Kurt Vonnegut on American Health Care, circa 1973

From his great novel, Breakfast of Champions.

Dwayne’s waitress at the Burger Chef was a seventeen-year-old white girl named Patty Keene. Her hair was yellow. Her eyes were blue. She was very old for a mammal. Most mammals were senile or dead by the time they were seventeen. But Patty was a sort of mammal which developed very slowly, so the body she rode around in was only now mature.

She was a brand-new adult, who was working in order to pay off the tremendous doctors’ and hospital bills her father had run up in the process of dying of cancer of the colon and then cancer of the everything.

This was in a country where everybody was expected to pay his own bills for everything, and one of the most expensive things a person could do was get sick. Patty Keene’s father’s sickness cost ten times as much as all the trips to Hawaii which Dwayne was going to give away at the end of Hawaiian week.

And getting sick is still one of the most expensive things you can do in America.

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