Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Medical Care In America

Victor Davis Hanson (now added to my BlogRoll - I seem to be doing that a lot lately) takes a first-hand look at the state of medical care in the poorer areas of the US.

When I listened to Howard Dean, John Edwards, and John Kerry rail about "30 million Americans without health care" I assume they are talking about impoverished places like my hometown, not their own pricey digs around Burlington, Georgetown, or Beacon Hill.

Still, when I arrived there last week I was a little startled by the contrast between my cars and the others in the parking lot. My 1999 Mazda with the door badly dented and a weak battery was put to shame by brand new Chevy and Ford trucks that were lined up in front of the ER entrance. There were a couple of new Ford Rangers and some assorted late model Toyotas and Hondas.

In the cohort of waiting patients, I was the only one who seemed either to speak English or have health insurance. I waited my long turn, as the ER admirably ran simply on the basis of triaged first-come, first serve. Insurance, citizenship, or knowledge of English made absolutely no difference. There was no class, race, or even legal hierarchy that determined who saw the doctor first.

And what followed might have further impressed Ted Kennedy. None of the patients were turned away, although many of their apparent ailments that morning√£sniffles, a bad hangover, a sprained wrist, a turned ankle, and back pain√£seemed to me less urgent than my then swollen broken arm.
The whole thing deserves to be read (as does most anything written by VDH), but note especially his conclusion:
[W]e should perhaps remember that we are not heartless the next time some demagogue slurs the United States as an oppressive society that ignores its less fortunate. By any definition of classical poverty and neglect, the patients I sat with last week were neither terribly impoverished nor without care - nor worried in the least about how all the nurses, doctors, receptionists, and expensive machines and drugs that they took for granted would be at their service were going to be paid for.
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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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