I just returned from a medical mission trip to Dominican Republic, and I’d like to share some new perspectives I developed.
Sure, it’s easy to come from a third world country and tell stories of poverty and struggle in hopes that others will feel blessed with what we have here in the United States, but I don’t think that necessarily works. We all have struggles that feel bad no matter where we live or how much money we have.
On the contrary, I’d like to share some positive, inspiring aspects of the trip and tell you why I feel so blessed to be an American. Currently it’s en vogue to complain and pontificate on the great failures of our healthcare system. What if I told you that even at our worst, we are still the best?
While in the D.R., I worked in a clinic staffed by a pediatrician making what would be minimum wage here, who shows up each morning to find 30-40 children waiting outside her door. The illnesses and maladies were the same, but the lack of access to even basic medications and treatments were astonishing. Still, they sat patiently and were profusely grateful with even the chance to see a doctor. None had insurance, and they all paid cash they scraped up from family members.
What I am grateful for here, in our own country:
Any child in any state, can walk into an emergency room and receive state-of-the-art, life-saving care with no questions asked. If that child needs inpatient care or a surgery, it is done without question as to whether they have insurance or not.
In my 20 years of medicine I have yet to hear a story of a child being turned away and the family having to fend for themselves. If they don’t have insurance and can’t afford it, the hospital helps them apply for immediate state insurance and they are covered. Contrary what some politicians tout, there are NO uninsured children in the U.S., merely families that haven’t done the paperwork.
On the contrary, I saw children having life-threating asthma attacks that were sent away with only a prescription that likely they wouldn’t be able to afford. If they were lucky enough to make it into a hospital, I saw government insurance auditors walk through the halls and kick out patients if they saw fit or they felt treatment was too expensive.
I am grateful that we save premature babies regardless of whether parents can pay or not, even with million dollar price-tags on the months of care they receive. Many of these kids grow up to be beautiful, healthy, normal children.
I’m grateful that no matter how old I am, if I need a medical procedure I will get it. The only discussions are related to the risk versus outcome, not how much money it is and whether my last few years are worth it. Sure, I may receive a partial bill I can’t pay, but I still get the care.
I am grateful that there aren’t two tiers of hospitals, one being state-run with poor care and less than adequately trained doctors and private facilities that rival the best here in the U.S.
Going to totally government-run health care will result in this here, because there will always be people with money who will want to pay for it and doctors/hospitals that are willing to make that money.
I am grateful that I can show up to work every day and not look at insurances as I treat my patients. I don’t base my care on whether they can afford it. This does not occur in other countries, trust me.
In general, if the you-know-what hits the fan, and you need immediate care, we have you covered. That is a blessing we all need to be thankful for. It allows us to have a sense of well-being that isn’t easily recognized until you see people in countries that don’t have a reliable healthcare system.
Plenty of people struggle here in the states, I realize that. But I believe we can all benefit from travel outside the U.S. to get a sense of comparison that may make you grateful you are an American. The older I get, and the more I travel, the easier it is to count my blessings even in tough times.
Gratefulness instead of anger and victim mentality I believe can help us all live a happier and healthier life.