If a pile of old National Geographic magazines fell on you in 1995 and you have been trapped under them since, you might not know that there are problems with American healthcare. Sure, the Affordable Care Act has made things better and easier for a lot of people in America, but many others are still in dire trouble when it comes to bad health, usually because they're in that annoying category where they're too rich to qualify for Medicaid but not rich enough to buy their own insurance. Or maybe they do have insurance, but they could only afford to buy a plan like this one.
Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"I'm afraid your plan only covers leeches and a psychic reading for humour imbalance."
Well, good news for these unlucky souls: There are other options out there if you want a doctor to fix that broken leg or confirm the existence of that human-shaped tumor on your abdomen that whispers to you whenever you start to fall asleep. As the saying goes, "Dying of cancer is the mother of invention," which is why people have resorted to ...
#6. Getting Arrested
Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images
I've never been to prison, but judging from what I've seen on television, it seems pretty bad. I mean, think back to what life was like for the characters on that HBO show Oz. You're stuck in an icy hellhole, men with guns are constantly coming to your door, and those goddamn moose are always- wait, I'm thinking of Alaska State Troopers. But I do definitely know one thing about prison from TV, and that's that no one would ever want to voluntarily give up their freedom and end up in a place like that. Unless they were an American and needed healthcare, that is.
Millions of bald eagles are sobbing at the irony.
At least, they might if they were James Verone. In 2011, Verone walked into a bank in Gastonia, North Carolina, and demanded the clerk hand him a dollar. When asked why he'd rob a bank for an amount of money that won't even get you a McDonald's dollar menu item anymore, Verone told police that he hadn't been able to find steady work since being laid off as a delivery driver, and desperately required surgery for his back problems, as well as someone to check out a suspicious lump growing on his chest. Since prisons in North Carolina are required to treat anyone with a chronic or emergency health problem for free, a nice three-year prison sentence would be enough to get his healthcare needs attended to.
Surgery is performed with a filed-down toothbrush, but still.
You might have noticed that this scheme sounds remarkably like the plot from Prison Break, in which a man deliberately gets himself sent to prison because his brother's snowmobile has been stolen, forcing him to hunt all his moose on- wait, sorry, that's Alaska State Troopers again. But unlike on TV, where such last-ditch, devil-may-care plans usually work out for the best, Verone received a less-serious larceny charge that carries a much shorter sentence than the three years he was hoping for. Oh well; try to rob an orphanage next time.
#5. Standing In Line For Days
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
Every year after Thanksgiving, people across America line up for Black Friday deals at their local big box store. There's an approximately zero percent chance that you don't know this, because every year, the media rushes headlong to cover this story like a Walmart manager diving in to break up a fight over discounted microwaves. Here's a small selection of such stories from 2014, for example:
Via New York Times
But there's another yearly, wait-in-line-for-days event that the media almost completely ignores. It's the Wise Fairground clinic in Virginia, run by Remote Area Medical, a charity organization that provides free medical care to people living in remote areas. The clinic lasts for three days, and patients often camp out the night before to get a place in line for treatment. One reporter who did make it to the clinic discovered 1,500 people at the gates by 5 in the morning, including a man who had traveled there on foot because he couldn't afford gas.
Why are Walmart lines a media circus and not this? It could be because articles about Americans waiting in line to get their rotten teeth pulled are less likely to get Facebook-shared by your aunt with comments attached about working-class greed and the evils of consumerism. Instead, they're more likely to just make people depressed. Or maybe journalists just don't want to drive all the way to rural Virginia. I don't know. I've never been there. The place might have alligators with bat wings.
Via Southern Studies
That baby could be hiding a bunch of deadly mouth tentacles. I wouldn't know.
#4. Joining The Military
It's no huge secret that not everyone who signs up for military service does it out of a pure patriotic sense of duty. A stint in the military is also a common way for young people to pay for college, or to get training that might lead to better jobs later. But "joining because your life sucks" isn't just for America's youngsters. Older folks occasionally do it too, and often because life has delivered them a healthcare-related kick in the groin.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty
Sometimes in the form of an actual kick in the groin.
See, the military offers relatively good healthcare benefits for a service member's spouse and children, and if you're willing to overlook all that "potentially going to war" stuff, it's a good way to get a sick family member reliably treated for the foreseeable future. That was the case for Bill Caudle, whose wife was diagnosed with a severe and eventually fatal form of ovarian cancer. Recently laid off from his job, Caudle opted to join the Army in 2009 at age 39 to pay for her chemo treatments, going through basic training with drill sergeants who weren't much more than half his age.
"Drop to the ground and give me 25 Taylor Swift lyrics!"
Caudle ended up stationed across the country from his ailing wife in her last years, but he doesn't regret the decision, as the treatment paid for by the military allowed her to stick around long enough to witness the birth of her first grandchild. And let's face it, that's the closest we'll come to a happy ending for a story like this, so let's go with it.