Health care in this country is really fucked up

24 May 2007 // places

I play indoor soccer every week in the gym next door to my office. The best player on the field is an Indian guy named Gori. He is so fast, twisting and turning in mid-step, and holds his balance so well. Most of the time, I can barely poke my toe as he spins past me.

Today, Gori twisted one step too many. Trying to get past two guys in front of him, he does a feint and tries to force himself through the gap between two guys. One of the other guys is Eli, himself a very fast player, who manages to trap the ball. Gori flies into the gap but his foot gets caught. He falls into the ground and lands awkwardly on his shoulder.

He doesn't get up.

He is on the ground clutching his shoulder, which has swollen up underneath his shirt. He is in real pain. We stand around looking dazed. Someone gets the gym staff, who comes over. They bring him some ice.

The gym staff starts talking to him, "what do you want to do?" It does not appear the gym staff are well trained in first aid. Still, the gym staff are trained enough to tell the rest of us that the game is canceled.

"Perhaps we can give him some painkillers," someone helpfully suggests. "Sorry," replied the gym staff, "that's against gym policies."

We watch Gori doubled-up on the ground for several minutes. Then someone suggests that he really should go to the hospital. We try to help him up, but he collapses down again. He can barely walk.

Then the gym staff says what we've all been waiting for, "I think you'd better get an ambulance."

Gori looks up, and the first thing that comes out of his mouth (and running through all our minds) is, "how much is it going to cost??"

That's so fucked up. Only in America, does a member of a gym in a medical research university who gets hurt, worry about the cost of an ambulance. Gori decided to get the ambulance, and he did have student health insurance but who knows if it will cover his shoulder injury.

In every other developed nation I know, you just call the ambulance because it's the kind of public service your government provides. But in the great US of A, you gotta worry about whether your wallet can cover it.