It’s very easy for a European to feel very smug about socialised medicine. Maybe the American system isn’t as bad as all that. Maybe we should be a bit more open about its merits. And maybe we should, in the process, ignore cases like that of JoAnn Knutson.
Knutson was 72, and had a fall at her home in Des Moines, Iowa. Her husband, Richard Toews, couldn’t lift her. For four days, he provided care for her as best he could while she lay on the floor. And then she died.
Now: there’s an obvious question here. Why the hell didn’t he call an ambulance? And the answer is simple: Toews was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to afford it. Capt. Steve Brown of the Des Moines Fire Department told the Des Moines Register that
an ambulance costs about $575, plus $8 per mile. People who can’t pay the fee on time can set up a payment plan. Taxpayers pick up the tab for trips that go unpaid.
So Toews was wrong about the price – in part. But the fact remains that he still had to worry about it to begin with. Presumably, to get the taxpayer to cough up, there’d have to be some process of proving his inability (otherwise noone’d pay). And, in a situation like his, that’d perhaps not be the first thing on his mind.
OK, OK. Four days should have been plenty of time to sort that kind of thing out. But that still leaves untouched the supposition that it needs to be sorted in the first place. For the time being – well, the availability of a payment plan for an ambulance doesn’t seem like much of a reassurance. I’m going to retreat back into smugness about socialised healthcare for a while.