So you think you can do without health insurance?

For a moment, I saw what looked like an explosion of white stars, then black cobwebs floated in and out of my field of view. I thought I must have become slightly dehydrated (I’d been out walking in the heat), or had a migraine coming on. I drank water and resumed my business trip, although I kept having this annoying sensation that there were grease spots on my glasses.

Three days later I gripped the arms of the chair, trying not to scream as a retina specialist performed laser surgery to repair three tears in the retina of my right eye. As I struggled to keep still through the procedure, which was cauterizing blood vessels in my eye, all I could think was how lucky I was. I had health insurance.

Retinal tears like the ones in my right eye lead to a detached retina, which is why the doctor’s office had rushed me into the slot for emergencies when they heard my symptoms, and why I was in surgery 45 minutes after getting the diagnosis. Once a retina fully detaches, a much more complex surgery is required, and only 55 to 60 percent of eyes with reattached retinas retain full vision. Another 5 to 15 percent of retinal reattachment operations are unsuccessful, meaning the patient loses their sight. In contrast, the preventive treatment that I received to repair the tears in my right eye has an excellent success rate. In four weeks, I’d be having a similar laser coagulation procedure on my left eye, which was also diagnosed as needing treatment.

If I didn’t have health insurance, I would have been left with a hefty bill for these laser procedures. What is more likely is that I would not have gone to the eye doctor at all. My retinas would have detached, and I would have been faced with paying for a much more complicated and expensive surgery with less certain outcomes — the possibility of permanently reduced vision or evenblindness…

Read full story at The Boston Globe

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