Crazy Health-Care Stories: DailyFinance Readers Speak

Readers found creative ways to get health care they couldn't afford
Readers found creative ways to get health care they couldn't afford

A week ago, I took a peek at some of the strange things that people have done for health care. While the examples I used -- including medical tourism, self-medicating with herbs and supplements, and getting married for health care -- were relatively odd, I decided that they probably represent only the tip of the iceberg. In an attempt to get a better glimpse at the health care dilemma from the ground up, I asked you, DailyFinance readers, to tell me your stories. Here's what you said:

Some of our respondents' experiences echoed the original piece. One admitted that she, too, had gotten married for health care in order to get treatment for a pre-existing medical condition.

Another, L. Dan Smith, took our self-medicating idea one step further. After getting injured at work in 2002, he ended up on worker's comp, which he has been on for almost eight years.

He writes: "I'm trying to get on Social Security, but they keep jerking me around. After three operations, then getting rear-ended by someone without insurance, I found myself with a limp, causing me to need a cane." Part of Dan's problem was that he had an ingrown toenail; unable to afford a corrective operation, he bit the bullet (actually a mouthful of Q-tips) and operated on himself. He notes that "It's been about four weeks, and I am starting to get around a little better."

Creative Solutions

Another respondent, who asked that we refer to her as "Appalled," tells the story of a relative who found a creative way to get painkillers: "He went to an emergency room on his Medicaid complaining loudly of a twisted ankle even though he told everyone in his family there was no injury prior to his visit... They checked him out and gave him an Rx for vicodin!"

One respondent, who asked that we call her "Sharon," offers a particularly creative solution for the health-care conundrum. A freelance web developer, she used to pay for her own health insurance until "the premiums went through the roof. I could have bought a luxury car for what I was paying in premiums."

Stuck with covering her medical care out of pocket, Sharon decided to quit smoking, hoping that it would improve her health. Unfortunately, when she began taking Chantix, a prescription medication that helped with her cravings, she experienced depression as a side effect. Unable to afford a psychiatrist, and afraid that having an anti-depressant on her health history would keep her from later getting insurance, she enrolled in a clinical trial at a nearby hospital. As part of the tests, she was able to get an anti-depressant without paying a cent -- or having it on her record.

Thank-You for Screening

After her experience with the anti-depressant trials, Sharon went to Cetero, a biomedical research company with locations across the country, when she needed screening for a gynecological problem. The company, which was looking for volunteers to test a hormone replacement therapy, gave her a battery of tests, including "blood tests, a mammogram, chest x-rays, a pap smear, an EKG, screening for cervical cancer, and a host of other tests."

Although she wasn't selected to participate in the trial, the pre-screening identified her health problem -- and saved her thousands of dollars.

As I mentioned, these stories came from you. With the exception of one phone call and some basic Web research, I didn't investigate them and can't attest to their veracity. But the thing is that they seem to tell a basic truth. While the situations may be outrageous, none of the readers' actions seem like an unreasonable response to their particular health-care dilemma.

And that, more than anything, demonstrates just how far our standards for health care have fallen.