Thought Catalog
May 13, 2017

A Story About Health Care

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What is the issue?
Pete Longworth

To those unaware, America has passed a health care bill in the House of Representatives that is contentious, to say the least, and although I don’t really get political on this platform, I feel like I’m in a unique position to speak to this issue.

First, I’m an American who has lived overseas for about a decade. Second, I have a decent following of people who read my words and might listen to what I have to say. Third, people are a passion of mine and I’m on a mission to spread some kindness in the world. Fourth, I’m pretty fucking disgusted with what’s going on in America at the moment and see this as an opportunity to jump on my soapbox for a bit.

Mainly, I just feel an obligation to share some stories.

A few years ago, in Australia, I crashed my moped because a young girl ran straight out into the road without looking my way. It was either smash into her, or slam on the brakes, swerve into oncoming traffic, crash, roll around a few times, and get pretty messed up.

I chose the latter.

I remember laying in the middle of the road, staring up at the sky, and slowly moving my fingers and toes. I got carried off to the side of the road by a group of kind folks, and when the ambulance arrived, I vividly remember the EMTs trying to get me to go to the hospital. I was a bit out of it, and it was a friendly argument. I wasn’t severely damaged, so I refused to go.

One guy looked at me, smiled and pleaded, “Come on. This isn’t America. It won’t cost you $5,000. It’s free here.”

That moment is burned into my brain.

It’s one of my most vivid memories of that whole experience.

“It’s free here.”

I remember sitting on the side of the road, looking down at my bloody foot, shaking my head, and wondering why ambulances weren’t free in America, too.

I remember wondering why help in emergencies weren’t a thing that my country decided should be free.

And then I hurt my knee, and I started thinking other things.

A year later, also in Australia, I was playing soccer and some guy tripped me and I fell and it hurt real bad so I went to the doctor to have my knee looked at.

Instinctively, I freaked out, worrying how I was going to pay for this trip.

What if I needed surgery? What would that cost? How could I possibly afford this?

(Also, to set the scene, I was a full-time student with no private health insurance, earning about $24,000 a year.)

I’d played soccer since I was about five years old. It’s one of my favorite things. Would my lack of money mean that I was done forever playing one of my favorite things?

And if so, is that okay?

Is that ever okay?

It turns out the doctor was free.

“What… how… why?”

I needed an MRI to see how bad the injury was, and my anxiety and worry started up again. Oh, dear me…

Lather, rinse, repeat.

“An MRI?! Oh, shit. How can I possibly afford this? What am I going to do?”

Around 10am, I called to ask about the MRI, and they booked me in for one on that same day at 2pm.

“What… how…. whoa…”

I went and had the MRI done.

The MRI was also free.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

I text my family immediately. They couldn’t believe it.

A few days later, I went back to the doctor to examine the results. I had torn two ligaments in my knee. It was a severe injury.

That doctor visit was also free.

I was then referred to see an orthopedic surgeon to get another opinion on whether or not I needed surgery.

I freaked out again, but that doctor visit was free, too.

I was told I needed physical therapy, so I went and had six sessions.

Those visits were $20 each.

My knee got fixed, and I played soccer again.

As an American, I must admit, this entire experience blew my fucking mind.

I hurt my knee and I crashed a moped.

Terrible things, these are not life-ending, but I was stressed and scared about how I would heal. I can’t begin to imagine how it would feel to have my child’s life at stake, or to need surgery, or be so desperate for medication I could die without it. I don’t know what it would be like to be terrified of what the law will be next week, or how I’ll survive. I don’t want to know what it’s like to know there’s a cure I cannot afford.

I don’t profess to be an expert on health care. Admittedly, I don’t know much.

I’m a marine biologist and a writer. I speak and I coach but one thing I know is that it’s not right for people to die because they cannot afford to see a doctor, especially in the richest country in the world.

That just makes no sense to me.

This health care bill that passed, I watched the news and I saw men who laughed, celebrated, cheered, and congratulated each other.

I wanted to know more about the bill. I looked up some articles online.

I read that “fewer older, low-income, and sick people will be able to afford insurance.”

I read that “a 64-year-old making $26,500 would be responsible for $14,600 in premiums under the American Health Care Act.”

I read that “the most valuable of the tax cuts are the ones for individual taxpayers making over $200,000.”

I read that “some 24 million fewer people would have health insurance in a decade.”

Someone told me that women who have been raped may have to pay more for insurance. I don’t know if this is true, but it disgusts me that it might be.

Seriously, what the fuck is going on in America right now?

Where has our decency gone? The unity and community we fought wars to preserve and defend?

How is hypocrisy the new law of the land?

I don’t understand.

I really don’t.

I see these men on TV smiling in solidarity.

With whom?

I see them cheering and laughing.

For what?

So that less old people will be able to afford insurance?

So that more sick people will die?

So that the rich will get richer?

It just makes no sense to me.

There is so much better that we could all be. TC mark