Gold tooth, cell phone, cigarettes, and Medicaid

This blog was copied directly from another blog and reprinted here. It was originally sent to me in an unidentified email. I found a more original source. I wonder if this doctor ever thought that a letter he sent to the editor of a small newspaper, The Clarion Ledger, would be sent many times around the world.
October 31, 2009

Dr. Roger Starner Jones Muses On Crisis Culture


Doctor Roger Starner Jones is a seventh generation Mississippian and his extracurricular interests are golf, hunting, fishing and college football. He specializes in emergency medicine at  The University of Mississippi medical Center. 

Dr. Starner Jone ( Dr. Starner Jones ( This Letter to the Editor, written by Doctor Jones about health care in America, is from the August 29th edition of Jackson, Mississippi’s newspaper, the Clarion Ledger.

Dear Sirs:

During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B; tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our President expects me to pay for this woman’s health care?

 Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture – a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.

 A culture that thinks I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD
Jackson, MS

This letter voices some of the thoughts I have had throughout the years about  our various “safety net” programs. I definitely agree with the good doctor about those patients who spend money the way they desire and then have the audacity to seek free medical care.

I cannot imagine what a gold tooth would cost. I know regular crowns for my teeth cost several hundred dollars each. I have one nickel sized tattoo that I got on a whim and it was over $40.00.

I started smoking in 1963 when packs cost $0.25. I gave them up in 1975 when they were nearing $0.60 a pack. The average price of a pack in Mississippi is now $4.75. The letter says she smokes “more than one” packs a day. That is somewhere between $147.25 and $294.50 going up in smoke.

I use a cell phone for long distance and local when necessary paying $100 a year for 1,000 minutes. I have yet to use all the minutes every year. I do not text. I can only guess that she spends much more than that texting as well as calling. Some plans are very costly. Most plans I researched for 900 minutes a month were $59.99. That’s 30 minutes a day. You know if she was a young woman her talk and texting time was probably more than that.

As far as her tennis shoes, the average cost is $83.00. He said hers were the expensive kind. I have on a pair of Propet tennis shoes I bought at Discount Shoe Warehouse in the early 90s. I forget the cost. It was probably between $10 and $20. They just refuse to wear out.

Because I am a diabetic, I seldom drink.  I am not familiar with the cost of six packs. I’m assuming that $12 will buy the cheapest brew. The doctor’s letter doesn’t say how many beers she drinks a day. I’m going to be generous and say she has two beers a day. That’s more than $120.00 a month for beer, minimum.

This patient probably spends a minimum of $500 on things that average tax payers like me would consider a waste of money. Do I resent this type of behavior? You bet I do. Do I ever do anything about it other than gripe every once in a while? Nope. If I don’t do anything about it do I have a right to complain? No again. I can have resentments every day if I so choose. But then I think for every patient like that there are others who are trying their best to get by. We don’t need to limit our health care to only those who can afford insurance. We need to have a government who is willing to trim the fat from the pork they spend every year to get reelected and assign that money to case workers whose job it is to ferret out cheats like this young woman. Our congress tends to pass the bills but forgets to pay to police who gets the money. We have thousands of people who are honest and spend their money wisely. They just don’t have enough. Those are the people Medicaid was designed to help. Until our government sets up a monitoring system to assure that people who are on Medicaid can vouch for the money they spend on the essentials of life, cases like this patient will continue to occur.

I admire Bill Cosby tremendously. He is speaking out about what this country needs to do. The following web sites have examples of what he has been saying:,8599,645801,00.html

There are many more if you care to search them out. He is calling on others to climb up from behavior like this that is tolerated. I am sure he would have something to add to this matter. He is getting highly criticized for doing so, but he keeps on doing it because sooner or later he hopes to make a difference.

One site called this doctor’s letter racist but nowhere in the letter does he identify the race of the patient. He simply states the facts as he saw them. There are people of every race and ethnic heritage who take advantage of Medicaid, because they can. That young woman could have been any ethnicity.

Taxpayers can hold rallies and tea parties all they want. There is a limit to taxation and it looks like the government is reaching it. It’s time to get our priorities straight. Do we want to deny health coverage to the multi millions because we are tired of paying for patients such as this?

I don’t have the answers. I just ask  questions. Our national and state budgets are already a nightmare. Taxpayers see the government and the people it serves with its free programs, food, medicine, education, etc. etc. etc. as a bottomless bucket into which they are pouring their own money, often to the point where they are hurting themselves. I guess I’ve developed into Pollyanna. I think this problem could be solved if only we had the courage to do it and live with the consequences without hurting those who honestly need the services. What do you think? Namaste. Attic Annie


Filed under Casual conversation, diary, economics, general topics, life, musings

9 responses to “Gold tooth, cell phone, cigarettes, and Medicaid

  1. Ed

    Too many of us are ignorant to what it means to make a sacrafice to achieve that American dream. We want it “right now.” Those of us not born into wealth have the opportunity to get there but it takes a progressive pace. Living within our means seems to be out of style so to speak. We want that 300,000 dollar home with a combined family income of 50k. A little equity goes into the home, now it’s time to refinance, get a loan on the original loan and buy that boat, SUV, and Harley. It just does not make sense to use that money to put into the home or invest it. We gotta have that camper. A few years later we’re upside down and life’s in shambles. I’ve seen it happen to the best. Same example as the article. Not a “pot to piss in” as my grandparents once said, but would rather buy worthless gadgets and jewlery instead a loaf of bread or pay the rent on time. Common sense is more valuable than dollars and cents yet we cant spend common sense so why invest in it right?

    • atticannie

      I agree with delayed gratification. Not too many people believe in waiting any more. I am so proud of my son. When he was in college and a couple of years after his credit card was his best friend and the card buried him up to his eyeballs. He dug himself out and recalled the number of times I made him wait for things as he grew up. He decided that was the best policy after all and is proud of his credit report once again.

  2. Ed

    Haha! Too funny. Swedish it is!

  3. Ed

    I’m from the Seattle Wa. area and I’m not sure when this story came out but I heard it this evening on KVI 570. 570 is a conservative news/talk radio show (s). The story makes a very srtong point. I’m not liberal but I guess you can say an independant conservative. One of the above responses said the doctor never disclosed the race of the individual yet the humor I found in this story reminds me of a comedian who once said, “They always have a way of telling you, who done it!” Maybe I’m a bit slow but do you think she was Swedish? 😉

    • atticannie

      I’d say she was Swedish but had perhaps been out in the sun a while. Can I say that? I posted my article on November 12 but the post refers to late October when the doctor’s letter was published. I too try to straddle the fence in my opinions. I guess I’m an independent slightly conservative as well.

  4. freedomactionnow

    If health care is free – or practically free – which means that somebody else pays for it (doctors have to eat, too, and guess who those “somebody else’s” are), people are going to use it more often.

    If somebody falls down and scrapes their knee, they’re going to run to the E.R.

    “One site called this doctor’s letter racist but…”

    In today’s upside-down world, “racist” means “anybody who disagrees with me”.

    Your Thanksgiving Basket story reminds me of one I heard a while back. You’ve probably seen it before, but here it is again – with an update:

    The rich family in church

    “I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

    By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.”

    As always, there’s a story behind that story:

    About Eddie

    “Eddie (Smith) Ogan, the sixth of seven children, who found out at age 14 that she was “poor” is now 72. She and her husband, Phil, live on Social Security. They clean the grounds and bathrooms at the Northeast Washington Fair; the Colville, Washington, Father’s Day Rodeo; and Town and Country Days at the next town over.
    . . .
    With bounty to share, it never occurred to Eddie that they didn’t have enough. Perhaps that explains why she and her husband have 13 children—12 of them adopted—and have fostered 77 children. “

    • atticannie

      There should be more urgent care facilities available so people wouldn’t have to use emergency rooms. As far as seeking treatment of a skinned knee, ever hear of community-associated MRSA?

  5. atticannie

    I so agree with you AND the doctor. He is the one bringing it to our attention that there are people like that out there everywhere. I also feel there are many that are NOT like her that should have an opportunity to have a safety net, not forever, but until they can afford to buy insurance on their own. The attitudes of our parents are rare today. But even though we were frugal and able to make it, there were families not far away who were not making it. I’ll never forget the learning experience my father had my freshman year when I was the one to deliver that class Thanksgiving Basket. What that family was living in just barely fit the description of a home. There was no way they could have afforded insurance. The things that turned me off were her choices of how she spent the money she had. But I was not put on this earth to judge her…just to beg the government to hire somebody to do just that to find whether she is worthy of free medical care based on her lifestyle and spending habits. Insurance should come before those other things.

  6. Sue

    I come down hard on the Dr. side. When we were kids, we did not have the latest and greatest stuff. If I remember right, we were the last 2 houses on the block to get T.V. sets. Our dads bought plain jane cars and drove them til they began to fall apart. And they did not neglect the maintenance on them. They just wore out. We did not take fancy vacations, and eating out was pretty much reserved for birthdays and other celebrations. Our insurance was set up to cover only the big stuff. It did not pay for Dr. visits. And it only covered some of the bill. We saved so that we could cover our part. It was prudent to have money in the bank for unforeseen problems. If we did not have the cash in hand, we did not make a purchase. If things went on a charge card, the balance was paid in full when the bill came at the end of the month. The only thing my folks borrowed money for was the house. Everything else was saved for …including cars. We weren’t rich, but we were stable. My mom said we were frugal We could take care of ourselves and not always look to someone else to do this for us. During power outages, and there were some with those silly chinese elms in our front yard, we made due until the power could be restored. We banded together and helped each other out. Now days, the TV cameras come out and people start yelling help. In a national disaster, I think many would turn on their fellow man and we would not survive. We have lost the guts that our ancestors had to get through difficult times.