A tale of two cancers: One sister in Canada, the other in the USA.

At the age of 56, Catherine Gordon found out she had breast cancer. A long deferred mammogram revealed two tumors, 6 centimeters long together. She underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumors.

A year later, her sister Karen who lives in the USA was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Karen’s tumors were smaller, but she also had surgery to remove them.

And here’s where it gets insane. Catherine lives in Canada, and did not have to worry about cost. In her words, she “could focus on getting better”.

Karen, unfortunately, lives in the USA, so she could not just focus on getting better:

And she had to contend with American-style billing. “Just as I was getting ready to head to the operating room, a tall man in a nice suit came in and told us he had to have a cheque before they would go ahead. ‘It’s our new policy because people aren’t paying their bills.’ We paid him, of course, but it seemed absolutely outrageous — especially when you’re frightened and sick.” […]

One morning, she pulled out a file folder with her medical bills as we were drinking our coffee. As I flipped through the three-inch pile of papers, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She’d been to just two hospitals and three clinics throughout her treatment, but there were invoices from almost 50 different service providers — pathologists, imaging centres, radiologists, plastic surgeons, anesthesia services, blood labs — people she didn’t know, asking for money for services she’d never heard of.

In Ontario, we don’t see any bills, so the costs are invisible. In the United States, the health-care system leaves the administration in the hands of the patient. “It’s a huge source of frustration and aggravation,” Karen told me. “The time and effort you have to put into trying to understand who’s billing you and why, and the stress of having to negotiate with suppliers and the insurance company — all while you’re in crisis mode and trying to deal with getting well — is a real hardship. I have to question everything, or I end up paying more than I owe. Can you imagine if you didn’t speak English well? Or if you were totally incapacitated by your illness and didn’t have help?”

— www.ucobserver.org/…

Well, we here know the rest of this story.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why?

Why are we putting our sick brothers and sisters through the meat-grinder which is the American health-care “system”?

Why do we have a “system” where people have no idea whether a trip to the hospital will leave them bakrupt, even when they have insurance?

Why do they have to argue with insurers, hospitals and doctors over treatment costs and fees?

Why are we sapping the energy of doctors and patients by making them deal with insurers incentivised to deny coverage?

Why are we destroying the patient-doctor relationship by forcing doctors to ask payments before treating people?

Why do we have a “system” where hospitals publish fictitious prices which are exorbitant and scare people away?

Why do millions of Americans, living in the richest country in the world go into crushing debt and sometimes bankruptcy because they got sick?

Why don’t we have a system where people can just “focus on getting better”?

Why don’t we have Medicare For All?