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A recent personal run-in with America's 19th century health care system.

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Message Farrell Winter
The Political Lowe-Down

With Derek Lowe

February 2007

The State of Health Care in America

I recently contracted an eye infection. What happened? Some bacteria crawled into my tear duct. My eye got red and swelled up. Every time I moved my head or even looked at something the pain became almost unbearable. My wife thought it funny that I, always so hygiene-conscious, should be laid low by dirt. It did no good to point out that it was only a bacteria-sized piece of dirt.

Of course I had to go to the doctor. Jin shin jyutsu and "love breaths" can only do so much. I'm not your run-of-the-mill docile patient either. I kept the doctor busy, asking him questions about my condition. He asked me questions, too. The exact same questions the nurse who just left this examination room asked me. The same questions the nurse at the front counter asked when I came in. The same questions the nurse on the phone asked when I made this appointment. Isn't medicine - not to mention redundancy - grand?

Turns out my little visitor had a name. Dichrotis angiotis or something like that. How did it happen, I asked the doctor. "Oh, I don't know. Any number of ways. Do you wash your hands frequently?" All the time. "Oh...." His voice trailed off. What can I do to keep it from happening again? "Nothing, really." Do very many people get it? "Well, I'm an ophthalmologist, so I see it a lot. You probably don't know of anyone, or ever heard of anyone, who had it. It's pretty rare, actually."

He prescribed a week of antibiotics, to kill the evil Republican bacteria. The antibiotics also killed the nice Democrat bacteria. No problem, the health food store sells billions of enzyme cultures in a little pill. I took those to replace the Democrat bacteria killed by the non-partisan antibiotics. The doctor also prescribed eye drops. I read the side effects and almost fainted. I'm going to put this stuff in my body? In my eye, no less?

I went right out to the only genuine health food store in the county and bought some eye drops. We already had the enzyme culture pills. Then I started thinking, what if the eye drops prescribed by the doctor were formulated especially for my Dichrotis angiotis? The note on the bottle said, "If you have any questions, call the pharmacy." I called the pharmacy. After manipulating thru multiple menus I got a recording that said, "If you have any questions, call your doctor." I knew the recording didn't mean my primary care physician, because she had no idea what was happening with my eye. That's why she sent me to the ophthalmologist in the first place.

I called the ophthalmologist and got a nurse. I asked about the eye drops. "Are you a doctor?" she demanded. No, I'm.... "Then why do you want to know?" It's my body, I said. Silently. Aloud, I mumbled something in a language not known on this planet. "Alright, I'll have the doctor call you." The doctor, wisely, waited for my week of eye drop therapy to be over, and then didn't call.

All this got me thinking. I contracted an infection that occurs so seldom no one except specialists has ever heard of it, and it has a name. Millions of people - including children - starve to death every day on this planet. Our "healthcare" system is absolutely totally completely useless when it comes to this. Too busy looking for exotic diseases, so they can be named. No money in healing the sick. Keep'em sick, and keep the bucks coming in. The world economy is built on illness (plus weapons- and drug-smuggling) and the nurturing and maintenance of illness. The solution? Nationwide universal single-payer comprehensive locally accessible health care, run not by insurance companies but by medical personnel in consultation with patients and with a bottom line of quality health care, not profit.

A healthy society overall wouldn't hurt either.
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Farrell Winter describes himself as a "post-Trotskyist vegan pagan eco-feminist." He lives in Northern California with his family and works for a nonprofit as a job counselor. Currently involved in antiwar work, past activism has included "pretty (more...)
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A recent personal run-in with America's 19th century health care system.

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