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Health care, please
by Michael Giardina

I hope everyone is feeling healthy today, because getting some medical attention might be harder than it seems, seeing as how the state of health care in this country is disappointing. The main goal of a business may be to make money, and as a result, private healthcare providers focus on profit as their primary goal.

This is an essential flaw in our system. If the health of our population is not the primary goal of healthcare providers, then people cannot receive proper care. Sometimes it seems like these companies only choose to treat our minor diseases in hopes that we won't be more of a cost burden when we grow old.

A few weeks ago, I had to call 9-1-1 for a friend in need. All throughout elementary school, teachers forced this number into our brains, guaranteeing us that help would be on the way instantly. Hardly.

"9-1-1 emergency," a woman finally answered after 14 rings. "What is your emergency?"

I began to relay the information to her. I gave her perfect directions, trying to be clear and concise.

"What city, sir?" the lady said, sounding frustrated that she couldn't be at home watching "Fear Factor."

"What city!" I yelled, frustrated. "I'm in Davis, California." She typed away at her computer for a few seconds, and then responded: "Davis? Is that in North Sacramento or South Sacramento?"

I was about to start yelling, when I heard a click and the call ended. When we finally got him to the emergency room, doctors misdiagnosed him with a combination of "anxiety" and "muscle spasms." They threw some Vicodin and Xanax down his throat and let him roll around in pain until the drugs kicked in.

The next day, doctors correctly diagnosed him with an infection that, if not treated immediately, could have caused sterility. The hospital spent more time having him sign waivers and provide proof of insurance than actually examining him. More time was spent trying to figure out the cost-effectiveness of treatment, than was spent making a proper diagnosis. Sure, money is an issue; but, proper care was not provided.

Beyond that, his healthcare provider now refuses to pay $800 in hospital charges -- apparently the going price of an ambulance, a pill and a potentially serious misdiagnosis.

Perhaps doctors should forfeit their pay whenever a misdiagnosis is made. This way, they will have incentive to spend the appropriate time to get to the root of the problem. They will get paid and we will get healthy. Everybody wins.

Emergency services and irresponsible healthcare providers are not the only problem this country faces. The prices for prescription drugs are excessive. One medication, Dostinex, costs some U.S. citizens $600 for eight pills -- that's $75 a pill. A medication that treats tumors should never be more expensive than illegal narcotics. That sends a horrible message to our children and exemplifies the sad condition of our economy.

There doesn't seem to be a simple fix to this problem. Canada, a country that provides public healthcare, seems to have the right idea. Every citizen with a valid address can receive healthcare. The problem is, however, they are inundated with patients. Because everyone in Canada qualifies to be healthy, the wait times for appointments are ridiculous. Some Canadians are even coming to the U.S. to circumvent these long waits. It seems like another Catch-22: Either people with money get healthcare while the poor are left out, or everyone gets healthcare and the system gets overwhelmed by demand.

I suppose I better stock up on apples.