On Matters Medical

Yesterday I had to undergo a cardio stress test. I had done the treadmill test before, a couple of years ago, and this time I had a test where they inject chemicals into your body to stimulate the heart to pump as if doing strenuous exercise. All the while, the doctors are looking at pictures of my heart via a sonogram (I believe).

They first look at the heart at rest. Then, via an IV, they deliver the stimulant along with a “contrast” chemical which helps give a clearer picture. Finally, there is another chemical that helps the heart recover its normal non-exercising pace. The whole thing took about forty minutes and — apart from the IV which always gives me trouble because I have “fugitive veins” — was completely painless. The doctors, the nurses, and the assistants were all kind and patient and courteous.

Throughout the procedure I had two recurring thoughts — about anti-vaxxers, and the cost of US medicine.

I have heard and read a number of anti-vaxxers explain their refusal to vaccinate by complaining that doctors wanted to “put chemicals” into their bodies, and they won’t allow that. I wonder what they do when their doctor suggests this kind of test? Do they refuse or are they really hypocrites? And how many of them smoke cigarettes, I wonder?

On the second matter I was contemplating while they were testing me, I noted yet again that this procedure was costing me nothing – not a cent bar normal taxes. The same would be true in the UK and most of the civilized world. I can’t imagine what a US hospital would charge, but I bet I could not afford it.

This year I have already seen an endocrinologist, a kidney specialist (twice), my COPD specialist, and a cardiologist; I’ve had this stress test, and I have a full panel of blood work every two months. Before the year is out I will see the cardiologist, the COPD doctor, and visit the Kidney Clinic at least once more each. Total bill — ZERO. In addition, because I am a low-income senior, my various prescriptions, including a lot of insulin, are fully covered beyond a reasonable deductible.

I’m pretty sure I would be dead through penury by now in the States.

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