Health insurance is a scam. It’s a gambling game and the house always wins. Whether you call it an HMO or Blue Cross, the bottom line is maximum profits. Health insurance is one of the primary reasons health expenses have skyrocketed. What they peddle is fear.
Family worries about the fact that we don’t have health insurance. What are you going to do if you get really sick or in an accident? I guess I am going to die. We all die. Sooner or later everyone dies. Fears I can face. Profiteering from human pain and suffering I can’t stomach.
As a self-employed farmer, I don’t pay exorbitant premiums to an HMO or an insurance company. I don’t feel compelled to spend those “benefit dollars” employers take out of earned wages and hand over to the insurance scammers. I don’t seek medical attention willy nilly. And do you know how much I save every year? Thousands of dollars every years.
When Sam or I do need to see a doctor we say we are self-insured; we pay cash for services rendered. Generally, the billing rate drops 50% or more. We ask questions that can inform us as consumers. When you ask a doctor how much a test or procedure will cost, they are dumbfounded as though expense should not be an issue. It forces them to practice the kind of medicine they peddle. When Sam sought out a neurologist because of neck pain and the disintegration of vertebrae (caused by turning his head repeatedly as a driver; especially on the tractor), he was told to stop doing whatever was causing the pain and strain. Surgery probably wouldn’t help him.
The neurologist did not bill for his services for more than 18 months and when he finally did it was for an obscene fee for his 5 minutes of practical advice. Sam spoke to him on the phone. He had paid in full for all of the tests, examinations and visits for which he had been billed. What was this bill for? A cruise or a kids’ college tuition credit? If he didn’t need the money in the last 18 months, Sam thought he probably didn’t need it at all. That Doctor never sent another bill.
The Ithaca community is progressive enough to support the Ithaca Health Care Alliance. Initially the brainchild of Paul Glover, the visionary who invented Ithaca Hours, the Ithaca Health Care Alliance is an alternative to insurance. We don’t belong to the Ithaca Health Care Alliance, but when Sam broke his wrist I drove him down to the Ithaca Free Health Clinic. He’d suffered the injury more than three weeks earlier, but the pain and swelling had not subsided.
Sam had put his own cast on his wrist for the second and third week after the break.
“Cut up some of those newspaper strips,” Sam instructed. He’d watched me make papier mache and decoupage. “I need you to make me a paste of flour and water.”
I helped him stabilize the wrist with an ace bandage. Then I dipped the strips of newspaper in the paste and laid it over his hand where he directed. We built a nice cast. It took two days to fully dry.
Then he went back to work using it. Even turning the knob of the door involved using the broken bone. He welded; spray painted; fixed equipment using screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and more. He carried buckets of feed and drove tractor. Inside the cast lay a treasure trove of itchiness. He cut it off.
He agreed to let me take him to the Free Health Clinic. The parking lot on West Fulton Street in the west end of Ithaca was nearly full.
“Pull in here,” Sam said. There was a real spot right outside the front door. We entered and saw the sign directing us up a flight of stairs. At the landing, we turned the corner and found ourselves at the end of a long line ten minutes before clinic hours started.
People stood talking to each other. Kleenex boxes passed around. Some people sat on stairs. Others had chair seats lined up outside a lobby door.
“You just getting here? You need to check in?” asked a young woman who didn’t appear to be sick at all. She pointed to the lobby door.
“Yeah,” I said. “He’s got a broken wrist.”
People moved to the right slightly and less us climb the stairs to the left. Inside the door a receptionist sat at a desk and another woman looked over her shoulder facing a throng of sick people today.
“Do you need an appointment?” the receptionist asked.
“Can he see a doctor today? He has a broken wrist.” I said. Sam stood behind me and to my left. For once he let me do the talking; not that it would do much good.
“Oh, my, baby, let me see. Not today. And when finally get to see a doctor here all they be able to do is refer your bones to Cayuga Medical Center. We don’t have no x-ray machines here, honey.” The receptionist looked at us like we were the couple of country hicks we are.
So to the emergency room I drove Sam. Within three minutes he found himself in the care of our dear friend, Rosie Carpenter, registered nurse at Cayuga Medical Center. Rosie is the first licensed wildlife rehabilitator I knew; she’s also a hunter and an exquisite marksmen. Rosie and Roger Linton are a couple who are as odd as Sam and I are. Rosie supervised and advocated for Sam’s medical care for his broken wrist. He left with a diagnosis, x-rays and a cast.
He already knew it was broken and where. He could feel that. Now he had $847 pictures.