Healthcare for the lucky ones among us.

I am definitely one of the lucky ones: senior citizen with no chronic ailments and with access to Medicare and private insurance. I can choose my doctors (sort of) and usually do not have to wait a long time for appointments.

Thinking about fellow citizens who are uninsured or under-insured, I took time to add up what I spend annually on health coverage. Counting mandatory deductions for my Medicare coverage, premiums paid to private insurance companies, and the fee my internist charges for “concierge medicine,” in 2019 I spent about $9,000.00 on health care. Again, I do not suffer from chronic ailments and nothing happened in 2019 that required more than routine maintenance.

Could I cut back on my annual expenditure for health care? Yes, I could forego “concierge medicine” and sign up with an internist who does not charge a fee. That is, I could do so in theory. Finding another competent internist in my community who accepts new patients is another matter.

In my case, the best option is to do nothing. I can afford to spend about $9,000.00 annually on health care. But what about the large majority of my fellow citizens who cannot? We are generally aware of the number of people who seek medical help only when they are desperate; we know why many people show up in emergency rooms all across this country. What about the much larger number who forego preventative care from the day they are born? What about the seniors who have health coverage in theory, but are told “sorry, Dr. X does not accept Medicare patients.”?

What is truly alarming is that millions of my fellow citizens experience this reality and accept it, having been told over and over again that in this country we enjoy the best healthcare system in the world. An enormous and enormously profitable industry feeds this myth with help from the medical establishment and many elected officials. Nobody, it seems, is willing to explain to the American public the difference between cutting-edge medical research and treatment, in which we excel, and plain old public health, in which we fail day after day.

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