Nothing Good Ends in "oma"
I entered the hospital last month with two adrenal glands and one tumor. After a two night stay I was released with one adrenal gland and, if things went well, zero tumors. People that know me for my calm demeanor and thrill-adverse lifestyle might be surprised to hear that I ever had any adrenal glands. But yes, I had two until now. The tumor was discovered one month prior on an x-ray that was ordered to locate an onerous kidney stone. It was then that I heard the words one hopes to never hear, "We found something on your scan." It was called, speculatively, an adrenal adenoma. At no point before or after the battery of blood and urine tests that followed was there any concern that my mass/lesion/growth was cancerous, then again, nothing good ends in "oma".
My family and I were nervous about my condition and the surgery. Life's problems seem to lose their weight and slip off into the distance when faced with a health crisis. It was very hard on my young son who, at six, is just old enough to understand what was at a stake. I can't stress enough that the fear we all felt was despite my doctors firmly believing and constantly communicating that malignancy was nothing to be concerned about. It didn't matter, for us it's still difficult to hear you have a tumor because nothing good ends in "oma".
After surgery the tumor was determined to be a very rare pheochromocytoma which, had it grown larger, could have been a real, though not cancerous, issue. The surgery was a success. Phone calls were made to family and friends. Sighs of relief all around. As recovery began, the life that had been put on hold trickled back into, well, life. The back log of emails was gone through, Facebook posts were sorted and the stack of mail got read. In the mail, waiting for me upon my discharge, was the first of what will be many medical bills.
My wife and I have solid health insurance. That said, we will no doubt hit our yearly out of pocket cap (remember that kidney stone that kicked off this whole mess? It's still waiting for treatment). When it's all said and done this adventure will cost roughly what two, week-long family vacations to visit Grandma in Florida would have cost, a trip we save up for once a year. Payment plans, credit cards and a home equity loan are all on the table. And we're fortunate, blessed even, for those to be options.
The threat of bankruptcy due to medical expenses is a uniquely American problem. While the actual percentages are debated (from 62% to 4%) what isn't up for debate is that only in this country do medical expenses cripple a families finances. How many houses are sold and 401Ks are cashed out instead of declaring bankruptcy? I'm sure you've seen people on Facebook asking for contributions to a medical fund. That's what it has come to: people asking friends and acquaintances, and through shares and likes, their friends and acquaintances for help with medical bills. It has to be a difficult post to write but what other options exist? We need help from strangers to pay our medical bills and we're willing to mortgage our dignity.
Maybe Facebook or Elon Musk could come up with a website that is always accepting donations for people in medical/financial crises. Everyone would just chip in every so often and should things turn unfortunate for you, you could make a withdrawal. I have a great name for it: Medicare.
For many people socialism, and anything unlucky enough to be labeled socialist, is completely un-American. However if we look towards the other industrialized countries we see many different solutions to the healthcare problem, some not really that socialist, and some already a part of our lives in this country. From the government owning the hospitals (U.K. and our VA) to the government being the sole insurer (Canada and our Medicare) to requiring private insurance companies to function as not-for-profits (Germany and many U.S. utilities).
The tools to put an end to financial ruin after medical emergencies are already in place. Facebook has proven that, as a society, we have no problem asking fellow citizens for support. However, thanks to greed or ideological recalcitrance we simply refuse to do it. Despite my benign tumor never posing a serious medical threat, it has deeply affected my families finances proving that nothing good ends in "oma".