuals and ideas beyond our immediate frame of reference, we won’t have anything. Me? I don’t have any kids, but I’ll continue to think of and hope for the best for the future. Even though I won’t have anything left to pay for it.