Adventures in Medicine: MRSA and Health Insurance

Is health insurance a luxury or a necessity? Of course, I know the answer. Health insurance is a necessity I can no longer afford.

I was planning to let my COBRA health insurance ($443.10 a month) lapse in August. But that was before my medical adventure.

I was abashed about going to the doctor for something as trivial as an abscess inside my nose. But the swelling and the pain were increasing. So after work Thursday morning (midnight to 8 a.m. shift), I brushed my teeth and turned myself in at  the nearby clinic (motto: “Most insurance accepted. No appointment necessary.) 

It took the physician’s assistant (PA) about two minutes to diagnose the problem: “You have a staph infection.”  Also: “It might be MRSA.” (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, if you must know.)

MRSA is the nasty  staph infection that resists antibiotic treatment. It used to be mostly a hospital problem. But with the advances in modern medicine and all, now you don’t even have to go to the hospital to catch it. 

Not to worry. “We’re going to treat this aggressively,” the physician’s assistant declared with confidence.  She prescribed a big shot of penicillin in the butt. Plus two more strong antibiotics, to be taken for 10 days.

Itemized bill: $95 to establish the problem, $60 for penicillin, and $23 for a shot administered by a skilled medical technician. Total: $178. And $4 each for two generic prescriptions at WalMart. It was almost painless (the shot, not the bill).

I took my medicine and imagined how dangerous this little staph infection might become. I looked MRSA up on Wikipedia, which nearly scared me to death. That’s why I decided to pay the COBRA bill for August. And September, and October. 

Epilogue: The pain in my nose is gone. The PA says the antibiotics appear to be working. No need to come back, she says, unless the infection doesn’t disappear completely. That will be another $95. 

Whether this adventure was MRSA, or only your garden-variety staph infection, will remain a medical mystery. But who knows what adventures may lie ahead? Swine flu season is just around the corner.

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