These are the modern-day breadlines: people desperate not for food, but for health care.
“We are working taxpaying jobs, paying taxes, and we can’t get insurance because we make $6.55 an hour,” said Laura Head, 32, of Rogersville, Tenn., the first person in line Friday for the first day of the Remote Area Medical clinic, an annual three-day event offering free medical care. “This is really a great beneficial thing, but it doesn’t have to be this way; we could all have insurance.”
A single mother of three who mows yards and moves trailers for a living, Head said she arrived at the fairgrounds Tuesday, to camp out at the fairgrounds until the health fair began Friday morning. Her motivation was simple: severe, constant pain.
Close to two years ago, her boyfriend smashed her teeth, she said – but, without the $6,000 needed to have the teeth pulled she has endured infection after infection, making literally 100 visits to the emergency room for antibiotics and pain medication.
She’s been billed between $240 and $290 a visit, she said – and, even after racking up bills far higher than the cost of extracting the teeth, she was stuck with them.
Scott Syverud, an emergency room doctor at the University of Virginia who came to volunteer at RAM, said Head’s problem is not unique; dental pain is the most common complaint at American emergency departments.
“I see it every day and every night,” Syverud said. “This is what I see in the emergency department every day, it’s just bigger here. It’s harder to ignore.”
The lack of access to health and dental care is not an Appalachian problem, he said – it’s a problem all across the nation.
“Emergency rooms act as the safety net in this system,” he said, “and that’s at the breaking point.”
Nope, no problem with our health care system, nosiree. Best in the world, you know. Everybody's got health care! Everybody's doing just fine!
Just ask the Cons. Don't ask those thousands of people lined up for miles desperately seeking health care. Don't pay them no mind....
Cons should click for an important message.
It could save their asses.