My Healthcare Story
During a routine check-up several months ago my doctor decided to take an x-ray to evaluate my back pain. On the film it showed a suspicious mass on my kidney which after two CAT scans turned out to be cancer. Because it was caught before I had any symptoms and the Veterans Administration (VA) doesn’t require I pay out of pocket I underwent surgery. Now the cancer is gone. I don’t need chemo or radiation and my kidney function is fine.
Why I Chose to Fight Back
Imagine if I didn’t have affordable Primary Care. With preventative medicine they found the tumor when it was small, had done no damage, and was easy to deal with. Had I waited until I had symptoms I would have few options, considerable misery, and massive expense. I might very well have died from it.
Unlike many Americans my exposure to the healthcare system has been largely positive. I grew up in a good home with healthy behaviors, nutritious meals, and a quality education. As an adult I worked in medical centers as a critical care nurse. This brought several advantages including health insurance, access to care, an understanding for the need to be compliant with the medical team’s instructions, and a well-paying job to cover deductibles, copays, out of network fees, and money to pay for prescriptions.
For the past 25 years I’ve also been a Reserve officer in the Air Force. A basic understanding of every deployed soldier is despite the fact that they are far from home, may never have been able to afford health insurance, and are exposed to frequent life-threatening danger they know that our government, acting as the Single Payer, will provide for essential healthcare. Sometimes that takes the form of Socialized Medicine (the government actually delivering the care) like in an Army MASH hospital, military treatment facility or Veterans Administration medical center and other times when a non-governmental facility provides the treatment and bills the Department of Defense.
My role has been as a Flight Nurse. We collect the wounded and ill from combat zones and fly them to definitive care. Imagine if our military told our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to get health insurance on their own. Insurance premiums would be astronomical. Until recently for-profit insurance companies could charge women more, decline to issue a policy for pre-existing conditions, or drop you if you started making claims. I can just imagine a struggling young family paying their premiums until the insurance company calls to say the service member had been gravely wounded overseas and their policy would be dropped.
On my last deployment to Afghanistan I got hurt and needed aeromedical evacuation home. If I had to pay for the ambulance ride, my week in the hospital, the evacuation to Walter Reed in Washington, DC, and the follow on flight home to South Carolina I would have been broke. Did you know the most common reason folks declare bankruptcy in America is medical bills and that most had health insurance?
As a veteran I choose to get my healthcare at the Veteran’s Administration hospital. I have excellent health insurance through my wife’s work and could be seen wherever I want but I choose the VA. There everyone gets comprehensive, quality care. The private gets the same care as the general. Instead of taxes we each contributed with our military service. Then when we need care we get it. I’m not questioned at the door whether I have a job, whether my coverage is Bronze, Silver or Gold, or whether I’m in network. We provided the resources to create the facility and now it is available to all who need it. All of America should be like that.
I’m doubly lucky. Not only was my kidney cancer detected early but my treatment options were all paid for. In a Single Payer system the patient isn’t forced to choose between their health and financial ruin. Many whistle past the graveyard hoping their cough or the lump in their breast isn’t something bad. Anyone who tells you folks can just present to the ER and get free care doesn’t know what they are talking about. The ER doc won’t diagnose your cancer and if he does won’t be able to treat it.
How Taking Action Has Changed Me
Who deserves healthcare? Is it for those who have a good job, serve in the military, or are in abject poverty? Past the economic sense of caring for all Americans the idea of Universal Health Care is a moral imperative. As long as there is breath in my body I’ll work to promote Medicare for All. I’ll tell anyone who will listen we need Everybody In, Nobody Out. Will you?
City/Town: Charleston, South Carolina
Organization: Health Care for All – South Carolina