She checked herself into the hospital so she wouldn't kill herself. It cost her $18,000.

With stories like this one, it's no wonder most Americans support universal healthcare.

Here in the land of the free, getting vital health services is incredibly expensive. We're used to it, kind of. We accept that it's the price we pay for living here, sort of.

We hear legends of far-off, foreign lands like Canada who somehow manage to provide health care for their citizens without any of them dying or going into a lifetime of debt because they can't afford it. We mumble something about wait times and quality of care while we sit in waiting rooms during hospital visits that we know will cost more than our car.


And we debate ideas like Medicare for all, even though the majority of Americans are actually all for it. This story is why.

Nicole Vlaming went to the emergency room because she was on the verge of suicide. It cost her $18,000.

"It's time to go public with this shit," Vlaming wrote on Facebook before launching into her story:

"Two weeks ago today, I walked into the ER because if I didn't I was going to kill myself. I was stripped of all my clothes and possessions, given disposable scrubs and put in a room for the next 5 hours. In the US, this costs nearly $3,000. I was then placed in the behavioral health ward until Sunday at noon. Three nights, two and a half days. Because it was a weekend, all therapy was scaled back, both in number of sessions and the quality of sessions. During one we simply played a trivia game. I sat around watching TV all day and chatting with a Vietnam vet. In the US this costs nearly $10,000. During this stay, I had blood drawn twice. That was another $3,800. Not shown are the "physician charges" that bring my grand total to over $18,000. I saw an MD once and had once daily sessions with a psychiatrist. Those sessions consisted of rating my depression on scale of 1-10 and asking if I want to hurt myself or anyone else. Real stellar care. /s Oh, I almost forgot to point out the $145 for 3 days worth of meds. I normally pay less than $50 for an entire month.

It's time to go public with this shit. Two weeks ago today, I walked into the ER because if I didn't I was going to...

Posted by Nicole Vlaming on Thursday, November 1, 2018

So this woman who sought help because she was in a mental health crisis and a danger to herself received mediocre care for three days and it cost her $18,000.

But her insurance should cover it, right? Isn't that what we have insurance for? Nope.

"My employer sponsored insurance does not cover inpatient mental health care in any capacity," Vlaming wrote. "I do have a supplemental insurance plan that will hopefully cover $6,000, leaving me on the hook for over $12,000."

What the hell, America.

"You want to know why people don't seek help? This is why."

Vlaming's final point is a painful one. We know that we have a mental health crisis in this country. We know that we need more support for people struggling with mental health issues. She did the right thing in that moment. Instead of killing herself, she went to the hospital. That was brave and smart—it should not be financially devastating.

It's a good reminder of what an outlier we are as a nation. The Canadians, Australians, and British folk chiming in on the post with "That visit wouldn't have cost us a thing!" drove that point home. As the only developed nation without universal healthcare coverage, we look really silly trying to tout our greatness, especially in the face of stories like this.

This cannot be that hard. Every other wealthy nation has figured out how to provide healthcare to its citizens. The U.S. spends more on health care than any country in the world, and yet we rank 12th in life expectancy among the 12 wealthiest industrialized nations because our system is so effed up. The irrational fear of Big Bad Taxes has blinded too many of our lawmakers to the embarrassing reality is that we have the worst healthcare model in the developed world.

Come on, America. It's time for universal healthcare. Just imagine how great we could be if all our citizens got the medical care they needed without the side effect of financial ruin.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The current COVID-19 "strategy" from the White House appears to be to push for theoretical "herd immunity" by letting the virus spread among the young and healthy population while protecting the elderly and immunocompromised until a certain (genuinely unknown) threshold is reached. Despite many infectious disease experts and some of the world's largest medical institutions decrying the idea as "a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence," and "practically impossible and highly unethical," the radiologist Trump added to his pandemic team is trying to convince people it's a grand plan.

Aside from the fact that we don't know enough about the natural immunity of this virus and the fact that "herd immunity" is a term used in vaccine science—not as a strategy of purposefully infecting people in order to get through an infectious disease outbreak —the idea of "infect the young, protect the vulnerable" is simply a unworkable strategy.

Look no further than the outbreak among the college student population in Pullman, Washington to see why.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

Keep Reading Show less