Health Care Hits Home

A few days after Christmas my 14-year-old daughter, MaryElizabeth, woke up and told me her stomach hurt. She was also feeling a little dizzy and weak. I suggested she lay down and rest for a bit, and surely she would soon feel better.

My wife was at work, so the boys and I went outside and spent much of the morning and into the early afternoon doing a job I had put off all Christmas break but was now running out of time to finish before the kids went back to school: raking up the leaves in the backyard (joy of joys!).

I’d periodically check in on “Sis” to see how she was doing in the house. She was usually asleep, and I assumed this good rest would wash away whatever she might have eaten the night before that had been causing her distress.

Unfortunately, her stomach ache did not go away. In fact, it got progressively worse through the afternoon. She was back up in her bed when my wife got home from work, and by dinner time it seemed her stomach pain was much worse than it had been all day.

My wife, a physician assistant by training, sensed something more sinister might be going on. She asked me to go ask Sis to point with one finger directly where she was feeling the greatest pain. She pointed about an inch to the right of her bellybutton, and when I relayed this info to my wife, in an instant her clinical knowledge and intuition as a mother kicked in: She was suffering from acute appendicitis.

We dashed to the local ER, and tests came back with a diagnosis in short order: Yes she has appendicitis, and she needs to have surgery very soon to have her appendix removed.

The good news for our family is that MaryElizabeth’s procedure went flawlessly. Our experience with America’s health care system was first class in every way. The facilities where she was treated were remarkable. The care we received was exceptional. The staff at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital was excellent – the surgeon, every nurse, the check-in staff, security team – everyone was outstanding.

Sis is healing and heading back to school and all will be fine. We will move along into the New Year and continue with our lives.

But our little holiday medical experience got me thinking: What would it have been like if we had not had affordable and high-quality health insurance?

If we had not been so fortunate to have good health insurance, in what ways might my reaction to my daughter’s situation have been different?

Surely I’d feel the same heartbreak and desperation any parent feels when a little one is in pain…but would we have been so quick to hop in the car and zip over to the hospital? Maybe if we had not been insured we might have thought to wait a little longer…maybe see if this stomach ache passes.

In our situation, not once did my wife or I think about the cost of care or how we would pay for it. We knew we had good coverage and would be financially protected.

But instead of it being my daughter who was hurting, imagine if that had been another family that had neither health insurance nor other means to pay for care.

I wonder about folks across the country faced with a similar dilemma. A loved one is hurting. They are in physical pain, and find themselves in a station in life where they lack any form of health insurance or ability to pay for care.

We may soon have many more of these folks without health insurance.

With passage of the new federal tax bill at the end of 2017, estimates from the independent Congressional Budget Office suggest four million people will lose health insurance by 2019. Over the next ten years 13 million are projected to lose their health insurance.

Many of these folks who will soon lose insurance will be from North Carolina.

I wonder about people in Charlotte who aren’t as fortunate as my family has been to have affordable, reliable, accessible health care.

When many more of our neighbors lack health insurance and have very limited resources to pay for care, how will they react in a situation like ours?

What should they do?

What should our society do?

For those left out of our health care system of care and needing a medical home and access to specialty care, Care Ring is here. Our Low-cost clinic in Uptown Charlotte will be open to see anyone needing care.

And thanks to the generosity and spirit of giving back from our major hospital system providers and countless smaller practices across the region, we will provide thousands of our low-income neighbors the peace of mind and the dignity they deserve to have their medical needs met.

We are in this effort together with Novant Health; OrthoCarolina; Carolinas HealthCare System; Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center; Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat, and many others in our Physicians Reach Out network.

As we enter unchartered waters in the coming months and years for accessing health care and health insurance for those with limited resources, I am comforted that for many on the margins in the Charlotte region, Care Ring will be here to serve.

#LevineChildrensHospital #appendicitis #healthinsurance #uninsured

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