Government Health Care Is More Than It Seems

As many of you know, I am in the hospital and have been for more than 90 days so far. Considering that I am unemployable and uninsured (and probably uninsurable after this experience), and that I lack any sort of financial support system, you might be wondering how I will pay all these bills, which currently exceed $100,000.

Basically, I am not and never will be held liable for my medical expenses because the state of New York is paying all my bills, including two ER visits. As many of you probably know or suspect, I am not a fan of state-run hospitals since they are typically associated with "botton of the barrel" medical care provided to impoverished patients. However, my real-life experience does not support this general impression.

Despite the fact that this hospital does have its problems, as does any hospital, the facility where I am staying is widely recognized to be one of the best in the world in its area of speciality, regardless of the fact that it is state-funded and state-run. Further, I would be negligent if I did not clearly state that this state-run teaching and research hospital saved my life, in contrast to the general public's impression of state negligence, as alluded to in this cited story.

Many Americans are cynical about government, distrusting its ability to provide a competent healthcare system. They prefer a market-based system with a high degree of individual choice.

It is true that I was not allowed to choose my doctors, but with rare exceptions, the doctors, residents, medical students and social workers who took care of me and looked out for my interests were exemplary. I know that some patients here do not share my opinion, but they also did not share my doctors, all of whom were recognized to be the best available by my fellow patients.

Basically, I think that most people, especially those who lack direct experience with state hospitals, cannot make a fair assessment of the care provided.

"The issue is not likely to be given a fair examination," says Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston. "There is a cultural resistance to even considering this very serious option."

Hopefully, I will share more details in the near future about my experiences in a state-run hospital after I am released and have more time to reflect upon my experiences, but for now, I am providing some personal experience in response to a story that I read in the today's paper -- a story that finds that state run hospitals are widely distrusted by the public -- but, for better or for worse -- I am living proof that public suspicions of state-funded and run hospitals are misplaced, at least in my case.

Cited story.

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First, thank you for your testament to your excellent care the past three months in a state facility..
The damage done to the public's view of government's role, responsibility and competence has been seriously under mineded since the eighties. Ronald Ragan helped more than anyone to destroy the people's trust. The contract to protect those who needed help, the sick, poor and newborn was lost. Lowering taxes became the clarion call. The amazing thing is that we still have a social service network left after twenty years of conservative bootstrap bull shit.
Society's role is to protect our national treasures and you Devorah are one of them! Here's to your return to us. I hope the outpatient path is as successful as your inpatient experience. You give us hope and pride too, in our government!

By judy roth (not verified) on 07 Nov 2006 #permalink

Hi grrlscientist,

I am happy to hear that you received good medical care. I hope you get well soon. I just wanted to point out a minor pet peeve of mine. The symbol you used for medicine, while commonly used today, is incorrect in representing medicine. The one you used, and is commonly misused, is the Caduceus (two snakes) and is symbolic of a "...protector of merchants and thieves". The more correct symbol is the Rod of Asclepius (one snake) as "Asclepius was so skilled in the medical arts, that he was reputed to have brought patients back from the dead". Which would you rather have over the medical institution that you are seeking care from?

Once again, get well soon.

aloha
psilo

I removed the caduceus and replaced it with another picture, just for you, psilo!

Wow! My vote really does count!

Most people with private health insurance don't have that much choice as far as providers go. We already are rationing out healthcare on the private system and yet we still spend way more, as a percentage of GDP, than any other industrialized nation and most countries with some form of universal health coverage have better wellness outcomes than the current US form, not to mention the costs associated with our health care system make doing business in our country inefficient.

I am very glad to hear that you are being well taken care of. The vast majority of health care professionals I have encountered have been very dedicated and knowledgeable.

Keep on getting better.

Thanks for writing this. A government-run health care system gets held up as a boogeyman, but the reality is that the private health care system we have now does not work for many people. It is not the quality of care that is lacking. The problem is access: since many do not have coverage for preventive medicine, it drives up the costs when emergencies inevitably happen. I am glad for your sake that New York has such a good program to cover your health care.

Hedwig!

I am so sorry you have been in the hospital!

I had an emergency appendectomy 5 years ago, uninsured. It is very scary, and I am glad your healthcare is being paid for. As a NY taxpayer, I couldn't think of a better use for tax dollars!

Love,

L

Hey, GrrlScientist. Nice blog. Congratulations on the Democratic win last week - I hope that cheers you up! :)
I'm writing from Canada, where we have government-provided universal health care for all citizens. I'm glad that some states, at least, have a similar system. My understanding is that most Americans have been sold a bill of goods about "choice" and competition being healthy for your health care. We Canadians pay less through taxes than you do, on average, for health care, everyone is covered, and we live longer. The economics makes sense, really - if you have to make room for a profit in your system, it's gonna cost more. Keep posting, and you'll get over this! :)

Sorry for asking something that everyone else here probably already knows, but what are you in the hospital for?

Times sure are changing, as the Onion observes

well, since you asked, since most people don't tend to read these things after they drop off the front page, and since i have no hope in hell of ever holding a job again as long as i live, i'll tell you and my three other readers why i am hospitalized.

the truth is that i made a rather serious suicide attempt in early august. after a 4 day stay in the ER, i am now in a state psychiatric hospital after being diagnosed with a very rapidly cycling bipolar disorder. as an involuntary inmate .. er, patient .. here, i voluntarily participate as a guinea pig in research projects while the doctors try to find the right medications to control my moods. one of these days, i will be discharged, but i did lose my promised 15 november discharge date, so now i am back to the drawing board with regards to getting out of this place. i've been locked up here for 89 days so far.

gee, aren't you glad that you asked?

Although I'm usualy a lurker, I do read the comments. Hope you feel well soon, and get home safe and sound.
your israeli reader

Get well soon. You can't discount your job prospects, not even academic ones. Being ill at one point doesn't mean you won't recover, look, you're even reaching out now, from a state-run hospital. Academic jobs aren't the only path for a scientist with your talents, in fact such a job would likely be waste of your considerable ability to write plainly and communicate with a wider audience.

All the best and feel better, I really hope you will,

Been there, recovered

By get well soon (not verified) on 12 Nov 2006 #permalink

I very much agree with the previous poster's (get well soon's) comment about careers and your writing. You write clearly and concisely on such a wide range of topics. As for the rest, circumstances do change - any and all things are possible. Hang in there and get well soon.

I'm going to chime in here too. I only discovered your blog a week or 2 ago. I was surprised and alarmed when you said you'd been in hospital for 90 days, but I wasn't brave enough to ask why (thanks Mark). I know next to nothing about you or your prognosis, though I can imagine "rapidly cycling bipolar disorder" must be a rough ride. But you write a damned good blog and I wish you tne best. Thanks for sharing--really.

By Mark Hadfield (not verified) on 15 Nov 2006 #permalink