Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Long, long ago I had good medical insurance, so long ago that it was in the days of strong labor unions. That both of these things have disappeared from the American landscape I'm sure is a matter of sheer coincidence. Even when I had it, my visits to doctors were usually when I accompanied small children who were closely related to me--I'll spare you the details.

Because I grew up where there were no doctors, I never got into the habit of popping in to see one when I felt ill. Aspirin, bed rest, denial all served me well in childhood, along with soaking wounds that had the potential for infection in hot water and epsom salts for hours on end.  Even when I lived in Bangkok, where seeing a doctor costs about as much as having a morning latte in Seattle, I rarely did. And now that I'm back in the U.S. forget it.

In a year and a half, I will be eligible for Medicare--forgive me if I don't express exultant gratitude when I think of it. Bloated medical costs have turned this into another cash cow for the medical establishment and a cruel joke for elderly people who rely upon it. My mother at 88 has been paying for a supplemental insurance policy that covers what Medicare doesn't; other elderly people go into debt when using this boon to aging humanity. Whoopie.

This program has become a banner-issue in the presidential campaign. Everyone agrees it needs tweaking but nobody is addressing the real issue--the absurd cost of hospitalization, of a visit to a doctor's office,or  the obscene greed of pharmaceutical companies.

The other night, after a bout of vomiting to get rid of shellfish I should never have eaten, my lips began to tingle. Over the next few hours so did my cheeks and fingertips. I drank huge quantities of water to rehydrate and read advice from Facebook friends. Doctor and emergency room came up more than once. I stayed home.

Will my attitude change once I turn 65? No, I don't think so. At least as long as I don't need cataract surgery. And if I do need that, I'll be on the plane to Bangkok. Medicare won't be going with me, since it only is paid to U.S. providers.

Cue wild laughter here.

Diet, exercise, aspirin, epsom salts--they've worked so far. Add a dash of denial and don't call me in the morning.

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