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An argument for universal healthcare

May 31, 2017Will Leffert

I'm sitting here writing this as one of countless pleas from numerous people in the US who desperately need better healthcare.

I'm 33 years old; soon to be 34. I've got a great job. I've got health insurance.

I also can't afford to go to the ER like I should have.

Let me start at the beginning.

I've got 2 major health problems that I've been dealing with for a good chunk of my life. TMJ disorder (a problem with my jaw that causes intense pain) and arthritis (mostly affecting my knees and hands, having required me to walk with a cane for the past couple of years).

I recently decided to make a "wellness visit" that is paid for by my insurance once a year. I talked with the doc about everything; I'm doing well, all things considered. My doctor even made note that my blood pressure is pretty good considering I'm a smoker (which helps with my TMJ disorder). I mentioned that I would like to quit smoking, but couldn't due to my jaw problems (I end up in horrible pain due to the muscle spasms, which cigarettes help). We came up with a treatment plan for that, and my arthritis.

We tried one combination of arthritis medication and muscle relaxer. Sadly, the arthritis meds didn't agree with my stomach, and the muscle relaxer did little to help except knock me out (which does me no good when I'm at work). We already had something worked out in case the arthritis meds didn't help, and I chatted with some fellow TMJD sufferers about what they are on. We changed my prescription, and I picked it up.

This past Saturday, I took my new pain reliever for the first time. After a few hours, my throat started swelling. I had difficulty breathing. My extremities went numb.

At this point, I should have gone to the ER. I knew I was having a reaction to the medication.

I also knew that I couldn't afford an ER visit. It would cost me at least a grand to go and get treatment.

So, I stayed home. I worked on controlling my breathing. I did everything I could to relax.

24 hours later, my throat swelling went down and I had regained full feeling in my limbs. I still felt weak, but I was alive. I thought I was past the worst of it, and made a point to call my doctor's office Tuesday (they were closed Monday for Memorial Day) and let them know.

I biked it to the office Tuesday. Halfway on my 1.25 mile ride to work, I started feeling weak. I figured I was still recovering, so I took it slow. I got to work, and after a few hours, called my doc. I was still feeling weak, but chalked it up to the busy morning.

The nurse said I suffered from anyphalaxis. She asked me if I went to the ER. I said no, I couldn't afford it. She asked me if I used an Epi pen. I said no, I couldn't afford it. She was shocked, and cautioned me about my actions (or lack thereof).

After the call, I took a lunch break. I started feeling progressively worse. Coming back to my desk from lunch, I thought I should take the next day off to recuperate. After a little more time passed, I felt even worse. I asked to take the rest of the day off, got a ride home, and flopped onto my bed.

My throat was swelling again. My limbs felt weak. I asked my girlfriend to run to the store to get my more antihistamines and coffee.

Coffee, for those of you who aren't asthmatic, is a natural bronchodilator, which essentially makes breathing easier.

I chugged a large amount, and my breathing got better. Sadly, due to my TMJ disorder, large doses of caffeine tend to cause me pain in my jaw.

Still, better to be in pain and breathing than dead.

Now we come to today. I'm still weak. I'm tired. I won't be able to fulfill some obligations this weekend. I'm going to go to work tomorrow, but I won't be biking it. I'll need to be very careful to not overexert myself.

I supported the original implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It was a great idea; a nice transition to help us (slowly) catch up with the rest of the developed world. I was unhappy about all the give & take to get it passed, but such is the nature of politics. It gave numerous friends who had no healthcare options a chance to actually afford to go to a doctor.

With the new potential changes coming through thanks to President Trump's AHCA, it promises to leave a large number of people with some heavy burdens, essentially taking us back a few steps again.

I don't think the ACA was great. I think it was better than what we had, and much better than the proposed AHCA. I think the best would be universal healthcare.

The chief reason we don't have universal healthcare?

People don't want to pay taxes for it.

I know numerous people who have no desire to put extra money towards helping everybody, even if it is just a small amount for them.

The sad part is, there are people even more worse off than I. People who will most likely suffer for a long time, or even die.

And yet, we can't muster up the compassion to do anything about it.. Because those of us who ask for it are supposedly lazy. We don't know how to plan ahead. We don't save money. We don't take care of ourselves to begin with.

I work very hard. I budget and plan for the future. I utilize my HSA account. I try to eat as balanced a diet as possible and get exercise.

As do numerous other people who still need accessible healthcare.

Healthcare should not be a for-profit industry. When life-saving medication gets prices increased by multiples of hundreds or more, we're not doing anybody any favors but the owners of the patents for the medication.

With a for-profit healthcare industry, we force our citizens to choose between death, or debt. Debt which then can have drastic consequences to one's health, leading to more debt, and so on.

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