Sunday, January 20, 2008

One Expensive Cold

Medical staff at the ER where I volunteer -- and elsewhere, I gather -- routinely complain about parents who bring in children with nothing worse than colds. I recently heard a story, though, that may help explain why this happens.

A friend of mine in another state volunteers with the Big Brother/Big Sister program. During a phone conversation this week, she told me that her Little has been sick for the last two months. "She has a cold that just won't go away. She's exhausted all the time, and her schoolwork's suffering. I told the mom she had to do something!"

"Did her mom take her to a doctor?"

"No, she can't: no insurance."

"Aren't there any low-income clinics there?"

"Yeah, she tried that. The earliest appointment they could give her was in March." My friend sighed and said, "So I took her to the doctor and paid for it: $145. We're not supposed to do that. The volunteer contract specifically says we shouldn't do things like that. But I had to: how could I not? As far as I was concerned, my moral duty to that child outweighed the volunteer contract."

It turned out that the Little indeed just had a cold, probably compounded by asthma, for which I gather she's now being treated. But imagine yourself as that mother: your kid's been sick for weeks, and you can't get a doctor's appointment, and in this scenario, there's no helpful, affluent adult around to pick up the tab.

What would you do in that situation? I'd take my kid to the ER, even if I knew I was going to get dirty looks for being there.


  1. Good subject for posting on, Susan! I've got friends who are parents who also complain about the need to go to an emergency room for their children. They choose the emergency room because of 1)lateness of the hour, 2) the need for a specific prescription that late night places cannot provide. My friends would really rather take their children to someplace closer, cheaper, and much faster than an emergency room but it just doesn't work for them getting the specific care that experience has told them their child needs.


  2. And why, oh why, can't we get some sort of universal health care in the U. S.?


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