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Debunking Health Care Costs Apologists

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The date of October 31, 2009 is emblazoned in my memory forever. Why? Because that is the day I endured the most excruciatingly painful experience of my sixty years on this planet...a kidney stone. How one small object could inflict such an unrelenting, all consuming pain is incomprehensible. Anyone who has survived this particular cataclysm knows what I am talking about. Some say that passing a kidney stone is as close as a man will come to knowing what women go through during child birth. However, I heard a woman once say, "I've had stones and I've had babies. I would much rather have babies."

Fortunately for me, my ordeal only lasted a few hours. I was also fortunate to be within five minutes of a state of the art emergency room that treated me with compassion and efficiency. My good fortune continued since I had health insurance that helped pay for the staggering bill that was presented after my care. My insurance company was billed over five thousand dollars and I was billed an additional twelve hundred. I was there for a total of two hours and my treatment consisted of an intravenous shot of the best drugs on Earth. I am not exaggerating about the drugs. In a matter of seconds, they transported me from the gates of hell to the very portals of heaven. The only other service provided was a CT scan to ascertain the location of the stone. I was seen by one nurse, one doctor, and one radiology tech.

I was shocked at the big bill and disappointed even further that Blue Cross/Blue Shield refused to pay for the CT scan. My wife, upon hearing my incessant complaints about the bill, pointed out that everyone working at the hospital, which includes doctors with years of med school, registered nurses, receptionists, lab techs, parking lot attendants, janitors and others all had to be paid. Also, the nice new building with state of the art equipment had to be paid for as well as the investment made by Big Pharma in developing the wonder drugs that killed my pain. End of argument? Usually.

On the surface, her argument made sense as she parroted the general spiel that is offered in defense of the ever escalating costs of health care. She is, after all, a Registered Nurse and has a keen understanding of the health care industry. I let it go as we started making payments on the bill, but something about her logic nagged at me. Just today, I had a lucid moment and a revelation came to me that I believe totally debunks her argument...

I recently flew from Nashville to Los Angeles and back again. There were skilled mechanics servicing the plane, veteran pilots that flew me safely, flight attendants that made me comfortable, baggage handlers that made sure my bags arrived with me, reservations personnel that efficiently performed all the logistics, and security people that screened and fondled me. There were management people who ensured their underlings did their jobs, aeronautical research engineers, computer programmers, janitors, cooks, parking lot attendants, and a host of other people that all support the airline industry and the services they provide for travelers. They did all this and everyone got paid while I forked out a grand total of three hundred bucks. In spite of inflation and escalating fuel costs, this is roughly the same amount I have paid for this flight for years. Safe travel is just as vital to consumers as patient care and no less complicated.

So, honey, don't try to justify the outrageous escalating costs of health care by citing a plethora of skilled professionals and services that hospitals offer. Every business sector in the country has a lot going on behind the scenes and are still able to maintain consumer costs at a fairly steady and reasonable rate. Every business except health care. I wonder what a kidney stone would cost me now since I have no insurance.


 

Gary Vance is an evangelical pastor/writer living in rural Tennessee. He is the author of "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" and other published essays.
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