Uninsured gorillas enjoy the good life in America
by desmoinesdem, Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 04:24:46 AM EDT
Uninsured homo sapiens, not so much.
Meteor Blades brought to my attention a surreal editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazette about a silverback lowland gorilla who needed medical care. The U.S. health care system came through in a big way for that ape:
A Gazette news story reports that employees of Denver-based Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers -- a capitalist free-market business -- heard Rafiki wasn't feeling well. Not wanting Rafiki to suffer, the business sent a mobile CT unit to the zoo. The scan revealed an infection of the mastoid bone, located behind his right ear. It also found a severe middle and inner ear infection.
The CT scan was reviewed by radiologists and, get this, a neurologist. In some parts of the world, most humans never meet a neurologist. In the United States, even a gorilla has access to one. The team of specialists decided that in order to relieve pressure on Rafiki's brain, the big gorilla would need surgery to clean out the infection. They called upon Dr. Joseph Hegarty, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Colorado Springs Ear Associates -- another capitalist, free-market business. Hegarty not only made a house call for Rafiki, he performed surgery in the zoo's Primate World Exhibit. Rafiki is recovering nicely.
Fortunately for Rafiki, he's an uninsured ape living in the United States. Had Rafiki been an insured human being living in a country with government-run health care, he might still be waiting for that CT scan. After the scan, he would wait an eternity to be seen by a neurologist, a radiologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist. He would have two choices: 1. Wait in pain and hope to survive the long wait; or 2. Travel to the United States, pay a specialist, and receive immediate care.
This editorial implies that an uninsured American with an ear infection would be better off than a similar patient living in a country with government-run health care.
How many uninsured Americans with ear pain get a home visit from a mobile CT unit, followed by expert care from a neurologist, radiologist and ear, nose and throat specialist?
It so happens that I had an ear infection turn bad a year and a half ago. A few days into the illness, my primary care physician ordered two sets of x-rays, a doppler scan, and an MRI in one afternoon to figure out what was causing unexplained pain and swelling in my leg.
If I had been uninsured, those diagnostics would have been prohibitively expensive (thousands of dollars out of pocket). In fact, the radiology unit would have declined to do the MRI if I hadn't presented an insurance card.
An uninsured American in my situation would typically delay seeing a doctor, then go to the emergency room once the pain became intolerable. If I had waited another day or so before seeking medical attention, the strep infection in my bloodstream could have become life-threatening.
Unlike Rafiki the gorilla, nearly 45,000 uninsured Americans die prematurely every year, lacking a timely diagnosis or access to appropriate medical treatment.
Unlike Rafiki the gorilla, thousands of Americans are left with huge debts after a medical crisis, even if they have health insurance.
Most people wouldn't pretend that a heartwarming story about an ape proves the virtue of the current U.S. health care system. But then, conservatives often ignore facts staring them in the face.