Monday, August 13, 2007

To The Point

It was turning out to be another hectic morning at the Lewis home. Charles was getting ready for school while my wife was busy preparing for work. I kind of forget what I was doing until my son limped in my room with a piece of pencil stuck in his foot. It didn’t seem all that serious and after offering a few mumbled suggestions (what do you expect at around 6 in the morning) we tried to get down to the point. (okay that was bad) After about 45 minutes of tweezers, nail clippers and even soaking it became obvious that our simple little extraction was a bit more than we could handle.

So it was off to the emergency room to have the ‘experts’ take a crack at it.
After the usual processing (aka do you have health insurance) we plopped down and waited for the doc on call. We both thought he or she would come in, take a quick look at his left foot, use a thingamajig to get the lead out and we’d be on our way to school. Wrong! After x-rays, visual inspection, lots of probing and a call for back-up my man decided that he too had been beaten by a ¼ inch piece of graphite. Have no fear the foot doc was near. After waiting about a half hour our friendly neighborhood podiatrist swooped in, took a good look and in a few moments Charles was as good as new. All in all we were in the e-room for about 3 hours (and probably had actual physician contact for about 45 min). Charles’ foot was wrapped, he was given a couple of scripts and sent home for the day. We were cautioned against possible infection, given a follow-up appointment and sent on our merry way. Just another adventure in the life of the Lewis’.

The cost for that micro-sized piece of graphite?
Well our emergency room visit which included a set of x-rays, a visit by not one but two docs, a light bandage and a short ride in a wheel was a grand total of ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED, FORTY-ONE DOLLARS AND SOME ODD CENTS. $1541 smackers just because I was all thumbs with a pair tweezers. And that doesn’t include the special guest appearance and follow up with the foot doctor! That little sliver of graphite carried a hefty price. Since my health insurance has a $2500.00 deductible I’ll be doing a lot of negotiating with the hospital and Charles will be mowing a whole lot of lawns.
Thankfully, we by God’s gracious providence are in a position to handle this even if it is little by little.

But upon first sight of the bill I was flooded with a host of thoughts and memories.
I recalled all the times my mother took me to the hospital. I had a pretty bad case of asthma and frequently ended up under an oxygen tent at the U of Penn Hospital. I’m thankful that I received excellent care and am even more grateful that the government paid for it. My father worked hard but sometimes was between jobs and we didn’t always have health insurance.
I also thought of what we might do in the absence of health insurance. How would the next medical issue be paid for? What if my employment made it nearly impossible to pay off the bill?

Is health care a right or a privilege? If it’s a right does the government have any responsibility to see that its citizens have affordable access to it? If a privilege how do we respond to those who can’t afford it? Would hospitals be free to turn away the next child who arrives at an emergency room once they determined his parents didn’t have insurance or the means to pay the bill? If market based options are the only solutions to the increasing cost of health care (about six months ago I was with a group plan that cost about $12,000.00 per year) how do we apply them to those who simply can’t afford the cost of health care or health insurance? Should the church step in to help offset the cost of health care and health insurance and if so how much of our resources would we need to commit? Since the people of God have been charged and called to speak and act on behalf of the poor and less powerful (see Psalm 72:1-4, 12-14; Prov. 31:8-9, Isa. 1:16-17, 42:1-4, 58:6-14; Jer. 7:5-7; Matt. 23:23-24) what should we say about health care? Is it simply enough to trust that the market will provide a way for them?

The issues surrounding health care and health insurance are complicated to say the least and I certainly don’t know all the answers nor will I pretend that I do. I do know that my son spent about three hours in an emergency room, received some basic (though skilled) care for a minor accident and it cost over $1,500.00. And that’s something to think about.

The Lord’s Peace

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