$12K For 25 Stitches: American Healthcare is Broken (Part 1)

Part One of several posts about how health care can be a heck of a lot better in this country.

It’s about the least surprising thing to say when talking about health and medicine in the western world: it’s totally fucked up. The system doesn’t serve people in the best way for their health, opting instead in many cases for pure survival. And that’s just the actual medical establishment, the place folks end up when something is going really wrong, whether it’s emergency trauma or the culmination of a chronic illness.

The pieces of health are not just what it takes to not “spend your last 10 years in a diaper and a wheelchair” (a genius post by Chris Kresser, who lured me into a lot of this research about 5 years ago by those very words). No, the pieces of health are far larger than just showing up at the doc’s office or the hospital when things are really wrong (or even just somewhat painful).

Emergency medicine in our society is extremely effective (and expensive), so if you are in a car crash, even if you don’t have money, you can and will get “fixed”. That means you’ll have bones pinned together, skin sewn up, fluids replaced, and (hopefully) infections prevented or addressed.

Original source: Broken Heart Source Image

Original source: Broken Heart Source Image

But even if you are faced with a relative trauma, the current state of the system can take down to slivers the savings of most average adults. Take, for example, something that happened just a few days ago at a massive health conference in Austin, TX called Paleo f(x). Darryl Edwards, one of the activity gurus, ended up with a mis-timed head butt and split open his eyelid. He didn’t think it would need intervention at first, but then he was convinced it wasn’t just a scratch by folks who kept noticing the bleeding gash.

Once he finally figured out that he really did need stitches, someone wanted him to get an ambulance. BUT. Because Darryl is from the UK, an ambulance would be about $4K right out of his pocket. Ok, so he should find someone to drive him to the ER. BUT. Emergency rooms have pretty long wait times. It was suggested, “go to urgent care”. Finally, word got around to the wife of a local dermatologist. He was taken right to their office and was taken care of, sewn right up to the tune of 25 stitches as a favor to a fellow health guru for no charge. The dermatologist told him that it would normally cost about $12K. TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Even before the ambulance when it was looking like $4K out of his pocket, Darryl considered getting on a first class plane back to UK so that he could walk into a local doc and get things taken care of for free. The fact that someone without insurance considers a transatlantic flight in order to NOT spend about $16K on stitches is, a little, crazy.

In the next few blog posts I’ll go from panic-inducing examples like this to somewhat of a means to a solution. It involves the word OWNERSHIP. And we’ll get there.

Why I Forfeited My Ticket to Ancestral Health Symposium 2013

Feet of AHS12Not long after attending Paleo f(x) in Austin this spring, I lept on the chance to sign up for late summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium. Why not? I had attended 2012’s Symposium on the Harvard campus, but I was just 6 months into the thrall of Paleo and ancestral pathways. I had a blast meeting new friends, mentors and inspiring brains by the dozen. Also, I took foot pictures.

Like a hummingbird I circled around Robb Wolf, Abel James, Chris Kresser, Nora Gedgaudis, Gary Taubes (whom I’d met years earlier doing early website work for his book), Denise Minger, Diane Sanfilippo, and Terry Wahls. Each had made a distinct impression on my sponge-like brain.

And yet, those were just a few of the well-known-to-me folks, and due to being famous their time was extremely limited. It was the folks who were behind the academic scenes or who were more like me – students enthralled by the knowledge – that ended up being the charm of the whole event. People like Adele Hite, Amber Dukes (who lives here in ABQ!), Chris Williams, Matt Lalonde, Stefani Ruper, George Bryant, Amy Kubal, Patrick Earvolino, Josh Whiton, I could go on. These are just a handful of the ones who want to make this a bigger part of their lives – maybe even the biggest part of their lives. Soon, I will join them, though I haven’t found my ancestral calling, yet.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Why the bloody steak aren’t I in Atlanta RIGHT NOW for Ancestral Health Symposium 2013, reacquainting myself with everyone in a ritualistic rubbing of neurons?

Basically, I’m a chickenshit. In one year I have done a ton of research and a smidgen of writing about health, nutrition, and paleo-esque lifestyle. I bought some cutesy ancestral domain names. But researching ain’t crap, and neither is domain squatting. When I meet up with these amazing minds again it should only be in the context of collaboration and contribution. MY contributions to furthering this better way of life to those that are looking for answers.

Those contributions and collaborations are coming, but by forfeiting a few hundred bucks in that ticket, I resolve to invest TIME to actually make things happen. Not research. Writing. Not mulling. Making. Not “if”. Now. By not spending another grand in travel and lodging, I pledge those resources to more local use: my ancestral emergence.

Will it be:

All I know is that what is needed is ACTION. It starts today. It starts every day.