emigrated to the United States of America in March of 1971. Like almost
all young people, thoughts of death and disease were the furthest thing
from my mind. Nevertheless, having spent my first twenty-one years
in England, where health care is provided to all for free, or at little
cost, I gave no thought to the need for personal health insurance in
the U.S.A. I understood that I now had to pay for visits to a doctor
or a dentist, but that was routine and affordable, anyway.
my apparent health and vigor, in the summer of 1975 I became concerned
when a lump appeared on the left side of my neck. My doctor gave me a
prescription for something or other, and had me return to him after
two weeks. The lump
had enlarged and was beginning to ache. He became suspicious and suggested
that I might have a problem with my lymphatic system. He wanted me to
have a biopsy of what he was now referring to as a node. He called
and made an appointment for me for a few days later.
was to be a simple out-patient procedure lasting no longer than an
I had never had surgery before, and the thought of it made my hands clammy.
After I had completed a standard pre-op questionnaire at the surgeon’s
office, the receptionist realized that I had no insurance. She asked
me about this, and I said that I had brought along my checkbook.
With the form in hand, she left the room, presumably to speak to
to say that the doctor would not see me. I was stunned as she bluntly
told me to leave the office. As I walked back to my
my anxiety over the surgery seemed ironic. Now my overriding fear was
that I wouldn’t get any surgery at all. This is how it can be
in a country that does not offer public health care to its citizens.
was incensed when I told him about the surgeon's dismissal.
. . .>