Yes, I’m pre-empting my normal ranting and raving about publishing and writing to bring you an overtly political rant and rave about healthcare reform.
Here’s the thing…I’m frankly baffled that this is political at all. Everyone should want universal access to healthcare in America. Everyone should want everyone else to have insurance coverage. Everyone. Including, yes, those terrible, evil illegal immigrants who are ruining America.
But I digress.
I have a very personal story to tell that illustrate why universal coverage should matter to you, even if you have health insurance. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do, really, with enlightened self-interest or lowering costs by getting all those uninsured people out of the emergency room.
No, it’s because it can save your life (or the life of someone you love).
Back in July of 2003, I had a sudden and severe asthma attack. The best way I can describe it is to say that it felt like someone had closed a door between my upper airways and my lungs. Everything seemed to have swollen shut. I tried my rescue inhaler without success. I tried my nebulizer, also without success. It was the middle of the night, so I called 911, imagining that there would be something the paramedics could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself. Then I woke my husband.
I don’t remember much after that. My husband says it took almost 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. They tried to get me to use my nebulizer (duh, I’d tried that; didn’t work). They tried giving me oxygen. And finally, they realized they had to transport me.
And then they spent SEVERAL MINUTES in the driveway of our house trying to get my husband (at 2am with his wife DYING in front of his eyes) to supply proof that we had insurance. Never mind that, even then, that was illegal. Never mind that I was in the back of the ambulance going cyanotic and gasping for air.
Obviously, they did eventually transport me and, thank God, a wonderful team of doctors and nurses saved my life. But by the time I arrived, I’d been in cardiac arrest for almost five minutes.
Now, if those paramedics hadn’t stood there in the driveway asking my husband about our insurance, I MIGHT have arrived at the hospital with a heartbeat. I might not have had to have CPR. I might have spent less time in the hospital, costing my insurance company and the health care system in general less money. At the time, I had a
Even though they weren’t supposed to ask, the fact that they KNEW many people don’t have insurance made them feel they were justified in doing so. They wanted to make sure they would get paid. I can’t say I entirely blame them. But that small delay could have been the difference between my living and dying.
When my husband arrived at the hospital, the paramedics were coming out. They wouldn’t look at him. He thought then that I was gone. They are probably lucky I lived, because he’d probably have had a cause of action in my wrongful death if I didn’t.
But either way, wouldn’t it be better if no one EVER had to worry whether a patient’s care would be paid for? It could save lives. Maybe yours.