Health Care. Please fix.

I haven’t made up my mind about how to achieve health care reform. But shit like this needs fixing.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Susie, recently graduated from college and was about to start work. She moved into Boston from her native Wisconsin a week earlier to unpack and get settled. Unfortunately, shortly after moving in, she developed a urinary tract infection.

The timing of this could not be worse. Because she had already graduated from college, she was no longer covered under her the university’s health care plan. Her work provided health care, but it didn’t kick in until after she started several days later. While she was still signed up with an HMO from Wisconsin, but the HMO did not cover out-of-state care. In the only week of her life that she was without health insurance, Susie got sick.

So Susie asked her boyfriend, let’s call him John, who was still in school and did have health care, to help her get some antibiotics. Based on his previous experiences, John reasoned that the university’s health clinic was pretty liberal with the antibiotics and that if he faked his own urinary tract infection, even if there was no actual disease, there was half a chance that he would get medication “just in case”. And if they decided that he was a hypochondriac, well, he had only cried wolf once.

Unfortunately, while his urine sample contained no signs of harmful bacteria (expected), it did contain small traces of blood (unexpected). His doctor explained that while a small amount of blood in the urine was usually nothing to worry about, given John’s (faked) pain while urinating, there was a risk of kidney stones. So the doctor hired a taxi-cab driver to whisk John down the street to a hospital where he could get a full MRI. John, now realizing how much crap he had just stepped into, made the cab driver drop him off a block away from the hospital. He then ran back home, leading to several worried phone calls between the university health clinic, the hospital, and John’s mother.

As for Susie, she didn’t get her antibiotics, endured an extra week of pain, and had a miserable first week of work.

Fortunately for Susie, she eventually recovered. And John wasn’t in too much trouble. It could ended differently however. Susie’s urinary tract infection, left untreated, might have spread to her kidneys and caused serious complications. And John, had he successfully faked the symptoms for a different disease, might have given Susie the wrong medication, ultimately making things worse.

There are a lot of details in this health care debate, some of them sleep-inducing and some of them over my head. But I do know that shit like this needs to be fixed.

Names and some details altered for privacy