Monday, March 5, 2012


It's not quite 9 am and the local drugstores aren't yet open. As soon as they are, I'm off to buy Aleve for a back that has been complaining for 48 hours.

This happens once a year or so, and I consider myself lucky. Overall I'm healthy--and that's good because in this country, I can't afford to be any other way. I have no insurance and I'm a year and eight months away from the dubious benefits of Medicare. But I'm well-schooled in the life of no health care. I grew up in territorial Alaska, where strep throat was dismissed as "swollen glands" and anything from a cat bite to an open wound was treated at home with repeated soakings in scalding water and epsom salts. Children of that time and place were damned lucky that polio didn't find its way North--we would have dropped like flies.

Even with insurance, in the days when I had it, I avoided doctors, and when I lived in a country where health care is affordable, except for a rabies shot, I went to the doctor three times in the years I was there. Each time I was given what I needed and was charged a reasonable amount of money; it was a lot the way it is when you take your pet to a veterinarian in this country.

I last saw a doctor in America in 2001. I went in for a simple physical and was there for two hours. When I was finally told to go down the hall for blood tests, I said I'd had quite enough fun for one day and left. I didn't go back and have lived to tell the tale.

I came back to this country because my sons live here and I miss them dreadfully when I'm overseas. But if there is one thing sure to drive me out of the U.S. it's the medical system. Soon I'll be old; I'll be eligible for Medicare, and the vultures will gather as my body fails me. The doctors I've seen here are not the people I want in my life during my sunset years.

When I was a child, Alaskans frequently went "Outside" to live so they could get the medical care they needed. This isn't a new concept to me. But for me "Outside" will mean Mexico, Thailand, Ecuador. It will mean choosing between my children and my health care--which I think is a choice nobody should have to make. Apparently "the Greatest Country in the World" does not agree with me. Profit motives uber alles!

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