I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Trampled Grass”.
Last week I was faced with a decision that I have been lucky enough to avoid until now, do I take my child to the emergency room or not? I have two kids and both of them have been to the ER at St. Mary’s for different reasons since we moved here in early 2013, but this decision was different because I wasn’t sure that my insurance would cover this one and I wasn’t sure if my wife and I would be able to afford the cost of care.
I have good insurance through the Presbyterian Church (USA), the denomination I serve, and it’s also Blue Cross Blue Shield and as you may know our local hospital system, Catholic Health Initiatives, has been in a little spat with Blue Cross Blue Shield over prices. What that means is that all of the doctors we have come to know and appreciate here in Nebraska City were suddenly “out-of-network” as of September 1, 2014. I don’t understand how it all works but I do know that my mailbox has been flooded with flyers from BCBS and CHI telling me to talk to the other one and tell them they are wrong. (If you understand that sentence, you understand how confusing this is) I was stuck, I can’t change insurances because it’s through my employer and it’s mandated. There aren’t any other doctors in town that aren’t under CHI.
On Wednesday, we were told by our insurance representative to look for new doctors; that meant, at best, Syracuse, at worst, Lincoln or Omaha. That same day we called to cancel the appointment we had scheduled for our daughter who’s cough, which started as a simple cold, had morphed into something more. When we called, we were told that the clinic was “in-network” and, IF, you had to go to the Emergency Room it was “in-network” but if it were JUST urgent then it would be “out-of-network” (head spinning yet?) We were confused, irritated, and frustrated.
That night, my son woke up with a croupy cough, he sounded like a barking seal. He had labored breathing. This wasn’t the first time he has had croup so we did what we normally do, but it wasn’t getting better. We called the ER and asked what they thought; they told us we should bring him in. My wife and I stopped and had to make a decision, not based on our parental instincts, not based on the advice of a nurse, but on the hope that it would be categorized as “emergent”. (which will be hard enough to pay for).
I know that people in this country make health decisions everyday not based on whether or not they need care but whether or not they can afford it. The number one cause of bankruptcy in this country is medical costs. According to a 2005 Harvard study a full 46% of bankruptcies were caused by medical expenses and cost have just risen on a steep grade since then. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had to deal with the high cost of medical care; it was the first time I had to make that decision for my child.
As a parent, it’s a hard truth to realize that your child’s health care isn’t based on need, but on money.
My father-in-law is a retired family doctor, when we started getting the propaganda from both sides of this current fight we called him and asked him what we should do. He said, “Nothing. When elephants fight only the grass gets trampled.” That’s right, I’m grass, you’re grass, we’re grass, and we are being trampled by elephants in suits; no longer is our care decided by doctors, nurses, and caregivers, but by administrators and stockholders. The for-profit healthcare system is literally killing us, physically, financially, and spiritually.
The Commonwealth Fund ranks our healthcare system dead last among 10 other developed countries. That’s a problem. That doesn’t sound like loving our neighbor. That doesn’t sound like a “Christian Nation”. That doesn’t sound like American Exceptionalism. That sounds like making money off people’s misfortune. That sounds like greed, plain and simple.
By the way, we took my son to the emergency room. The doctors and nurses were wonderful and caring, he is doing fine. We’re still nervous about the bill.
At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here’s my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.
Favorite: The Safe Ride Shuttle. It’s a free service in town that gives people a safe option for getting home from their night out. I applaud Franks and Travis for having the forethought to help make our town one of the top 10 safest towns in Nebraska.
Not Favorite: Greed
I love to connect on social media. You can see more of my writing and thoughts on my wife’s and my blog (nebraskabolt.wordpress.com) or follow me on twitter. (@ggbolt16)