Who should pay for healthcare? The discussion needs to start early.
Yesterday I received a phone call from my son’s high school stating that he’d hurt his ankle during PE and should get an X-ray. Skeptical, I took a look at him myself and while I’ve been out of clinical practice for some time, I was 95% certain that his ankle was fine. The 5% of me that wasn’t sure took him down to have an X-ray, which ultimately concluded that he was, in fact, suffering only from a decent sprain.
Probably more valuable than the peace of mind obtained by finding out that my son’s ankle was OK, was a conversation that came up between he and I on the way home from his diagnostics.
I should preface by stating that my son is really good with money. He has managed his own savings account for about 4 years, invests in the stock market, and keeps a steady stream of income going into his accounts by staying on top of chores and babysitting for neighbors. So on our way home, when I was speaking to my wife about the day, and that we had taken care of the ankle, my son overheard me mention to my wife how much the X-ray would cost. At that point, my son spoke up to say, “Whoa, you mean we had to just pay for that?”
“Well, yeah…shouldn’t we?” I responded.
His response, “No, it wasn’t our fault.”
“Who should pay for it then?” I replied.”
“They should just take care of it.”
At this point I couldn’t help but get a bit philosophical, explaining that good economics apply to the ability to provide good healthcare, just as they do to the ability for GameStop to provide him with the latest and greatest Nintendo Wii games. Perhaps I was forgetting that my son is only a freshman in high school, but nevertheless I viewed this as an educational opportunity, important to framing a foundation upon which he will view future encounters with the healthcare industry.
If our 14 year old children are learning about history, math, sex, driving, etc., shouldn’t they learn about the importance of our healthcare industry, how it works, and why it our responsibility to take care of ourselves, and pay for the care we receive?
We live in a country where healthcare dollars are considered discretionary expenditures that shouldn’t be our responsibility in the first place, and while politicians will continue to struggle to put in place a system that is going to work to provide healthcare for all, a bit of education for our children might just help to build into our country the expectation that healthcare should be a priority, and no one’s responsibility but our own.