I've spent the past seven days lying around the house in a drug-fueled haze. Sort of like Charlie Sheen, except in my case the house is occupied by only one female (my dog) and the drug in question is Levaquin, a powerful antibiotic they only give out for the really nasty stuff.
I'd been fighting a recurring fever for weeks -- I know, I know -- and last week, driving into Greenville, SC for a meeting, I just couldn't go any further. I pulled into the hospital, staggered to the ER, and they took one look at me and admitted me, instantly began running an alarming series of tests, and hooked me up to an IV.
The IV, I'm here to tell you, was like a wonder drug itself. I instantly felt better. I could easily get used to having one a day -- what I like to call the Michael Jackson Lifestyle.
So, five hours and many many terrifying tests later, I walked out with a quasi-diagnosis -- massive bacterial infection of some kind -- and a scrip for Levaquin.
As of today, I have no idea -- zero -- what the whole thing cost. (My insurance is good, for which I'm grateful.) I do know what Levaquin costs -- about $40 per pill, which for a 10 pill scrip is a lot of money. I paid $15 for the whole bottle, which is another reason I'm pleased with my insurance.
This is a perfect example of the problem with the American health care system. I was treated -- essentially for free -- in an emergency room, but only because I left it until it was too awful. In other words, I created the emergency. For which I was penalized not a jot.
Had I left my grocery shopping, say, to 3AM, I'd have to go to the all-night grocery store. And I'd pay a little more for the privilege.
Look, there are two ways to reduce the costs of anything. One way, the Obamacare way, is to create a price-management authority and set prices from a central office. That hasn't worked, ever, in the entire sad pageant of human history. Potatoes in Poland, rents in Manhattan, health care in America -- control the price of something and you get less of it, at a higher cost.
The solution is for more of us -- especially people like me -- to pay more out of pocket, to be price-sensitive, to create a market. The market creates lower prices for everyone, even idiots like me who leave it all until it's too serious for regular office hours and the el cheapo antibiotics.
What I mean to say is, I should have to pay more, and I should have had the incentive to get this all dealt with in a less urgent fashion. Instead, without a financial incentive, I did it all the most expensive way possible, an expensive way shared and subsidized by everyone else in the Blue Cross system, for which my total cost is about $15.
This is no way to run a health care system.