It costs a lot of money to be sick in America. A LOT of money.
Many Americans learn this the hard way by going to the E.R. without insurance, or by realizing that health care is still expensive even with insurance, or by getting an outrageous medical bill in the mail.
And some people find that out because they get a case of appendicitis the morning before they’re supposed to tape “The Daily Show.”
OK, maybe that has only happened to one person ever. But it did happen — to Trevor Noah, the new host.
Trevor was born in South Africa and has spent most of his life outside the United States, blissfully unaware of what it’s like to have a medical emergency in America — until last week, when he had to get an emergency appendectomy. Or as he (sarcastically) called it, “the world’s shortest vacation.”
Trevor had quite a bit to say about the health care system when he came back to the show after his surgery.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Trevor, what’s it gonna be like commenting on America if you’re not from America?'” he said on his first day back. “And I was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to experience America.’ And what better way than enjoying America’s health care system for myself?”
His unexpected American Health Care System 101 experience demonstrated some of the biggest problems with U.S. health care.
Of course, he created an episode of the show to teach us about these things. Here they are:
1. You end up with a huge medical bill.
That whole not dying thing? It can get pricey.
A couple of years ago, one guy put his medical bills from his appendectomy on Reddit, and the post went viral.
It’s easy to see why: The time he spent under the knife cost him 16 grand, but his charges from the hospital stay totaled $55,000. Things like room and board ($4,878), the recovery room ($7,501), and a CT scan ($6,983) were responsible for the difference.
Luckily, that guy (and Trevor Noah) had insurance, which covered the majority of those costs. But millions of Americans still don’t have health coverage — often because they can’t afford it, they’re undocumented, or they fall into the Medicaid gap.
And the kicker? The U.S. government actually spends more money per capita on health care than countries with universal health care coverage. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2. You have to wait for a long time. Like, a really long time.
The average wait time to be seen by a doctor in the E.R. is 24 minutes. That’s a lot of time when you’re having a health emergency. And in some places, the wait time is much higher (you’ll wait for 54 minutes if you’re in a Washington, D.C., hospital, for example).
3. If you need time to recover from your hospital visit, you might not get it in America.
Trevor only took one night off, but Comedy Central told him he could take as long as he needed to bounce back from his appendicitis. In reality, though, most employees in America don’t get that kind of leeway.
In the U.S., if you or a family member faces a health emergency, you may not be able to take off work at all. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) doesn’t cover a lot of low-income workers, who might get fired if they take a couple of days off to recover from a health emergency.
And even if you do qualify for FMLA leave, the U.S. doesn’t require employers to grant any paid leave — only 12 weeks of unpaid time off.
The good news is that things are looking up… and not just in the States but around the world.
Things are changing & people are fighting for health equality. Hopefully, the small spark will create a larger positive change!