A slightly different look at our health system:

A man invented a machine that let him go back in time 200 years.  He set it
up, turned it on, and poof!  He found himself 200 years in the past, in the
middle of a forest.  He walked around until he met a woman carrying a
basket.  She asked him about his strange clothes and he decided to take a
chance and tell her the truth.  She believed him.  He asked her what she was
doing, the conversation went something like this:

She:  I'm gathering herbs.

He: Oh, for cooking?

No, for medicine.

What kind of medicine can you make from herbs?

We make teas and powders with them.

What kind of problems can they cure?

A lot of things.  For example, my mother has come down with a fever and I am
getting willow bark, goldenseal and Echinacea for her.

I see!  In my time we have something called antibiotic pills we buy for
that.  Anything else?

 My father has trouble going to the bathroom sometimes so I am gathering
nettles and saw palmetto berries for him.

Oh, he has prostate problems.  We have pills for that, too.

It's wonderful that you can just go to a store and buy pills instead of
searching for herbs!

Well, we can't just go buy them.

Why not?

You have to get a prescription from a doctor, it's like a permission slip.

Whatever for?

Because they are controlled by the government.

Medicine is controlled by the government in your time?

Yes, but it's for safety reasons, because some pills are much stronger than
herbs and could be dangerous if misused.

Your pills are dangerous?

Well, they're not that dangerous, but the doctor can determine which ones we

So, you have to pay a doctor to tell you what pill to buy and then gives
them to you?

No, the doctors don't have the pills.  They give us a permission slip called
a "prescription" which we can take to a drug store and show it to them so
they can sell us the pills.

You have to pay the doctor to give you permission to get the pills and then
you have to buy the pills?

Well, we don't pay the doctor, the insurance company does.

What's an insurance company?

It's a company that agrees to pay our medical bills for a monthly fee.

A monthly fee?  Does that mean you have to pay them even if you don't get

Well, they do have to get paid but we don't usually pay, our employer does.

Your employer pays?  How much do they pay?

For me and my family, it's about $350 a month, but money in our time has a
different value than in your time.  In our time, a dozen eggs are around a
dollar or a little less.

Still, that's a lot!  How can they have money left to pay you?

Well, our standard of living has risen.  There is a lot more money to go
around in my day.

So your employer has to pay enough money for 350 dozen eggs each month to
the insurance company?  Why doesn't he give you the money, and you just pay
the doctor when you need to see him?

Well, because if we need major surgery or an extended hospital stay, the
insurance company will pay.  If we had to pay, it could add up to more than
we make in a year, or ten years, or perhaps even a lifetime.

My gosh!  That's so expensive!  It's good that you have insurance.  So when
you get sick, you send for the doctor, then.

Well, no, doctors don't come to your house anymore.

Oh, you go to them when you get sick?

Yes, but we have to make an appointment.

You can't just go to see him?

No, we usually have to wait a few days to get in but if it's urgent we can
go to an emergency doctor.

So, when you get sick, you make an appointment, then you wait a few days,
then you go to the doctor, who tells you what possibly dangerous pills you
need and gives you permission to buy them, but he can't sell them to you so
you have to take the permission slip and go to the drug store to buy them,
and all this is paid for by an insurance company who is paid by your

Uh, yes, that's pretty much it.  Say, could you do something for me?


Teach me how to gather herbs!