It was Tuesday morning and I was checking out of the hospital after hip replacement surgery. During the four hours I’d been knocked out the previous afternoon, they’d sawed off the end of my left femur, hammered a titanium spike with a new ball on the end into the exposed bone, and then sanded smooth and relined my hip socket with titanium covered in a hard plastic. Once, they glued together the 8 inch incision, Humpty Mikey was put back together again.
Piece of cake.
So, I’m struggling to pull on my sweats with help from the CNA assigned to my room, a nice middle-aged woman named Danielle. She said she was originally from Russia. That explained the accent. In between helping me, she was bustling around my room, a free hand constantly shooing wisps of dark hair out of her eyes.
“Want these?” She held up the yellow post surgery socks I’d been wearing. They had the neat patches of rubber on the soles so I wouldn’t slip. Not that I was racing around the room or anything.
“Sure,” I said. Yellow happens to be my favorite color.
She stuffed them in a plastic bag.
“How about these?”
It was the hospital tooth brush and toothpaste. To tell the truth, I didn’t really care one or the other. I was feeling really beat up from the surgery, and just wanted to get home. I shrugged.
She glanced over her shoulder like she expected the Secret Police might be listening. “You no take,” she whispered, “they just throw away and charge you anyways.” She made a sound with her mouth. “Poof.” The way she said it she implied that if I was foolish enough to let something like that go to waste, then it was no skin off her nose. I imagine she’d seen a lot of that. The hospital I was at was located about 15 minutes north of the Microsoft campus, and about the same distance from one of the wealthiest towns in the country. I suppose she didn’t know I lived on the cheap side of Puget Sound, and that when I was a kid my Grandma Ruby used to pick the meat from the fried chicken she saved for herself, making sure we all had enough to eat.
“Okay, fine!” I said.
That’s how it went the next few minutes. Danielle moved around my bed. She’d hold something up, I’d nod, and then she’d toss it in the bag: unused pee container, unused spirometer, a garment bag, and so on. Last but not least was the box of kleenix.
She tapped the box with her knuckles, and raised an eyebrow.
“Absolutely,” I said.
She smiled and tossed it in with everything else.
I was thinking about Danielle a few weeks later when the bills started rolling in. The retail cost of my surgery was over $75,000. I paid much less thanks to the discounts they gave for my medical insurance, and what insurance chipped in, but still, the numbers were a shock. From $25,000 for the hospital charges and $18,000 for my new hip. . . to $500 for the 15 minutes the hospital physical therapist spent with me. I wish I made $2,000 per hour.
Last time I checked, our country spends 19% of our GDP on healthcare. Way higher than other first world countries. I don’t expect that to change. Here’s why. There’s no incentive. Why would the big healthcare-related corporations want to reduce their profits? They’re banking on 19% of GDP. If that were cut to 15%, it would cost them millions – maybe billions – in profits. They’re not going to stand for it, so their political minions complimented by their advertising/propaganda operations will keep us all confused, and make sure healthcare remains essentially unchanged in this country.
But I have my box of Kleenix. I do wonder how much the hospital charged me for that? And when I need my other hip done, or one of my knees, I may go offshore. I hear Thailand is nice.