I grew up in Canada, and despite having lived in the U.S. for almost nine years, or most of my adult life, I'm often bewildered by the American health insurance system. I've been fortunate enough to have good, continuous health insurance the whole time I've lived stateside, but I still get little "why the bleep do they do it this way???"-type shocks from the U.S. health care system.
For instance: Being asked for my co-pay at the doctor's office? It seems a bit sordid. If I'm a human being, and I'm in pain or worried because my body is doing something weird, I should be able to get medical care whether I have the $20 or not, right?
To fight these bouts of cognitive dissonance, I've always reassured myself that I do have the $20, and really, really poor Americans have Medicaid.
But it turns out I was wrong, as the New York Times explains in a story titled "Don't We Already Have a Health Plan for the Poor?" In most states, the story says, adults must have children or be pregnant, elderly, blind, or receiving disability checks to be eligible for Medicaid. People like me - age 31, no kids, fairly healthy - don't get Medicaid no matter how destitute they are.
I think I'll have to upgrade health insurance from the category of "things that puzzle me about the United States" to "things that make me wonder if I've moved to another planet." That puts health insurance in the same category as - ugh- humorless public radio and the National Rifle Association.