My Toothache and the Healthcare Crisis

Toothache1

Photo of me after complication from root canal procedure. Tooth was extracted the next day.

As you can see from this photo, my condition was more than a simple toothache. My face was swollen due to a complication from an earlier root canal. That being said, I was still fortunate. I say this because I had resources at my disposal that many in this country do not have or at the risk of losing very soon:

1) I am currently covered under my husband’s employer health insurance which allows me to make appointments within network as needed. This includes dental coverage which is relatively generous.

2) After maxing out my dental benefits for the year, I was able to personally cover the cost of the necessary tooth extraction.

3) My employer also offers similar benefits in addition to the flexibility of being able to take paid sick-leave which was required during the week of surgery due to severe pain and fever. I could not work in my condition. Unfortunately, many Americans are forced to work through this pain for economic reasons.

 Basic healthcare coverage is considered a citizen’s right in many developed and under-developed countries. Why not in the U.S.?

According to PBS.org, about 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. This means that nearly one-third of Americans face each day without the security of knowing that, if and when they need it, medical care is available to them and their families. This means that there are thousands of mothers, fathers and children suffering through horrible pain and chronic illness without any hope of an immediate solution.

Sure there are free health clinics but there are not enough. Have you been to one?  I have.  They are often understaffed and overwhelmed. Even worse, these last-ditch options for healthcare are closing at an alarming rate around the country due to budget cuts.

nafc

Mobile free clinic setup in a U.S. small town. People drive from miles around to see the doctors and stand in line for hours before center opens.

According to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, every day in America, there are approximately 1,200 Free and Charitable Clinics providing quality health care to the Nation’s medically underserved.  These clinics rely on the generosity of volunteers and donors to help provide the medical services that so many in our country need.  Free clinics stand in the health care gap that exists for those who are uninsured or underinsured. They help relieve emergency room overcrowding.

The United States spends much more on health care than does any other developed nation but our health outcomes don’t reflect our investment in health care. We’re 25th in maternal mortality; 26th in life expectancy; 28th in low birth weight; 31st in infant mortality. This is because we do not offer universal healthcare which enables the unemployed and working poor to seek preventative and as-needed treatment. They are often seen in emergency rooms or at the point of chronic illness when treatment is much more intensive and expensive.

spending on healthcare - graph

Several years ago, there was a segment on 60 minutes about a humanitarian well-known for providing free medical care to areas in third-world countries where physicians and medicine was not readily available. Now he tours the U.S. providing those same services as if we do not have an abundance of doctors and pharmacies. One of the doctors on staff recounted the story of examining a wife and mother of four who could not afford to keep up with her follow-up appointments after a treatment for cervical cancer.

The woman’s cancer recurrence went undetected and at the time of her exam, she was diagnosed as stage 4 with a low chance of survival. The doctor, who I am sure has been well-trained in objectivity, broke down in tears on camera because the situation was so tragic and so unnecessary. A hardworking family who could no longer afford medical insurance will lose a wife and mother because of a broken healthcare system.

I agree with President Obama, “In the United States, healthcare is not a privilege for the fortunate few, it is a right.”

volunteer at care clinics

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Categories: Activism

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