Greek-American Stories: The Cost of Health Care

Αssociated Press

FILE - This March 29, 2018 file photo shows steamed milk floating atop a cup of coffee at a cafe in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

The mood around the table at Dixon’s that Sunday was on the somber side. “I hear Kipreos is sick with the flu. Too bad! I learned that he’s been out of work for a week now,” George informed the others. “Let’s visit him later. What do you say? Maybe, it’ll make him feel better,” said John, setting down his coffee cup. Dimos, skeptical, told them, “it may be too soon. He may not feel like having company. He may be still in the contamination stage. You don’t want to get sick, too. Let’s wait a few days. But, let’s send him a basket of fruit. I’ll order it, and we’ll split the costs. Ok with you guys?” All agreed immediately, nodding their heads. Realizing he’d have to dish out some cash, Yiannis offered, “I’ll take it up to him to make sure he receives it.” Narrowing his eyes, George said, “just make sure Kipreos receives some of the fruit, too!” Yiannis ignored him, reaching out for a donut. Looking serious, Dimos said, “the flu is serious enough but we gotta realize that getting older means getting things easier than young guys.” John and George agreed. Yiannis, brows wrinkling, said, “What d’you mean, ‘getting things’?”

“I mean,” began Dimos. “...getting older makes us more susceptible to ailments like flu, bone problems, hearing problems, falling...things like that.” Still dissatisfied, Yiannis asked, “What do you suggest?” Shrugging and thoughtful, Dimos advised that they all see their doctors more often. “Just to be ahead of the game.” Yiannis’ eyes took on a hard light. He said, “that means paying doctors to find things wrong with us. And, they do! Then, they prescribe pills, and lotions, and injections, procedures and, more appointments and maybe, see another doctor, a friend of his. That circuit costs money. A lot of money! And, it doesn’t stop. It becomes like a club you belong to and pay the endless dues.”

“You’re not Superman, Yiannis,” George told him. “Bet you’ve got a list of things that need looking after.” Reaching for another donut Yiannis asked, “Like what?” George said, “Like your weight! Like your lack of activity. Those can cause a list of ailments. Bet a doctor would have field day on you.” Yiannis changed his mind about devouring the donut. “Ahh, there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Dimos put out his hand. “Look! I thought the same thing, Yiannis. I said there’s nothing wrong with me until a few weeks ago I got a pain in my chest. I almost passed out. I went to the doctors and, after a few tests, he said it’s possibly, stress.” He shrugged. “You never know!” Yiannis’ thoughts went to the cost of tests, appointments, pharmacy stuff and what Areti’s health insurance would be responsible for. Thank heaven that she works and her health insurance includes him. Then, Dimos grew serious. “Speaking about passing out, I’d like to talk about that for a minute.” He had everyone’s full attention. “Like I said, you never know when something is going to happen to you. I could pass out again. So, if I ever do and you guys happen to be around, I’d give a really handsome reward to anyone who’ll give me CPR.”

George, consolation being his sincere intent, said, “you’ll get the best care, ol’ friend! Hope that time never comes. But, I’d stand by you until help comes if it took all day or all night!” John, placing a hand gravely on his friend’s arm, spoke with the concern of a brother to a brother vowing, “I’ll sign up for CPR instructions tomorrow, and I hope I’ll never use it on you. I’d not only apply CPR Dimos but, in the meantime, I’d call for an ambulance, the police, fire department, the marines!” Dimos laughed. Yiannis, pensive, seemed in deep thought. He gazed at his friend thinking over what he’d said. Stirring his coffee slowly, he was giving the situation serious contemplation. Then, bending his head towards Dimos, he asked, “How much?”