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My Almost-Not-Quite Interview With 'The Bear'


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Uninsured Healthcare Hell
Jimmy Moore
March 28, 2002

For the millions of people who do not have health insurance in America today, each day is a gamble. You never know when you will become sick and you are reluctant to see a doctor when you do get sick. In some instances, though, it is inevitable that seeing a doctor is the best option.

That is exactly what my wife and I had to decide last week.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I was starting to feel extremely tired. My eyes started to burn and my whole body ached. When I took my temperature, I had a fever of 101 degrees.

Over the next few days, I was taking every over-the-counter product I had successfully used in the past to lick this “cold.” Unfortunately, none of them were working. My fever got up to 103 degrees a couple of days later and a constant cough prevented me from getting any sleep.

After four straight days of deep coughing, fever and body aches, I decided it was best that I see a doctor. Because I am one of those millions of Americans without health insurance, I reluctantly got in my car and drove to the Mary Black Urgent Care Center on the west side of Spartanburg.

I had not been to the doctor in nearly three years since I rarely get so sick that it requires me to see a doctor. But this time was different.

When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I noticed that whatever I had was what the other 20 people in front of me were suffering with, too. The chorus of coughing in the waiting room was so deafening that you could barely hear yourself think!

After a two hour wait, I was finally able to see the doctor. He quickly diagnosed me with bronchitus and prescribed an antibiotic and a prescription strength cough syrup. The doctor visit cost me $80.

When I went to CVS to fill my prescriptions, I spent another $50 on my medications.

Over the next few days, I began to feel a little better. But I noticed something that disturbed me. My wife was beginning to suffer from the same symptoms I was having just a few days earlier.

On Thursday, her day off from work last week, she stayed in bed all day because the sickness made her feel extremely tired. By that night, she had a fever of 101 degrees!

I realized that she needed to see the doctor, too. But with no health insurance and my own doctor visit bill earlier in the week that cost us close to $150, it was a very hard trip to the doctor’s office the next morning.

To make matters worse, she had to miss a day of work because of this sickness. This was especially hard on us because she is the only one currently employed. She lost $65 in wages for that missed day of work on Friday.

When the doctor was able to see her, he diagnosed her with sinusitus and prescribed her similar medication to mine. He wrote the same presciption for the antibiotic as he did for me, but he wrote a different prescription for her cough syrup.

The doctor visit was $67 this time since the doctor decided to give us a frequent flyer discount since we both came to see him in the same week.

However, when I went to CVS to fill her prescriptions, the bill came to $80! It turns out the other cough syrup the doctor prescribed my wife cost $50 for 4 ounces of medicine.

I was appalled at how a little bottle of cough syrup could cost so much!

Thankfully, the cough medicine has done a decent job at stopping her cough. However, the side effects of this medicine, which includes a healthy dose of hydrocodone, is that it makes you very sleepy.

Here is the dilemma my wife has had to face each day: Does she cough all day at work and stay awake or does she take the medicine to stop the cough but get extremely sleepy? It has been a true conundrum.

We have both suffered through various stages of our sickness, including dry/sore throats, feeling extremely tired, getting headaches, coughing all through the night and generally feeling miserable.

When my medication ran out late last week, I was feeling okay. One day later, though, I began to digress back into the deep bronchitus cough again with that familiar tired feeling all through my body. I knew I had to go back to the doctor again!

When I saw the doctor on Monday this week, he said that I must have a virus since the antibiotics did not get rid of my bronchitus. He shrugged his shoulders and said that the virus will have to run its course through my body. The same went for my wife, too.

The way I interpreted that was that there was not much else he could do to help us!

As I was leaving, I pleaded with the doctor’s office to not charge me for another “doctor’s visit,” but to prescribe for me more medications to help alleviate the symptoms I was having.

The doctor agreed and actually gave me some free samples of the medicine I had shelled out big bucks for on my previous trips to the drug store.

He prescribed a decongestant pill for me that only cost me $10 at CVS. I was thankful for the savings on this trip to the pharmacy!

My wife and I are still suffering from the effects of this nasty virus, but our story is only one of countless millions going through the uninsured healthcare Hell in America today!

First, let me say that I am grateful that healthcare is easily accessible in this country. That is something that too many of us take for granted.

But, there needs to be an easy and affordable way for people who need health insurance to get it.

At my last employer, my health insurance was provided for by the company I worked for. However, I was paying nearly $500 a month just for my wife to have health insurance coverage!

In the 10 months I was working for that company, neither me nor my wife got sick one single time. Week after week, month after month, we paid for healthcare insurance that we never used!

If I had saved that money instead of spending it on health insurance premiums, I would have accumulated $5000 in a savings account for future healthcare expenditures.

This would have been more than enough money to pay the $350 I spent on doctor visits and medications last week. In fact, our yearly healthcare costs since we have been married has never exceeded $500!

If the money I was paying in premiums for health insurance was rolled over year after year, then it would build to a sizeable level in just a few years. Then, if a serious health condition fell on me or my wife, we would be able to afford to pay for our own healthcare.

Some call this a medical savings account and I strongly favor this idea.

With insurance companies, if you do not use the insurance, then you lose the money you invested in it! This penalizes people who try to take care of themselves by eating right and exercising regularly.

Our legislators need to take a serious look at coming up with a workable health insurance plan that will allow people to invest in their healthcare and reward them for staying healthy.

Otherwise, the uninsured healthcare Hell will continue indefinitely!

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