Wednesday, October 7, 2020

"Checking into the hospital" -- not a luxury most of us have

As I would say of anyone who has is facing a serious and potentially life-threatening medical issue, I wish all the best and a speedy recovery to former governor Chris Christie as he battles Covid-19. 

Christie tested positive this week, having become infected amidst the outbreak at the White House, which has been linked to the Supreme Court nomination announcement, an event during which most attendees including Christie ignored CDC guidelines as they intermingled in a large group with few masks and little social distancing. Following his public revelation of a positive Covid test, Christie then announced that in "consultation with his doctors" out of caution because he has asthma (not mentioning being obese) he would "check himself into the hospital."

That phrasing struck me as odd. It sounds like he's just spending the weekend at the Four Seasons. 

Hospitalization is a very serious decision, especially in the midst of a pandemic that has killed a million people worldwide. In all my experience and understanding, hospitals are not places you simply "check into" like you've booked an appointment at a spa. And, even if they were a place you could just get a room any time you'd like, most people do not have the resources or the access to 24-hour attention to their health, just out of precautions. Oh, that the health care system were so accommodating. In fact, immediate access to health care is the wish and desire of millions of people. For most of us, that option is prohibitive on multiple levels. And even for people hospitalized, it would seem Christie is receiving unusual access to care. Reports indicate the hospital has started him on the anti-viral drug remdesivir "as a precaution." Yet, all news reports indicate the drug is reserved for only the most serious Covid cases that aren't responding to regular treatments. So why is Chris Christie given access to this drug unnecessarily at a time when most people suffering from Covid don't get it, and when some people who are symptomatic are still struggling to even receive a test, much less have access to immediate high level hospital care?

That question, of course, brings up another:  Is Christie's explanation that his symptoms are mild and the hospitalization is cautionary an accurate portrayal of his situation? Or is he far sicker than he indicates? If that is true, then Christie or his office needs to clarify the decision of his doctors. As stories continue to surface of people being denied tests, denied hospitalization, and denied their right to life, the disparity in care is a troubling side effect of the nation's poor pandemic response. If some Americans are suffering and dying from limited access to health care while Chris Christie is receiving the drug remdesivir simply as a precaution while his condition is not actually at the serious level, the public needs to know, and the governor and the system need to be held accountable for the inconsistency.

The news of Christie's hospitalization and extensive special treatment is simply another example of problems in the American health care system, and the rather crass attitude of far too many contemporary Republicans on the subject. Of course, I don't fault anyone who pursues and is able to receive the best medical care they can. But I am suspicious and critical of anyone who would actively inhibit changes to a health care system in order to limit any expansion or funding of the very access they demand and receive as a matter of privilege. As an asthmatic, like Gov Christie, I am deeply concerned and at risk for complications from respiratory illnesses. Unlike Christie, I am sure, I have a high-deductible health insurance plan which comes with the added burden of a $12,000 deductible. As a public employee (like Christie was for many years), I do not have the resources to pay $12K out-of-pocket "as a precaution." And that's why I am bothered by the word choices of former Governor-turned-corporate-lobbyist Chris Christie in relation to his hospitalization for Covid.

To conclude, I truly wish all the best and restored health to Chris Christie. In addition to his feeling better, it's my hope this experience also leads him to revise his views and actions on health care in the United States.

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