When anyone asks me what it's like to be a family doctor in a small, rural community, I have a ready reply.
The medicine is the easy part, I say, only half joking. The hard part is making sure my patients get appropriate health care.
The whole situation is frustrating and, at times, heartbreaking.
Right now we have a woman patient, married with young children. She and her husband work, but they don't make enough to buy health insurance. She was recently diagnosed with a progressive neurologic disease.
She needs to see a neurologist but each visit would cost several hundred dollars. As her physician, I'm trying to help her get the treatment she needs without bankrupting her. She also needs diagnostic tests - one is $1,200 just for starters. If she does get the tests and they show what we suspect, then we'll have to talk with her about starting medications that can cost $600 a week.
Something needs to change. Health care should not be a luxury only the well-off can afford. We have to take action to make sure all the hardworking families in Deer Isle and across the nation have access to affordable health care coverage. When it comes to basic health care, people shouldn't have to make such choices.
Author: Joe Babbitt - a family physician from Deer Isle, Maine.