Thursday, August 20, 2009

Value for the Money

Author David Sedaris shares a personal anecdote about healthcare

Allow me to answer with kidney stones. I had my first one at the age of 34. At the time I was living in New York, and had no health insurance. Never in my life had I experienced such pain, but I couldn't afford to go to the hospital, and so I passed it at home, not knowing until the end what it actually was. (I thought I was delivering Satan's baby through my penis.)

I had my second kidney stone seven years later, in Paris. It was ten o'clock in the morning, and after looking at my options in the phone book, I took the metro to a hospital in the 15th. Two minutes after walking through the door, I was in a private room. Delicious, mind-numbing drugs were delivered to my blood stream by way of a tube and life was beautiful. I was in the hospital for four hours, and as I was leaving, I asked the receptionist how I was supposed to pay.

“Oh,” she said, “We'll send you a statement.”
“But you never even asked me my name.”

A few weeks later I got a bill for the equivalent of seventy dollars, this because I'm not a French citizen, and am therefore not entitled to free care.

I got my third kidney stone a few months ago, while on a lecture tour of the United States. The hospital I went to was in Westchester county and the service was outstanding. Maybe I arrived at the slowest time, but, like in France, I was waited on immediately, and the doctor and nurses could not have been more pleasant. Again I was there for four hours, though this time the bill came to $5,800. Not including medicine.

I'm completely fascinated by the health care debate going on in the United States, especially by posters of Obama with a little mustache drawn on his upper lip. Is that what Hitler is really known for, his health care plan? To quote Bill Maher, “I haven't seen this many pissed off old white people since they canceled, “Murder She Wrote.”

Now I live in England. I've just been granted Indefinite Leave To Remain, which allows me access to the NHS.


The only way to prefer what we do in the U.S. is if you are actually insane. I'm a fiscal conservative so I like to get my money's worth with everything. You tell me:

$70 vs $5,800+