Thursday, October 20, 2011
I hear people complain about the Indian Health care system. The waits are too long and the doctors are no good. I hear even more about how unfriendly the staff are and how people would rather stay home and die. That’s a joke but there’s truth in it.
I want to say two things about the health care systems; both Native and non-Native health care.
Native Health Care.
First, we complain about the free health care we get. I don’t think we should complain about this because it’s free. My family and all my relatives have never had to pay for giving birth to any of us at a hospital, they never paid for a single broken bone or a single dose of insulin. Sure we have to wait for a long time in a tacky waiting room, and sure the service can be terrible, but it’s free. There is a place far, far away where they have to pay for their doctor’s visits and medications and fill out loads of paperwork for every visit and purchase. I think we should be thankful that we don’t have any idea what an emergency room visit costs.
Second, we complain about the health care not being up to par. That is true. In Crownpoint, you never see the same doctor twice because they are all young interns from Georgia or Maine who are forced to stick it out at Indian health center for a year and then they high-tail it out of there. No doctor wants to stay in Crownpoint because there are no businesses and entertainment around. There are no specialists either for those same reasons. We always have to travel to the nearest city for specialty treatment.
There is a need to dedicate more funds to Indian health care.
Non-Native health care.
I have gotten free health care all my life. A few years after I moved away from the reservation I was lucky to not need any doctor’s visits or medications. Between semesters in college I got regular eye and teeth check-ups at home where it’s free.
And then two months ago I punched a machine really hard and threw out my back – I should clarify that it was a punching machine.
Things are unbelievable out there.
I had to go to the emergency room here in Las Cruces because I was in so much pain. An emergency crew was called and they told me a ride in their emergency unit would be about $200. That’s about $100 per mile. I turned it down and my boyfriend drove me to the emergency room. It was a painful hell to get in his Jeep.
I was taken care of. They made me pay $50 before I left. They pumped me full of morphine and vicoden. Then the pharmacy visit cost me about $20 for painkillers that I only needed for two and a half days. They don’t give you painkillers at an Indian Health Service hospital – not even when I nearly broke my ankle in high school – and I think that’s where they cut some of the costs.
That happened two months ago and now they’re trying to bill me for it: all $1,000 worth of sitting in the emergency room because certain pieces of paperwork got lost in the shuffle. Hopefully paperwork gets to where it needs to be. This process is so confusing and it makes no sense to me.
I think it sucks that non-Natives have to pay for health care. I think it sucks that my health is all based on technicalities and paperwork. I think it sucks that I went around worrying about where I can and can’t go to be seen for strep throat. It sucks to immediately get my bill in the mail – which usually says $0 because my tribe pays for it – and then weeks later get my test results.
Can’t everyone visit an Indian Health Service hospital where you can book your eye appointment, dental appointment and Pap test all in one building and then get your meds across the hall and not pay for any of it?
For any Native students off the reservation reading this, I learned the process when I made my visit. I wish I would have did a little research before I got sick. Though I’m no expert, here are some tips:
· Talk to your parents and see if they have some kind of health insurance through your tribe. You wouldn’t want to get in an accident and then be billed.
· See if you qualify for a very cheap or free insurance, just in case.
· Once you find out that you are covered by your tribe in some way, call up the insurance company and ask them where you can visit and find out what kinds of rates do apply if you have to make a medical visit anywhere.
· Be prepared. Ask questions even though you are not sick. Make sure you have some kind of proof of insurance when you visit, especially the first time.
· You don’t have to drive all the way home to visit a doctor. Get yourself familiar with the system.