Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Take on Health Care

Health Care Rally for a Public Option in front...

Image by leoncillo sabino via Flickr

Last Tuesday afternoon around 2:30, my son injured his right wrist while playing with his friends. I was there when it happened, so I called Harvard Vanguard in Chelmsford, MA (his primary care physician), and they were able to schedule an appointment with a Dr. Melo within the hour.

He was in quite a bit of pain, but he was comforted by the fact that we were seeing a doctor soon. It took us 20 minutes to get to Chelmsford. We checked in, paid the $10 co-pay, and rode the elevator to the second floor to wait in the Pediatrics Department.

10 minutes later, we were ushered into an examination room. Dr. Melo arrived shortly thereafter and very gently examined my son’s wrist, tapped a few keys on her computer and ordered up some X-Rays.

We went to the first floor to wait in the X-Ray waiting room. Five minutes later, we were taken into the X-Ray room and had the pictures taken. The radiologist read the pictures and sent the diagnosis up to Dr. Melo.

We returned to Pediatrics and met with Dr. Melo again and received the news that his wrist was indeed broken. She told us they were expecting us in Orthopedics on the first floor, but that I would have to check in at the front desk again and pay another $10 co-pay. While my wife and son went to the Orthopedics waiting area, I paid the new co-pay. By the time I arrived in Orthopedics, my wife and son were already in the casting room. The orthopedist showed us the X-Rays and indicated where the break was.

Greta arrived shortly after and , after joking with my son, began the casting process. My son chose a green cast because the next day was St. Patrick’s Day. After the cast was applied, Greta set a follow up appointment for one week later. She typed a letter for us to give to his school and sent us on our way.

I looked at the clock on the way out: 5:30 PM. Three hours from the time it was broken to the time we were casted and out of the office. Nothing wrong with my health care.

I receive health care through my employer (I pay 30%, they pay 70%), and paid $20 in co-pays for the visit. We didn’t wait very long for treatment, and everything was in the same building.  It’s not even a “Cadillac” plan – it’s Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

But what if we weren’t so lucky?

What if we didn’t have a primary care facility like Harvard Vanguard Chelmsford?

What if we had to go to an Emergency Room? How long would we have had to wait? How much would we have had to pay? With my plan, it’s $50 for an ER visit. How much does it cost for someone who doesn’t have insurance?

Before even going to the ER, how long would I have waited before seeking treatment? How much would follow up visits cost?

Too many people in this debate are concerned how this legislation will negatively affect their OWN health care and how much it will cost them. That’s not what this legislation is about.

It’s for the people who can’t hire lobbyists, don’t know how to contact their Representatives, don’t have the options that I’m lucky enough to have, and don’t have the kind of health insurance which can make a lot of the decisions I had to make last week easy.

Is it going to cost us more in the short term? Probably. Is it going to cost us less in the long term? Definitely. It’s about giving opportunity to all.

It’s not about what’s going to be taken away from me and others like me – it’s about what can be provided to those who worry every day how to keep their families healthy.

What’s the price tag on that?

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