The new class system

Last week my cheek started swelling, and sure enough, I have an abcsessed tooth. I went to the dentist on Friday and got some antibiotics, as well as a referral to the specialist. Luckily I have dental as well as medical insurance. An embarrassment of riches.

Class in this country used to be based on race, or ethnic background, or what you owned and where your kids went school. It was a complicated formula, and no guarantees that depending on what you were and how much money you had, you’d be in one class or another.

It’s a lot less complicated today. Today’s class system is based almost exclusively on one factor: what type of health insurance you have.

Now you can have no health insurance and you’ll either be the working poor, or you’ll be rich enough not to need it. Being completely poor, and I mean on the street homeless, you’ll not need it either because you use the emergency rooms for all your medical needs.

The middle class has health insurance, but the degree of coverage and cost defines your status now. Try going into a dentist office or doctor without health insurance, and see how you’re treated compared to when you have insurance. Then, see how you’re treated depending on what type of coverage you have, and who the carrier is.

Health insurance is also the new corporate American chains to bind the working class in this country. People are less likely to make a change in employment now because they’re worried about what will happen with their health insurance. The recent grocery strike across the country? That was almost completely having to do with health insurance.

Still, even if you have insurance, there’s no guarantee how you’ll be treated. When I called the specialist and said that yes, I had insurance, I was welcomed. But when asked if I had a job and replied that I was self-employed, I was told that I would have to pay upfront and then bill my insurance company myself.

I wonder what it would be like to be in a country where when you’re sick, all you have to worry about is getting better? In this country, the first thing you think of, is “How do I pay for this?”

(Of course, other countries like Iraq worry more about whether there’s even a doctor to see, and if you’ll get shot on the way to the office, much less how to pay for them, so I guess things could be worse.)

Hmm. Just one of those things going through my mind now. Excuse me, as I go call around to find a specialist who won’t demand payment upfront.

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