A while back, it became clear that one or more squirrels had found a way to gain access to the walls of our house as a means of taking refuge from the cold. Obviously, we had a problem. So we called the management company who sent a guy over to seal up the relevant hole. Only problem: He left a squirrel trapped inside. Thus, it was only a matter of time until Catherine came home to find the squirrel in her room. She fled out of the room, down the stairs, screaming which prompted Wreck to bite her in the leg. The squirrel was dispatched, Catherine took some time to blog, and then she and Kriston went to the emergency room to get the leg checked out. And we all lived happily ever after.
Except! Right before leaving for the hospital Catherine recalled that she hadn’t been working at her new job long enough to have health insurance. No problem, said Spencer, it’s an emergency room, you don’t need to pay. I said I thought that was wrong, you can get emergency service for free if you’re indigent, the merely uninsured need to pay. But wait, says Catherine, she thinks the student insurance she had from when she was in the Northwestern Journalism School is still in effect. So she goes upstairs to get the insurance card while Kriston and I have a sidebar discussion about whether or not you need to worry about in-network/out-of-network distinctions when it comes to emergency care. We decide that would be too evil even for insurance companies, and he can probably just take her to whichever emergency room happens to be closest by.
I’m not sure how economists quantify it, but it’s this stuff that’s surely the craziest thing about the American health care system. I recall during my brief spell as a summer camp counselor standing in front of a counter at the emergency room of a hospital in Augusta, Maine. My head was bleeding and I needed some staples put in so it would stop bleeding. But before I could get that done, I needed to fill out some insurance forms. Unfortunately, I needed my left hand not only to hold the form in place, but also to hold the towel down onto my head so as to prevent blood from dripping into my eyes or onto the paper. Eventually, I settled upon on awkward posture where my left elbow held the paper in place while my left hand held the towel. Consequently, my writing was even less legible than usual, some blood got on the form, and the whole thing took a remarkably long time considering that the doctor wasn’t actually busy treaty any other patients at the time.
I always wonder what happens if something really bad happens. What if Catherine’s unconscious and not around to remember that her insurance card is somewhere in her bedroom? Would the Augusta people still have made me fill out the form if my whole left arm had been chopped off?