Posts Tagged ‘health care’

May or may not be Dr. Jones

This Letter to the Editor, written by Doctor Jones about health care in America, is from the August 29th edition of Jackson, Mississippi’s newspaper, the Clarion Ledger.

(Caveat: There’s some discussion as to whether the Doctor pictured is in fact the same doctor that wrote the op ed)

Dear Sirs:

During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B; tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our President expects me to pay for this woman’s health care?

Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture – a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.

A culture that thinks I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.

As you might expect, this letter has gone viral and become something of a lightning rod for the opinions of people on both sides of the political (and frankly, racial) spectrum.

Now, one of the first assumptions everyone makes of course, is that this patient is black and that there’s a racial undertone to this whole thing. I mean, come on, expensive tennis shoes, multiple tats, R&B ringtone, gold teeth. All you’d need would be multiple strangely named children along to complete the Grand Slam of Stereotypes.

Do I think there’s a racial undertone to this? Yes. I know it’s unpopular in this country to point out things that MAY represent racial stereotyping, discrimination, etc. Effectively, you have to show up burning a cross with a T-Shirt that says “I hate Darkies” before someone will try and form an alternate explanation about how “it’s not about race, it’s about (insert big government, personal responsibility, socialism, values,etc…). In my PERSONAL OPINION, as I don’t know this guy and haven’t learned to read minds yet like more advanced Jedi, I believe the choice of descriptors was made in order to ensure that the reader developed a mental image of the person as black.

We’re supposed to think of them:


Not them:

Not ghetto

What strikes me as most interesting about the discussion is the diverse opinions of Black People themselves. Because in truth, this is a conversation, we often have among ourselves. If this was a Black doctor, this would be a different conversation. Many more of us would nod our heads, and say, yup, we gotta do better. Others would argue that this hypothetical black doctor was “airing our dirty laundry” and furthering negative stereotypes.

But because he’s white, the natural tendency is to circle the wagons. And truthfully, there’s a lot wrong with this op-ed. To suggest that health care costs in America are out of control simply because someone buys expensive tennis shoes isn’t something I think most reputable Doctors or health care professionals would ascribe to. The smoking, certainly you have a point there. But this really wasn’t about that.

What it was about was a veiled attack at a “culture.” The doctor never mentioned what the woman’s ailment was, or if it had anything to do with her smoking. We don’t know if she was in there for asthma or emphysema or because she had had skinned her knee.

What we know is that the doctor took issue with her having material things, which judging bu her lack of health insurance, suggested that she couldn’t really afford them and that her priorities were out of order. That she was irresponsible, and because of that irresponsibility, partly to blame for many of the other ills in this country.

And I frequently take issue with this. I see people buying bottles in clubs who can’t afford to live by themselves. People who are in hock to their ears in credit card and student loan debt but have Gucci purses the size of a tent. And let’s face it, they kind of look like me. It’s very easy to attack this kind of blanket materialism, but as one commenter said, people spend money on things that they feel will get them results.

She live wit her muh-va

None of us individually create a a mainstream culture. We live in it, and we choose the depths to which we’ll participate, opt out, or find another cultural group to deal with. And we live in a culture that often has some fairly perverse incentives for behavior which may or not be functional.

A selection of comments I read on Facebook:

JB: I agree…the racist language/viewpoint is much more than undertones in this letter! I do get frustrated when people spend endlessly on luxuries without greater insight into how that affects the entire community….but that spans more than mere “gold teeth” and “R & B” ringtones! There are plenty of other financial irresponsible folks out there—hello, housing/banking crisis!

CB: I agree that his letter is racist, but I have to kind of agree with him on some points. I used to work at Chicago’s section 8 office and I saw this every day. It does eat away at your spirit. Add the fact that I often see a young mother pu…rchase Cheetos for HER CHILD with an EBT card when I’m at Walgreen’s or similar and you’re pouring gas all over the fire. Do I mind that my tax dollars are going towards helping the less fortunate get food? No. Am I embittered about paying for this (almost always) teenage single mom pass on bad dietary habits to her child? Hell yes. I feel that the EBT cards should be coded so that you can’t use them to buy junk.

A better, less elitist letter would examine the reasons we need to reinstate health classes in American schools so that kids learn the value of good nutrition and exercise so that they don’t repeat their parents’ mistakes and stay out of that MD’s emergency room.

DH: I know, his post makes us doctors look bad! Being able to afford a gold tooth and some fashion accessories does not mean that that person can afford a monthly health insurance payment. Our society does not allow people to easily cross the line from total poverty (welfare/medicaid) to a self-sufficient life-style. All of a sudden all benefits are gone and payments make it impossible to meet all the needs.

TW: I can’t front, I kinda agree with dude. I see countless kids in my classroom decked out to the nines, but who are receiving all types of aid. #noshade but umm….really?

What’s your take? Reckless racism, or a timely commentary on a pressing issue?