I have a strong relationship with my younger siblings. Partially because I had to raise them. Which is a common responsibility for an older child in an immigrant family, the health of our siblings. Moving to a foreign country can be overbearing, so you become the bridge and translator for your parents. It also converts to a common catchphrase for your parents when you do something wrong: “You’re too American.” If I’m taking an extra five minutes in the bathroom and my mom needs to use it, that’s it: I’m too American. The line is a little blurry.
Recently, the fluctuating temperatures have left me and my family under the weather. After being coughed on for most of the night, for three days straight, I thought it was about time that my sister, Sherry went to the doctor. Due dates and bills already made it hard to sleep at night. I didn’t need sniffles and snoring to add to my insomnia.
I called the insurance company early in the morning to find a list of doctors in my area who would be available to check Sherry as soon as possible. I think that’s probably why I was struggling to keep up in my economics course. The hour-long phone conversation with a smart machine sucked all the oxygen from the left side of my brain.
I decided to give Urgent Care a shot, and called in advance to make sure the Urgent Care by Queens College accepted Emblem Health, so I could drive her to the doctor during my break. I don’t know if it was my good luck, or Sherry’s, but the Urgent Care was completely empty. It took me fifteen minutes to fill out the paperwork. It took the front desk five minutes to review it, and within the next ten minutes Sherry was with the doctor. I went in with her. She probably thought it was because I am protective, but the truth is I needed some second-hand diagnosis because I hadn’t stopped coughing for the past two weeks, myself.
It’s flu season! Everyone is coughing.
Dr. Patel was speed talking, but he asked the right questions:
“Do you feel dizzy?”
“Is your nose congested?”
“Does your chest feel tight?”
He came to a conclusion that Sherry had a common cold which can easily be taken care of with some antibiotics, but she also had an ear infection. Which she did not believe because her ears weren’t “hurting,” so she made my ears hurt the whole ride home, complaining that the doctor had given her the wrong diagnosis. It took me half and hour to convince her that an ear infection can have similar effects as a cold, and it doesn’t always cause your ears to ache. Sherry stayed unconvinced. And I realized that we spend way too much time together because she was picking up my habits. Now I definitely felt like a parent.
My class ended at 6, and it took about half an hour to get home during prime traffic time. Sherry reminded me that we should stop at the Braddock Pharmacy to see if her antibiotics were ready for pick up.
Braddock Pharmacy looked a little shady. It had a logo board that looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for years and the deli side of the pharmacy looked like it only carried expired products. Why did I come here? It’s two blocks away from my house. Plus, the pharmaceutical side was up to par. And Mrs. Gupta always gave me the brightest of smiles.
Luckily, Sherry’s antibiotics were ready. Mrs. Gupta’s smile folded as she realized that one of the items the doctor prescribed wouldn’t be covered by insurance. I asked her which one–she said the ear drops. I shot Sherry a dirty look.
“This is what happens when you have a kaali zubaan,” I said.
Sherry and Mrs. Gupta laughed.
I asked Mrs. Gupta how much the ear drops would be if I paid out of pocket.
“Two hundred and fifty dollars.”
For ear drops?
I felt bad for giving Mrs. Gupta trouble, but she insisted it was no big deal. (See, I knew there was a reason why I came to this pharmacy). Mrs. Gupta reassured me that she would call the doctor to see if we could get a substitute that would be covered by insurance. She called the urgent care several times, but the line continuously went busy. At the end I had to leave the ear drops behind. The pharmacy by my house closed by 7PM, so I told Sherry I’d hit the drug store tomorrow for over the counter medicine since her ears weren’t hurting anyways. Sherry rolled her eyes–because she still genuinely believed she did not have an ear infection.
But boy did she have an ear infection. That night she tossed and turned with an excruciating ear ache. She couldn’t get out of bed either because the earache was not only giving her a migraine but also making her dizzy. I held back my “I told you so” because I could feel her pain. She didn’t complain much either. Which just made me feel worse.
I found a pharmacy that was open 24 hours a couple miles away, and so I drove out at 6AM the next morning. The $20 ear drops accomplished the same as the $250 ear drops.
The moral of the story: Ear drops shouldn’t be unaffordable. Health care shouldn’t be unaffordable.
In fiscal year 2015, the U.S. federal budget is $3.8 trillion. These trillions of dollars make up about 21 percent of the U.S. economy (as measured by Gross Domestic Product, or GDP). The U.S. Treasury divides all federal spending into three groups: mandatory spending, discretionary spending and interest on debt. Health care falls under discretionary spending, among other necessities such as housing, and transportation.
Here’s a visual representation of our budget in 2015 for discretionary spending.
We spend more on military then we do on education, medicare and health, Veterans benefits, housing and community, energy and environment, science, social security, and transportation combined.
By privatizing health insurance, it’s easy for companies to hike the prices of drugs, leaving ordinary individuals “under the weather.”
According to a new study published by the American Journal of Public Health there are as many as 45,000 deaths associated with a lack of health insurance annually. This is two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002.
Free health care has been on the table for a while. So why am I mentioning it now?
Because I’m tired.
I’m tired of having meaningless arguments with people who think affordable healthcare is a luxury.
I’m tired of explaining that the difference between barbarism and civilization is that it entails caring. I say everything is political, but I’m also tired of having my health, sanity, happiness and the wellbeing of my family, the personal story of my life, be a political statement.