Case in point: me. Some anecdotal evidence, submitted for your consideration: Last year I encountered some health problems and had to take a leave of absence from work. Yes I realize I'm lucky to have insurance that provides for such scenarios. However, let's try not to focus on the seagull. Actually while we're on the subject...I don't consider my coverage 'lucky' anyway - I made a concious decision in my place of employment, partially because of the benefits, and I worked hard to attain my job, so I'm not sure that quite qualifies as luck.
ANYWAY, enough about the blasted seagull, here's the raw deal: my doctor referred me to a specialist. Okay, no problem, that happens all the time, but here's the kicker - when she contacted this specialist and discussed my case with him, the specialist apparently thought it was urgent enough that I see him that a couple of days later (this was in early October) I received a call from his office indicating they had been expecting to hear from me for an appointment, and it was important that the doctor see me. Wow, I thought, untill they proceeded to tell me that they had an open appointment coming up in mid-December I could have. WHAT?? It's urgent enough that YOU call ME for an appointment, but not urgent until fucking DECEMBER??? Double-u. Tee. Eff. In the meanwhile, another doc of mine had also given me a list of specialists in the same area and I was able to get an appointment the following week with one of them.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I somehow managed to injur my foot - it swelled up like a sausage with toes, hurt to walk, the works. I spent the weekend icing and elevating it; since gymnastics as a kid, I'm no stranger to sprains and strains. When it was still crazy swollen on Monday, I thought it time to see the doctor to make sure it wasn't broken. I was able to get a same-day appointment with my preferred provider who examined it, took some X-rays, and declared there was no visible fracture. She recommended I continue with the ice and elevation for a few more days, take it easy on the foot, and take 500mg of naproxin for the swelling/pain. If there was no improvement, I could come back in. I spent the rest of the week doing just that with no effect. Well, actually after two days of the naproxin had no effect on either the swelling or the pain, I stopped taking it 'cause I enjoy having a healthy liver. When over a week had passed with zero improvement, I went back to see the doc this past Monday. This time she ordered an MRI, which I fortunately was able to get an appointment for that same day, 'cause they apparently only do them on Mondays and Fridays. My doctor called me later that day with the results of the MRI - again, no visible fracture, and no obvious soft-tissue damage. Again I find myself referred to a specialist. She said she would have their office contact a sports-medicine podiatrist to call me and set up an appointment. Later that afternoon when they call back, they inform me that they will not have a podiatrist available at their Issaquah location (my primary) until mid august, but they can call me back then to set up an appointment. Apparently the fact that I have an undiagnosed injury that is causing pain and impeding my mobility was lost on them. Uhm...does it not seem somewhat abnormal for an appendage to be this swollen for this long, and therefore somewhat important that I see someone sooner than 2 weeks from now? How about at your Bellevue location, I ask them. Nope, no podiatrist there, either. All that's left is the Seattle location (inconvenient under normal circumstances, let alone when the foot I need to DRIVE is injured). Even there, the soonest I could get an appointment was Friday. In the meanwhile I am just hoping that lack of appropriate treatment is not leading to long-term damage to my foot and/or ankle (my primary doc gave me a walking boot on Monday, but after two days of hobbling around the office in that instead of barefoot or in comfy shoes, the pain and swelling was actually worse since the velcro straps put pressure on the exact places that hurt, no matter how I adjusted them).
This concerns me because it's happened before - about 6 years ago, at burning man, I tripped over a hole in the playa, hurt my big toe and the ball of my foot, never got treatment for it 'cause it seemed minor (and besides I have experience with strains and sprains), but it still hurts to this day. (And no, the current injury isn't related to that one - that was the other foot.) I did have it looked at and even x-rayed a couple years ago, to no avail - nothing visibly wrong. Perhaps, while I have the podiatrist's attention on Friday, I'll ask him about that, too. That is, if they'll let me. Many doctors have a strict one-issue-per-visit policy.
But yeah - therein lies the root of the problem with our existing healthcare system. It's designed not to provide the best possible care, but to make the maximum amount of money. Only when we can somehow address that will it become worthwhile to start providing insurance to everyone, through whatever means.