In a world that is utopian, the practice of medicine would be used exclusively for the treatment and prevention of disease. Mitigating factors, such as socioeconomic status, would never contribute to the level of patient care.
Unfortunately, our world isn’t a utopia.
In our world, medicine has come to be, arguably, the most lucrative practice out there. If you walk into a hospital, regardless of your injury, one of the first things you’re going to be asked is about insurance. If you don’t have it, and you’re seeking treatment for anything non-life threatening, you might as well turn around and walk right back out.
Health insurance companies have perfected the art of covering exactly what you don’t need.
Therefore, many people that don’t have work benefits or enough money to cover out-of-pocket expenses choose not to carry health insurance.
It’s risky business: sure, you’re pinching a few pennies, but if something catastrophic were to happen and you can’t pay for all treatment out-of-pocket, you’re done for.
So the ethical question has been raised: do people that don’t carry health insurance deserve the same level of patient care as those that do?
Again, the utopian answer would be that socioeconomic status should have no impact on a life or death decision.
And again, that’s not the world that we live in.
Do doctors and hospitals have the financial capacity to treat regardless of the patient’s capability to pay? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that they should.
“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to adequately care for the sick” is part of the modernized Hippocratic Oath that physicians swear under. Because of that, it is within a physician’s right to turn a patient away because of a lack of economic stability.
Because this seems fundamentally wrong, government has taken steps toward universal health coverage. However, that comes with its own set of questions: is it my responsibility, as a taxpayer and healthcare carrier, to care for those that cannot care for themselves? At what point does your inability or unwillingness to carry health coverage become my problem?
Ultimately, I would love for everyone to have access to healthcare at its finest. More than anything, I never want another person to be turned away because they simply cannot afford treatment. But, in order for that to happen, we don’t need to sit and hope for a reform of the healthcare system. We need every single person to be accountable for themselves and understand the importance of health coverage.
I cannot even count the number of people that tell me of their symptoms and then proceed to refuse medical treatment because they don’t have health coverage. No, this is not because they are financially incapable of paying for it; this is because they don’t view it as a necessary expenditure.
If you want medical treatment, carry health insurance. We can’t expect the system to change; we need to change how we view coverage. Because we don’t live in a utopian society, it is not okay to rely on the altruism of others to get you treatment. This is accountability for one’s self at its finest.
No, health insurance is not perfect. You are going to end up paying for things that you think that you shouldn’t and are going to get so incredibly frustrated with any and all insurance companies that you’re going to constantly suppress the urge to smash your phone against the wall. However, it is absolutely a necessary expenditure.
That being said, I understand and can completely empathize with the people that cannot, under any circumstances, budget for health coverage. They should not be unable to receive treatment because of their financial circumstances. But don’t hold your breath for physicians or hospitals to begin covering those that cannot pay. They are going to get their money, even if that drives you to bankruptcy. Take any and all necessary steps to get yourself covered as soon as possible.
It is far better to have health coverage and not need it than the other way around. We don’t live in a utopian society where everyone looks out for everyone else, be accountable for yourself and get health insurance.