Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Personal Observation on Rough Social Equity (or lack thereof) at the ER

I was all set to finish the Race and the Commons series last Thursday, but was waylaid by a NYC pothole that wrenched my foot and landed me in the ER. While sitting in the ER, I overheard two contrasting conversations.

At first, a woman was on the other side of the curtain. She was concerned about her lack of insurance and kept asking the Physician's Assistant who was handling all our cases about the costs of procedures, drugs, etc. that were being administered. I sympathized with her financial concern ... even though I have insurance I'd spent an hour on the phone with my insurance company to figure out which hospital was "in network."

At some point the uninsured woman was replaced by a pair of bankers (this isn't an assumption, they boasted quite loudly about their jobs). As a plastic surgeon who'd clearly come down to the ER especially for this case (he was wearing designer jeans and a pink oxford shirt, unlike the rest of the staff's scrubs) was giving one of the duo stitches, the three men chatted. They name dropped ... identifying people they knew in common, marveling at what a small world it is. And they compared notes on their porsches ... I'm NOT kidding: one of the bankers was shocked that the surgeon didn't have a convertible while the surgeon defended the sporting-qualities of his hardtop.

It was such a banal conversation, but strikingly different from the concerns and reality of both myself and the uninsured woman who had occupied the bed just an hour earlier. The experience drove home how how vastly unequal our society is.

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