Do You Have Health Insurance?

Last winter was brutal for me. I wasn’t quite ill, but I did have to battle a persistent rash on my lips, making them sore, red, swollen. For the first time, I consulted with doctors outside the university clinic. As soon as I stepped up to the reception desk at a walk-in clinic, I’m asked, “Do you have health insurance?”

The receptionist, in her thirties, gazed upon her computer screen after her routine greeting.

“Yes,” I fished out my health insurance card from my wallet.

“Is this your first time here?” the receptionist glanced at me as if my response had confirmed in her mind that I am a responsible patient.


“Fill out this form and bring it back with your health insurance and ID.”

After doing what I was instructed, I waited for my turn. The receptionist examined my information carefully. In her hand were my health insurance card and driver’s license. I wondered what would happen if I did not have health insurance.

I am an alien in this country. I don’t benefit from the rights that an American citizen does. But I do and must pay taxes like all Americans do. Likewise, I must obey the laws in this country. And my actions are restricted by the state laws or even the city regulations. As for health insurance, its importance to me as an alien is no less than that to every American.

In my first year of studying in Pittsburgh, I did not use my health insurance at all. I even questioned whether I needed to pay hundreds of dollars to the insurance company for an empty record of claims. However, applying for health insurance is mandatory for all students in my university. My godparent emphasizes more than once that it’s a must to have health insurance in America for the sake of my benefit. “Health care is expensive here,” he said. “Without health insurance the bill will burden you more painfully than your illness.”

Isn’t this the case in China, too? In recent years, local governments have initiated various medical reforms to ensure all citizens are protected while the medical system remains profitable.

Over the last few weeks, not only did I consult with the doctor twice on my rash, I also visited the CVS pharmacy and an ophthalmologist. Each time the receptionist’s first question was, “Do you have health insurance?”

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America