A viral thread is blowing up the American perception of universal healthcare simply by telling the story of how one woman went from feeling a lump in her breast to getting checked out and assured that it was benign in the space of a single day, and for $3. The woman, author Mary Robinette Kowal, was living in Iceland when she discovered a worrying lump and feared the worst.
When I lived in Iceland, I found a lump. I had no idea how to navigate finding a doctor, so I went to our show's production manager.
Me: I found a lump. Can you help me find a doctor?
PM: Just go to the cancer center.
Me: Okay. How do a get a referral?
PM: What's a referral?
In the U.S., patients typically have to get a referral from their primary care physician before seeing any kind of specialist or get any medical test beyond the absolute basics in order for health insurance companies to cover the costs.
In Iceland, such a process apparently does not exist.
Having accepted that I don't need a referral, I say, "How do I make an appointment?"
CC: An appointment? Yes, we can do that if your schedule is very busy, otherwise just come in.
Me: I don't need an appointment?
CC: You found a lump! You know your body, yes? Come in.
Walking into a medical office? The same day? Without having to wait in line for hours in a lobby full of horrifically sick people coughing and sneezing their germs into the air you breathe? What?
She escorts me into an examining room and palpates the area.
CC: Yes, that does feel like a lump. Let's do a mammogram.
I prepare to hear about making an appointment for that.
CC: I'm sorry, but it's across the hall. Do you mind following me?
She apologizes because Kowal will have to walk across the hall to immediately get a mammogram.
Notice how they keep repeating “you found a lump.” As though there is no question that someone who found a strange lump on their body would be checked out immediately. Is this that fabled “health care” people speak of?
She does the ultrasound and when we're finished, she tells me to get dressed and to meet her in the waiting room.
I head out to the changing room, put my top back on, and walk out to the waiting room. I sit down to wait.
CC: It is only cyst.
In the U.S., there is a persistent myth that “socialized medicine” means that you get put on long waiting lists to see a doctor even for urgent issues such as a possible cancerous tumor. Yet Kowal walked into the cancer center the same day and was getting a mammogram in 20 minutes, then immediately got an ultrasound and minutes later finds out that she’s going to be okay. This is unheard of in the U.S.
PS for clarity, I used my surname, but I'm pretty sure it was my first name the entire time, because Iceland.
PPS Why don't all mammograms have warmers?
As a follow up to this jaw-dropping, myth-smashing thread, Kowal directed readers to a tweet by writer Kelly Gregory about the nightmare she endured trying to get a mammogram in the U.S. when she found a lump on her own breast while living in Tennessee.
By this time, lump was the size of a deck of cards. Because of the quick work of that first line care at .@PPFA, by the way, things moved quickly. But still, testing soon showed the cancer had spread and I had StageIV MBC, a terminal diagnosis.
— Kelly Gregory (@KellyLGregory) June 4, 2019
Unfortunately, in Gregory’s case, the disastrous U.S. healthcare system has proven deadly.
I’m about to hit my 9th anniversary as a MBC patient. But it will eventually kill me and I will die because I didn’t have access to healthcare for a few years in my late 30’s.
— Kelly Gregory (@KellyLGregory) June 4, 2019
People living outside of the U.S. are routinely horrified by how inefficient and generally broken the healthcare system is in this country, yet the myth that universal healthcare will be somehow worse persists. Hopefully, in the face of stories like Kowal’s, the myth will not be able to survive, especially as others come out to tell their tales of quests for treatment within the U.S. and abroad.
My mom passed in Sweden2years ago,spent time in the hospital after a stroke,her last week in a beautiful hospice. When I tell friends in US how much it all cost,I get one question”what t hell are you doing here?”Why didn’t you take your husband&kids of 40yrs and leave long ago?
— Suzanne's Criteria68 (@criteria681) June 4, 2019
Wow. And wow again. That’s what it should be like. I got a call from my doctor after my yearly. My thyroid levels were almost non-existent and I needed to see a specialist. 2 weeks until I could get an appt. I had to schedule my follow up. 1st available appt…8 months.
— Read an Indie book and support small business. (@Sherrishaw14) June 3, 2019
My mother collapsed when we were in vacation in Rome. After 2 days in the emergency dept (lots of blood tests, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound), we were leaving and I asked who to talk to about billing. The Dr looked at me like I was stupid. We paid 0, as foreigners.
— Kevin (@kcpoehl) June 4, 2019
I had a car wreck and my ambulance bill was over $10,000 for a trip less than a mile. Ps, I live in Kentucky in a small town and was rear ended, my car insurance didn’t want to pay the medical bills or for the damages on my car. Healthcare here is a joke.
— Cara (@whimsyintrovert) June 4, 2019
Welcome to the civilised world.
I'm British. In 2010 I collapsed at work. Ambulance. CT scan. 8 inch diameter, 12lb kidney tumour.
7 weeks in hospital. Surgery. 3 years experimental chemo. 9 years post-cancer monitoring. Cured.
I paid nothing. Absolutely not one penny.
— Russ (@RussInCheshire) June 4, 2019
2) the next day, ended up at two different ones, cost was zero. My 79 year old Mom was baffled. Every time we talk about healthcare she tells me her Canadian friends say it isn’t perfect, but that fall had her thinking about things a bit differently
— Heather Healy (@healy01) June 4, 2019
Free at the point of use, but I definitely would have paid 3 dollars if needed!
— Naomi (@naomipony) June 3, 2019
My friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer. It took her a year to get a doctor to listen to her and actually do a biopsy because she only had pain. She’s going to be ok but has 4 young kids- our system is so broken
— January George (@JanuaryGeorge3) June 4, 2019
I had an asthma attack while working in Canada once. They took me to the ER in an ambulance, performed various breathing treatments and tests. Kept me for monitoring. Filled prescriptions for 2 inhalers and an oral steroid. Total price was $8. In the states? Thousands of dollars.
— Aimee Carrero (@aimeecarrero) June 4, 2019
I had pre and post-natal care for two kids, one c-section, one natural birth, and a total of 7 days in the hospital paid for by the government of Canada, and I’m not even a citizen yet.
I always feel a little happy and a lot grateful every time I pay my taxes.
— Claire Ryan (@aetherlev) June 4, 2019
God damn. I pay 12k a year to still to pay 20-35 bucks every appointment. 35 dollars twice a week for just physical therapy. I already pay 300 a month for the insurance and then pay over 300 in copays as well. America is garbage sometimes. ????
— cashmoney (@remsisuhmazing) June 3, 2019
It's crazy, my stepdad had a heart attack at work and walked 2 blocks to the hospital in crippling pain because he didnt want to incur ridiculous ambulance costs. He could've died on the street.
— Penni (@alsopennibrown) June 4, 2019
When I lived in Iceland I needed a midnight ride to the ER. Ended up spending the night there, getting multiple tests and exams and follow up appointments for two weeks. I was a foreign student and my total bill for all of this was less than 50 USD. I miss feeling that safe.
— Kit Mayquist (@KMayquist) June 4, 2019
In contrast we were Canadians in Florida – my mom had an anaphylactic reaction to shellfish – the hospital asked for her insurance and credit card before doing anything.
— Jenn (@JennLMcC78) June 4, 2019
I had health insurance through my job, couldn't afford the copay to see a doctor. Ignored mild digestive issues and abdominal pain for about 6 months. Went to ER after throwing up 14 hours. Complete bowel blockage. Stage IV colon cancer with mets to liver, lymph nodes and bones.
— Nicole Fights Cancer & Racism (@NUCLEARnicole) June 4, 2019
I just fought with my insurance for two months because they randomly cancelled my coverage without notice retroactively for the year because of an internal mistake…. pic.twitter.com/6ztaSxv0ax
— Florence (@Askflorence) June 3, 2019
6 mos later is Jan 2019. New deductibles kick in!
April 2019-2nd mammogram. $500. Radiologist takes film to dr. I don't talk to him. Radiologist comes back, "Looks good. Just calcium deposits."
2 weeks later a notice IN THE MAIL AGAIN, no phone call. Need an ultrasound!
— rodz0827 (@rodz0827) June 4, 2019
What do we want, America? What kind of healthcare system do we want for ourselves? Think carefully.
Kowal did not immediately respond to God.DailyDot.com’s request for comment.