I have been sick for over two weeks. The first week I couldn't breathe from congestion, the second week I had a fever and a cough, and now I've lost my voice and wake up with a worsening sore throat. This morning I couldn't keep lying to myself. I wasn't getting better and it was time to see a doctor.
The only problem - I'm uninsured.
It is a financial choice I've made and I'm willing to deal with the consequences. I went into the campus health clinic ready to pay for my treatment... whatever that may have been. I walked up to the counter and told the girl at the front desk that I didn't have an appointment but wanted to see a doctor and would like to know what my next step should be. Her first question was "are you part of the student health program?" I said no. She then asked, "Do you have insurance." I said no but that I still wanted to see a doctor. She looked at me confused, said she didn't know if I could get treatment without insurance. I told her I was willing to pay. She then said, "Its very expensive."
Yes I know treatment is expensive. So is health insurance. It was like she was asking me to leave. She called her supervisor over and I said I didn't have insurance but still wanted to see a doctor. She "that was fine"...um thanks. I asked how much a typical visit was. Now I know she couldn't give me an accurate response not knowing what I had or what treatment I would need, but all I wanted was a range for what a consultation might cost. She said she couldn't, in not a nice tone mind you, and left. I asked the girl again about making an appointment, and she told me I should probably look in to the DePaul health plan first. I asked for clarification about it, and she said she really didn't know anything about it. Well, thanks again.
Maybe I teared up as I left the office. I was sick, and decided to just pay for care, and they wouldn't help me. I really felt discriminated against. Its a business and I want to buy a service. Why can't they tell me what that service would cost? It's not unreasonable... any other business would have to do the same. Not everyone can go in without a care about cost because they have insurance.
I realize this was a small instance and so many people have to go through so much worse. But I also realized, even in those few minutes, that our health care system is so screwed up. I could tell instantly that if it was more consumer focused it would be of much better quality. I obviously am not an expert and could not tell you how to fix it. But experiencing something on a personal level really changes the gravity of the problem. When you feel personally discriminated against, the problem becomes real. I'm blessed to be in a place where I don't get discriminated against. And I know how lucky I am that I have enough money in the bank to pay for a doctors visit, even if I don't have insurance. I'm glad at least this experience has allowed me to see the problem with a different lens.
But I'm still sick. I was offended. And will wake up tomorrow feeling terrible. Again.
I'm going to the Walgreens walk-in clinic tomorrow. Hopefully they're more used to people like me.