Someone else could've had the same serious infection, but given different medications because they didn't have drug coverage, or couldn't pay.
During harvest of my final year of high school I had my first major experience with our public health care system. Until then I had been very healthy without any problems. After a few days of helping unload very dusty grain trucks I woke up very early one morning hyperventilating and struggling to breathe.
My parents immediately shot in to high gear rushing me in to the car to get me to the hospital. Luckily our farm was near a rural community with a hospital that still had a 24 hour emergency room.
When we arrived in the ER the doctors and nurses immediately got to work. They provided me with a shot I needed, stabilized me with oxygen, and ensured I didn’t lose consciousness while they worked to determine what was happening. I was able to get the tests and x-rays I needed right on site in the hospital labs, which quickly determined I had a very serious lung infection.
I am thankful to our public Medicare system. Throughout this stressful experience no one asked my parents for proof of insurance or stopped to question my family on how they would pay the costs of my treatment and tests. After that I was able to get allergy tests and preventative advice to help reduce potential future health issues - again free of cost.
But that day was also the first time I realized that the Medicare system that I had been taught to be so proud of is not as equitable and inclusive as it should be.
My doctor was worried that my infection could lead to me being back in the hospital with pneumonia if not aggressively treated. Yet when it came time to prescribe medications he paused to ask if we had a drug coverage plan before writing out my prescriptions. When my mother asked him why, he said it was because some of the more aggressive drugs were very expensive and that if we couldn’t afford to get them all he would try a different, less costly combination of drugs for me.
Since that day it has bothered me that someone else could have been sent home with a very serious infection, but with different medications than I received because they didn't have drug coverage, or couldn't pay.
Medicare is great because it's based on the principle of equal access to medically necessary treatments for everyone. It is well past time we move forward on putting a national pharma care program in place to do just that.