SideLines: Health care expenses are a pain in the wallet

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, which went into effect last week. Since I haven’t studied it, I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but I do know this.

One day last summer, I thought I’d do something different and make a nice, healthy salad. I was cutting a cucumber when I accidentally slit my left index finger, which began to bleed profusely. Being a card-carrying guy, of course, I didn’t panic; I just sort of growled at it for a minute in my best John Wayne/Rooster Cogburn style.

When that didn’t make the bleeding stop, I rinsed my finger in cold water, wrapped it in a gauze, then raised my arm above my head. (That’s what nurses always tell me to do after I donate blood. They’re the ones who went to school for this kind of thing, so I figured they must know what they’re talking about.)

After a couple of minutes, when I got tired of holding my arm up, I wrapped my still bleeding finger as tightly as I could in a Band-Aid – a big one, not a skimpy job. It never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I should go to the hospital. Since nothing had fallen off yet, I didn’t see any reason to bother anyone.

About an hour or so later, after mowing the yard and trimming the weeds, I noticed some red spots on my blue jeans. At first, I thought it was ketchup I must have spilled, but then it dawned on me I only use ketchup on cheeseburgers, which I don’t eat anymore.

Then I noticed the Band-Aid around my left index finger, which was now numb because it was wrapped so tightly, was totally drenched in blood. That’s when I decided that maybe, just maybe, I should seek some expert medical help. It still hadn’t fallen off, but it was starting to feel like it didn’t belong to me, which can never be a good sign.

I was in the emergency room of my local hospital about 90 minutes in all, most of it waiting for the doctor to see me. Besides getting my finger professionally rinsed off and numbed, I got two stitches. I also got to watch the doctor artfully tie up the stitches, which is actually interesting to watch if you’ve never seen it done.

I got my first bill two weeks later. What I hope will be the last one came two weeks ago. The whole ordeal, so far, has cost $687. Even with insurance, I have paid $254. All because I wanted to have a healthy lunch one day. (That should teach me.) I can’t imagine what it would have set me back if I wanted something like a cheeseburger with fries or, better yet, cheese fries.

I know someone who was once flown by helicopter from Rochelle Community Hospital to a hospital in Rockford, a total of 30 miles, in a non-emergency situation, for $9,000. He was also charged $2,300 a month for special bandages to control bleeding in his legs. That didn’t include the doctor’s fee or a weekly home visit by a nurse, only the bandages. I’m sure everyone reading this knows something similar or even worse.

So, I don’t know if Obamacare is going to be good or not, but I don’t know how anyone can survive in today’s world without some kind of health insurance.

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