What Price Health?

I’ve had sinus issues for years. Since 1995, I’ve had three sinus surgeries, and I’m pretty sure I’m due for another one. Over the past few months, my sinuses have been all stuffed up, and it’s making me constantly dizzy. Trust me, it’s not much fun.

In December of last year, I called a clinic where I had been treated before to make an appointment. Since I hadn’t been there in almost twenty years, they required that I get a referral from my family doctor. To be clear, my insurance didn’t require the referral. The clinic did.

I called my family doctor and couldn’t get an appointment for three weeks. So for three weeks, I suffered with dizziness that, at times, was debilitating. When I finally saw the doctor at the end of December, he gave me some antibiotics and made a referral to the otolaryngology clinic.

It took a couple of weeks just to make the appointment with the otolaryngologist, and even then, they couldn’t get me in for two months. During my two month wait, the dizziness worsened, and I had to see my family doctor again, who gave me another course of antibiotics, along with a steroid. It didn’t help.

Finally, I get to see the otolaryngologist this week. A couple days ago, I received a packet of information in the mail from the clinic confirming my appointment and letting me know what the cost of the doctor’s visit is going to be. For this appointment that I’ve had to wait three months for, it is going to cost $714.13. Just for the appointment. Not for any treatment. Not for any medication. Just to walk in the door and be examined.

Thankfully, I have pretty good insurance. Even so, my portion of the bill is $568.15. Granted, it’s early in the year and I haven’t met my deductible, but $568.15 for a simple appointment with the doctor? Come on.

To give you an idea of how ridiculously expensive $714.13 is for a single doctor’s appointment, here’s how it compares to a few  items we normally wouldn’t purchase without giving it some thought and looking for the best deal:

  • 3-Day Pass to Disney World: $327.00
  • XBox Series X: $499.99
  • Dell Inspirion Business Laptop: $579.00
  • 3-Nights at the Hyatt Place Orlando : $612.00
  • Samsung 65″ Crystal Clear Smart TV: $647.99
  • 10-sessions with a Personal Trainer: $650.00
  • Apple iPhone 13: $679.78
  • A Single Doctor’s Appointment: $714.13

In the United States, the average person has less than $400 in savings. That’s a horrendous statistic when you consider that the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet. This one doctor’s appointment, without any treatment or medication, would wipe out the savings of most Americans. That’s insane. There has to be a better way.

If I lived in almost any other first-world democracy in the world, my taxes would pay for universal healthcare that would cover this doctor’s appointment. One of the criticisms I hear about the healthcare systems in countries with universal healthcare is that it takes too long to get an appointment. That may be true in certain circumstances (for instance, elective surgery), but keep in mind that I’ve had to wait nearly three months for my upcoming appointment, and I had to see my family doctor twice in the interim, once to get the referral and once because my symptoms worsened. Neither of those appointments were free, so add that expense to the $568.15 out-of-pocket cost for my upcoming appointment.

Of course, the biggest criticism of universal healthcare is that it will raise our taxes. This is true, but when you factor in what you’re already paying for health insurance, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, universal healthcare is cheaper.

The more important point to make about universal healthcare is that people can actually afford to take advantage of it. I am eternally grateful that I have the financial wherewithal to pay for my upcoming doctor’s visit. Sadly, not everyone can. So, they live with the often debilitating symptoms of easily treated injuries and illnesses. Their lives are negatively impacted, maybe even shortened, because, even with insurance, they can’t afford to go to the doctor.

It should be a point of shame for Americans that our healthcare system is the most expensive in the world yet has the worst outcomes of any healthcare system among developed countries. At the moment, the United States is the only nation in the developed world not to have some form of universal healthcare, and we join countries like China, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and a handful of other third-world countries that rely completely on private healthcare, which is another way of saying, everyone fends for themselves when it comes to taking care of their healthcare needs.

It’s time that the USA join the rest of the developed world in offering their citizens universal healthcare. The citizens of the wealthiest nation on earth deserve the best healthcare system in the world.


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