In the middle of September 2001, just after 9/11, my wife lost her job at Medtronic in Santa Rosa, California. Medtronic makes medical devices like stents and catheters, but the company at that time moved its production line work to India. My wife lost her medical insurance for herself and our family. Later that month, I had my appendix taken out.
I was extremely lucky – at least financially. After my wife lost her job, we applied for Medi-Cal. My appendix operation would have cost us $5,000 on my wife’s previous insurance with Medtronic – about half of our savings at the time. As it turned out, it ended up costing us just $500 as a share of cost with our Medi-Cal insurance. I was not so lucky with the operation itself.
When I went to the hospital in Santa Rosa, they were unable to confirm that I had insurance. They were also unable to make a definite diagnosis that my appendix was the problem. While I waited eight hours to get that diagnosis, my appendix finally burst, and I was then, finally, ordered to drink a pitcher of blue-colored water and given a cat scan. Strange, because for the whole eight hours previous to that, I was ordered not to drink any water. Well, they got their diagnosis when my appendix burst and I was rushed into surgery.
Whatever break I got financially was paid for in the flesh, so to speak. Why did they make me wait so long before confirming that I had appendicitis? Was it because they couldn’t confirm that I had insurance? Was it because they just wanted to wait, for some other reason, for the cat scan, which would have given clear confirmation that it was, in fact, the appendix?
Anyway, they made me wait. And they sent me home promptly the next day after the operation, with a gaping deep wound that I was told I’d have to just clean myself. I was given instructions on how to clean this very deep wound. I also found out later that my wife’s former insurance would have covered having a nurse come out to the house to clean the wound, but Medi-Cal didn’t cover that. So I paid the price of having insurance that only covered the operation – paid for it in the flesh by cleaning my own wound.
If the hospital had diagnosed my appendicitis in time, it would not have burst, and I wouldn’t have had to clean the wound myself with Q-tips at home (with the help of a small mirror at times). And to this day, I think they would have caught the appendicitis in time, before it burst, had I not been a low-priority patient, a patient who, presumably, did not have insurance.