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.
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
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:
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