When I fell ill three weeks ago, it felt rather fitting that the national health care debate was (and still is) raging. Unfortunately for my sanity, the health care debate brought me the worst fever dreams I’ve ever encountered in all my years. Being influenced by large amounts of Nyquil, a severe lack of sleep and a fever, I started to worry, “what if the Republicans aren’t lying to me and the Democrats are going to try and kill me off while I’m at my weakest?”
I started to worry I would be forced to appear before a government-run death panel that would halt any treatment I may receive to stay breathing. I was afraid I would have to wait weeks to see some communistical, poorly trained doctor from the third world who wouldn’t know the flu from the femur. Thankfully, I woke up, splashed some cold water on my face, and realized these worries were baseless, dangerous and quite foolish, but the ordeal was far from over.
After my epic fever dream, I decided it was time I put our fabled health care system through its paces. I don’t usually have much interaction with this leviathan of the American marketplace, so I figured my navigation would be a good, non-scientific case study to use for future reference, and to see what the fuss is all about.
I thought I would be golden in my quest to see a doctor because, luckily, I fall in the two out of three American students who are able to continue to receive insurance coverage from their parents. According to my insurance card, I have a doctor at our own GW Medical Faculty Associates. I called up to get an appointment. They had never heard of me and said I couldn’t see one of their doctors.
When I matriculated last year, my insurance carrier said it would find me a doctor. Apparently, they lied to me and left me unprotected. With my sinuses firmly packed, I called CareFirst and they told me to start calling through their list of doctors taking patients to find someone else to see. GW doctors were the first three pages of available doctors – chalk up another fail for insurance. Frustrated, I called back and was told all I could do was find a doctor on my own, or “drive to Alexandria to walk into an acute care clinic.” My insurance carrier left me to fend for myself.
After hours of calling doctors, my dad and CareFirst, I was finally able to find a new doctor. Actually seeing him was the easiest part of the experience. He promptly saw me, diagnosed me, told me I didn’t have the pig flu, gave me medicine to help cope with my sickness and told me to go back to bed.
I found it astounding that a member company of the largest health care federation could not provide me with access to care when I needed it. So much for insurers caring about their members. They didn’t care about finding me a way to see a doctor as soon as possible. The Kaiser Foundation has called college students the “invisible minority” in the health care debate, and we often fall through the cracks of the system. I am blessed that my family can continue to provide me with health insurance but, even with that insurance, I still had a rough road to travel down when I felt like death. Yes, my problems were trivial. But I’m left wondering: if the health insurance system can’t deal with a common cold, how on God’s green earth can it deal with serious issues?
The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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