The Dismembered Black Knight’s immortal punchline, “’Tis but a flesh wound,” really rounds into form when you’re living without health insurance. Since I can’t even afford antibiotics to battle the flu, I must apply quirky home remedies to deal with pain. I rub aspirin on bee stings, remove blowdarts with hot pliers—you get the picture. Lately, as in the last nine years, being uninsured has become quite an inconvenience.
For example, I was in a pretty gruesome car wreck this time last year. Apparently, a suicidal optometry student in a Sherman tank went totally “Tiananmen Square” at an intersection, blowing through a red light and sideswiping us without warning. As a backseat passenger, I was force fed the leather headrest before me. The results were surprisingly predictable. I looked like I went about 20 seconds with Courtney Love. (That’s pretty good against Courtney).
When I came to, an EMT, while holding my forehead together, offered his assistance. The first thing to run through my mind, after the headrest, was imagining my wallet being surgically removed from my pants with a scalpel and salad tongs. The next thought was all about finding the nearest taxi. Even concussed, I could rationalize walking home in a daze rather than paying the $90-per mile meat wagon transport.
This time however, my body rebelled. Back spasms kept me in bed for a week and the headaches wouldn’t quit. I eventually made a trip to a government-approved drug cartel, er, hospital.
To me, hospitals mean three things: waiting, paperwork, and hypochondriacs wasting hundreds of staff hours complaining about recurring sniffles, blocked gas, and mild sunburns. A nice lady who had waited for attention long before me mentioned a free health clinic she wished she had visited instead. Miraculously, these clinics provide substantive medical care for the uninsured. And I knew this woman was uninsured once she motioned towards the clinic with a javelin sticking out of her side. I shook her javelin goodbye and hit the exit.
I’ve been to free health centers before. Guess what? Turns out you get what you pay for. Their street-side tents are nice and big, and so are the leeches. You’re brought in on wheelbarrows—not pricey ambulances. And, in extreme cases of loss (and at no extra charge), they’ll roll you out in one too. Passing through the garden/lobby, I saw a man on fire quietly thumbing through Popular Mechanic magazine. Then, a peppy leper held up his hand and waved at me. That was cute, and my cue to leave.
So I went to Canada.
At the top of every hour, Canada proudly declares it has the best health care in North America. More efficient. More resourceful. All-inclusive. Wow. For those of you interested in useless propaganda, let’s put that in perspective.
Bolivia has the best national health care system in South America—
most likely because they offer drive-thru appendectomies. Holland, since it lets schizophrenic derelicts roam freely in the streets, is tops in Europe. Amazingly, Australia actually finished second in its own continent to a tribe of underground Pygmies. (Note: It’s difficult to gage the quality of health insurance in Asia, Africa, and Antarctica since rickshaws, donkey carts, and dog sleds rarely reach witch doctors in time for medical assistance to matter.)
So in my mind, a nation boasting to have the best health insurance on any particular continent is a lot like saying you’ve been named head chef at Wendy’s.
I figured the long drive was worth it though, since I’d be saving hundreds on medical expenses. Besides, justifying traveling to Sault Ste. Marie in February would at least build my portfolio towards free psychiatric care somewhere down the road.
Now, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize the weak Canadian dollar means great deals on prescriptions for Americans willing to sneak across the border. Unfortunately in Canada, it also doesn’t take a brain surgeon to be a brain surgeon. After four emotionally draining hours of bloodletting by the water cooler I was finally assured by a nurse who tragically looked a lot like Bobby Hull that proper medication would be delivered via expedited mail.
Six months later I received a measly packet of aspirin—just enough to cover a bee sting. It wasn’t exactly first-class treatment, but the Canadians were right. By the time I got the packet in late July—my headaches were gone.
by Kory Curcuru