Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Doctors Handle Folks 'Not Able to Pay', 1919

“Not Able to Pay!” from the November, 1919, issue of The Health Bulletin, published by the North Carolina State Board of Health

Classification of School Children Into Well-to-do and Indigent is Un-American, Un-Democratic, Un-Christian

No zydogactile bard of the order Psittacci ever told himself  “Pretty Polly!” with more satisfaction than otherwise responsible people derive from mouthing “Not able to pay.” It is unction to their souls. It is balm for many a troubled conscience.

“O, yes, this hospital offers free treatment to those who are not able to pay,” says the President of the Board of Visitors, adding, of course, “except a small fee to take care of incidentals.”

“Special provision for those who are not able to pay”; the “worthy poor”; “children of the poor”; “for charity” are a few of the canting generalities which cover a multitude of the sins of omission.

The North Carolina State Board of Health is neither Bolshevik nor Prussian; nor is its mission the setting of a wrong world right. But some of us who have played the game of life in the rough—who have practiced medicine and occasionally ourselves bound up a wound, as well as sat on “the rail” and watched the big men operate—have so often been balked in a sincere attempt to render honest service by the trite, satisfied reply, “Oh, yes, if he is not able to pay,” that we have become convinced that the expression itself is a howling hypocrite.

Suffering humanity means just exactly nothing to us, but suffering individuals whom it is partly our duty to assist mean everything. This peculiarly applies to the correction of common physical defects of thousands of school children in North Carolina.

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