The High Cost of Living


If you reside in the Nation Formerly Known As The US, then there are a few things you need to know about health care.

Yes, I know you’ve been told, over and over, that the US has the best health care in the world. Why, just the mention of a hospital invokes images of gleaming machines, of concerned doctors, of miracle medicines which are delivered with mechanical precision to combat any illness or injury.

Well, not so fast there, Sicky McSickerson, because that comforting image omits a few less than pleasant facts.

See, unlike every other so-called developed nation on Earth, American health care is driven by profit. Now as fine upstanding Americans, some of you may bristle at that statement and reply with ‘What’s wrong with that?’

My answer?

Profit is a feedback loop. A company makes a profit. A company sees this profit and the CEO gets a hundred million dollar bonus. This makes the company very happy. This also makes the company instantly desirous of MORE profit. More profit is made, and we go back to the beginning of this paragraph.

But all that lovely money has to come from someone, and if you’re the recipient of all these whizzbang machines and miracle drugs, that someone is you.

Some of the money you pay a health care provider comes from your insurance, if you’re fortunate enough to have any. And you pay for that, too. Maybe you don’t pay for all of it, but they demand whatever you CAN pay, and often more. But you don’t have any real choice, do you? You’re just throwing money away, eating three meals a day and expecting luxuries such as a roof and walls.

Sure, you can walk into an ER and get patched up to the point you can walk (or stumble, or crawl) out even if you don’t have insurance. But you are NOT going to get chemo, or any kind of long-term care. So if you’ve got cancer, well, here’s a few painkillers and a band-aid, and best of luck.

If you do have insurance, good for you. Let’s say you get cancer. Treatment is going to run you anywhere from ‘all the money in the world’ to ‘our CEO needs a 200-foot gold plated yacht with three chopper pads and a smaller yacht to act as a rowboat and a third smaller yacht to go get more caviar.’ Your insurance will pay 80% of that, leaving you on the hook for the other 20%, which if you’re lucky is the mere cost of a four-bedroom house with a pool in the Hamptons.

Don’t have enough cash on hand for such a purchase? Well, no worries, friend, that’s a nice enough house you DO have. And that old Toyota Corolla, it’s worth a couple hundred. We’ll just take those. Business is business, amirite?

And that’s health care for the average Jolene in the US.

A recent study revealed that 45% of Americans who are NOT health care CEOs with the aforementioned gold-plated monster yachts would have trouble paying a $500 medical bill. That nearly half of us. And five hundred bucks won’t get you a hospital room for a night, much less a full chemo program or long-term care. But enjoy both of the hospital aspirin the $500 will buy.

Let’s say you’re not sick — no, you’re just old. Maybe you have dementia, or Alzheimers, or you just can’t take care of yourself anymore. You need a rest home — pardon me, an ‘assisted living facility,’ so you start checking into those.

The very first thing you or your family will be asked concerns assets. Do you have a house? Do you have any money?

Wonderful, we’ll be taking those. Sign here.

It really is that simple. Sure, there’s a wait for a room, which might be two weeks or two years or who knows?

But rest assured the rooms are filled, and the money keeps rolling in.

This doesn’t happen in Japan or Sweden or Denmark or Canada or Germany. Even in Mexico, a Mexican citizen can walk into a hospital, receive treatment, and walk out still owning their home.

But here?

Not so much.

No, in the Land of the Fee, you’re going to pay. And pay. And pay, until you’re either well but homeless or dead.

But the upside to $500 bucks a bottle insulin and three day hospital stays that top eighty thousand dollars is the boost to the gold-plated yacht industry. Also, most CEOs have few or no other marketable skills aside from wearing suits, jacking up drug prices without shame, and scheduling meetings at 4:40 on a Friday, and we must protect our ruling class.

It’s almost funny, when you think about it. Some guy can run into a burning building and pull out nuns and orphans all day. He gets a front-page headline and a pat on the head. Meanwhile, some CEO increases the cost of a medicine priced at 20 bucks in Norway to a thousand dollars a pop in the US. He gets a couple of new helicopters because his old ones stirred up too much dust when landing near the stables. Sure, maybe some commoners die when their GoFundMe doesn’t reach their goals, but that’s the cost of doing business. If these people wanted to live, they should have been born rich.

That’s where we are here.

So here are a few tips for all my fellow Americans who have a physical body:

1) Stop aging. Just cut it out, right now. See? Was that so hard?

2) If you would put aside that three dollars a day you spend on fancy coffee, in about three thousand years you’ll have enough money saved to pay for a single MRI scan. Or, if costs keep rising, to buy a brief glance at an MRI machine as you are wheeled back into the street.

3) Housing costs are expensive, but you won’t need a house if you get three full-time jobs. Then you can put all that housing money aside for medical bills. Easy-peasy, you lazy slacker.

4) Self-care is important. To maintain peak physical condition, work out for six hours a day, eat only hand-washed kelp grown in thoughtfully sourced from artisanal kelp-farms, and run the Boston Marathon every Saturday. Get eight hours of sleep daily between your three jobs and your Uber gig. Avoid all sunlight. Breathe only filtered air.

5) Thank a CEO. You can’t do that personally, because they have hordes of bodyguards and they live in gated communities and your lack of a Rolls-Royce puts you in the wrong social class, but maybe send Merck ten bucks every now and then along with a thank-you card. You might even get a tee shirt back in the mail, if of course you still have a house and a street address. Note that the US Postal Service cannot deliver to ‘Benny, the guy with the three-wheeled shopping cart, under the I-95 overpass unless the water is rising.’

6) Don’t die. Dying is just rude when there is so much health care available. If you must die, do so without raising a fuss. There are plenty of public parks around, and an endless supply of free fallen leaves with which to cover yourself before you draw your final breath. Die with dignity, and all that. Don’t be a whiner.

Hey Canada — are you full?