Here’s a little bit of hospital slang I learned from a friend: the homeboy dropoff. In at least one Southern California hospital, that’s what they call it when gangsters drive their bullet-ridden or overdosing buddies to the hospital, only to drop the homeboy on the curb outside of the emergency room as they rush off to avoid being identified.
Homeboy dropoffs usually involve drug overdoses or life-threatening wounds from gang fights. Since these activities are illegal, a homeboy has to be in really bad shape before he’ll be brought to an emergency room. Hospital staff will rush to his rescue, working to save his life while there’s still time. When confronted with this situation, emergency room doctors and nurses don’t ask questions or consider consequences; all that matters is preventing the death of a human being. On the other hand, the scumbag friends who shoved him out of the car and sped off… they weren’t too worried about their homie at that point.
Sometimes, the homeboy survives the ordeal and has the opportunity to meet the person who saved his life: a complete stranger. This can be a powerful life-changing experience for people caught in the cycle of gang violence or drug addiction. A second chance at life. Some need a third or fourth chance before they learn their lesson, and some never do learn.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say this gangbanger/junkie has no health insurance and can’t afford to pay the hospital bill. Let’s go one step further and say he’s also an illegal immigrant. Who pays for his life-saving emergency care? The answer: We all do. Depending on various factors, uninsured E.R. costs are paid by some combination of federal, state, county, and hospital funds. Ultimately, the burden falls upon the people who can afford their own health care. Sound like socialized medicine to you?
This is the current health care system in the United States. Socialized medicine is nothing new in this country. As an American taxpayer, part of you might be a little pissed off to find out your tax dollars are being spent on homeboy dropoffs. Instead, take pride in the compassion and respect for life expressed by this aspect of our health care system. And given the vast resources available to us in America, not many people would want doctors to simply stand by and let the homeboy die in front of the hospital.
The debate about health care reform is not really about homeboy dropoffs. They’re already covered (emergency room visit, not follow-up care). We need serious reform because health insurance, medical procedures, and prescription drugs are becoming too expensive for regular working Americans to afford. If middle-class folks can’t afford health insurance, then it’s hard to justify government-subsidized health care for the Americans living in poverty. Costs are going up while the number of insured is shrinking. If we continue at this rate, the entire thing falls apart – including the private health insurance business. We need to fix the health care system so it works for everybody.
Strong, smart health care reform should drastically cut the overall cost of health care, insurance, and pharmaceuticals. Don’t blame the homeboy dropoffs for the fact that America overpays for health care.