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.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less