Look Ma: No Gall Bladder!

As you might have noticed, I haven’t been around for the last few days. This is because, after getting hit with excruciating pain late Sunday night, heading to the emergency room early Monday morning, and having a series of increasingly high-tech tests, the doctors decided I needed emergency surgery, which I had Monday night. Nothing serious (though it would have been had I not gotten treatment), no complications, and I seem to be recovering nicely. However, the combination of recovery and Oxycodone has gotten in the way of my posting since I got back from the hospital on Tuesday. Since I don’t seem to be able to think of anything non-obvious, I’ll just make one simple point:

Despite the extraordinary competence and kindness of everyone who took care of me, Monday was pretty bad, all things considered. Even leaving aside the fact that the pain had kept me from sleeping the night before, and that I didn’t eat anything all day, the combination of serious pain and complete uncertainty is not, in my experience, a pleasant one.

I don’t even want to think how much worse it would have been had I had to worry about the money. I have no idea how much it cost, but I’m sure it’s well into five figures. I don’t have that kind of money lying around. Not many people do. So if I hadn’t had health insurance, I would have been wondering how on earth I was going to pay for it all.

Luckily, I do have health insurance. That meant that I was able to focus on doing what I had to do to get better, and that I was not tempted, for instance, to skip out after the initial tests, which were equivocal. (I did wonder, as they wheeled me into the Department of Nuclear Medicine for the last test, whether this was some of that unnecessary care I sometimes read about. I was wrong: that was the test that led them to decide to operate within the hour.) I could focus on what I needed to do, without having to worry about how on earth I was going to come up with a completely unanticipated $20,000 or so*.

Lacking health insurance does much worse things to people than that: for instance, it can kill them. But even if all it did was make people have to pay for health care they cannot afford, and thus make people in my situation have to worry about where they were going to find the money to pay the hospital bills, that would be too much. I would be more than happy to pay some additional amount in taxes in order to live in a country in which no one in my situation ever had to worry about that. Because, frankly, emergency surgery is quite bad enough by itself.

* This is a complete guess.

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