Saturday, July 5, 2008
Our "wonderful" health care system
Michaelann: I got this email from my friend Holly yesterday and it was too good not to share...
hey...i was reading your blog and it got me thinking about this experience i had and how I, too, have been thinking much of this land of liberty and justice for all...
last week while eating nachos one of my back chewing teeth broke....I knew it was only a matter of time. after all, it was only a 'temporary' filling. I needed a crown 2 years ago. I couldn't afford the roughly $1200 for it then...and I surely couldn't afford it now. but, I knew if I didn't do something promptly the tooth was going to continue to crumble.
I haven't had dental insurance much of the past 20 years. I now have health insurance, thanks to Massachusetts's 'universal health care' law. I have to pay $240/month to not have prescriptions covered. this year, though, the state also mandates this coverage, and my policy has gone up. all it means is that I have co-pays for everything that still leaves most care cost prohibitive when you live paycheck to paycheck and have no money in the bank...or anywhere else for that matter.
anyway, I digress. so I go to the dentist to be met first by the dental hygienist. she told me she had twins and one was in need of braces. she said she was glad to work for a dentist because she got some discount. she ended saying the braces were going to cost her a couple thousand dollars or so. she said she didn't really have the money, "but,. what are you going do?" she seemed very positive about it all. I was sitting in the chair, with her in and out of my mouth, and I was so angered. I was angry that I knew my own tooth (and many others in my mouth actually) was not affordable; and, I was angry that she was so jolly in her resignation that this is just the way it is here...that we have to pay thousands of dollars for our care and that everything is an 'extra' and that barely anything is just covered with 'insurance.'
the dentist comes in and looks at my x-ray. she says she is not sure what she can do for me, "you really need a crown." she has an edge to her. I say I cannot afford a crown and I'm hoping she can give me another temporary filling. she tells me, again with and edge, "I'm not sure what I'll be able to do until I get in there and look at how bad it is." I inquire about the price of a crown currently, and she says it ranges from $1200 to $1500, and adds, "that's not that bad."
she then looks at her watch and says to me and the hygienist, "Oh, I don't have time for this. I can't do this now." she states she has someone else coming for an appointment in the next room. I'm thinking to myself, well crap...if I don't get this done now, I'm not coming back. but then what. my damn tooth isn't gonna fix itself. I already can't chew on my right side because I have a big back tooth missing and I need a bridge. interesting...bridges and crowns...these symbols of access and privilege that I am locked out of.
anyway, she decides to stay with me. she says the other person can wait. I feel bad for that other person.
she swiftly carries on with Novocain, and follows with chit chat with the hygienist. apparently she has just arrived here from the mid west. she is just out of dental school and is on day 2 of driving her brand new SUV. she remarks, "Yea, I don't need a Lexus." every now and again she asks if I'm numb yet (and she means my tooth area, not to this system that I am seething about and am anything but numb to). as she gets ready to proceed with me, she again tells me she does not know what she is going to find, and that I really must get a crown. I tell her, again, I wish I could. she begins drilling and commenting, "Oh, well, this could be bad...I can't tell if this is decay or staining...If it's decay, I don't know what you're gonna do." I'm thinking...YOU don't know what I'm gonna do?! didn't you just graduate from dental school? should I look myself and make a decision? anyway, while all this is running through my head, she says, "Oh, good...it's just staining." she continues to give me the temporary filling, wraps up the work and walks me to the reception desk so I can pay up. she shakes my hand and, again, tells me in a plastic sort of way, "you know, you really are going need a crown. that temporarily filling isn't gonna last you," and she walks away.
I pay the bill with a credit card, and leave hoping for the best: hoping this filling goes a couple of years and hoping I'll be able to pay off my mounting debt that is accruing for necessities.