William Osman, a YouTuber running one of the countless “Science FTW!” channels out there these days, released a video last week detailing a recent hospital visit requiring x-rays that resulted in a dizzying $69,210.32 invoice. “I’m a slave to medical debt now. I have to sell all my things, I have to sell my friends’ belongings,” Osman grouses, before the ol’ comedic switcheroo courtesy of his long-suffering wife. She assures both him and the audience that, thanks to their “really good” health insurance policy, he is only expected to pony up about $2500. Combined with annual insurance premiums, the whole thing will cost him around $8500. Whew. What a relief...
Great(ish) news for the Osmans, but as our host explains, this is very much not the case for the approximately 27.5 million Americans out there with absolutely zero health insurance. “The reason hospitals charge so much is because they know insurance is going to low-ball them,” Osman summarizes of his coverage and subsequent bill. “The problem is hospitals treat uninsured people the exact same way. What you’re supposed to do is the same thing insurance does with hospitals: you fight them.”
Of course, this doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should due to your average individual’s general lack of resources, time, and energy required to successfully combat the United States’ medical-industrial complex. To demonstrate the economic and ethical lunacy, Osman set out on a self-admittedly reckless endeavor: build his own fully functioning x-ray machine for less than his actual medical bills.
And, wouldn’t you know it? Thanks to the power of online consumerism, he was able to do just that. Using a $400, 60,000 volt power supply, a $155 x-ray vacuum tube removed from a discarded dental x-ray head, multiple geiger counters, and a “giant roll” of lead sheet metal, Osman constructed a functional machine with (debatably) minimal risk of radiation poisoning or electrocution.
“My will to do science is significantly stronger than my will to live,” Osman declares at one point, later adding, “This is my magnum opus. This is the most dangerous contraption I have ever built,” two statements we cannot deny after watching the entire 17-minute video.
After a predictable amount of trial-and-error (expert tip: don’t use metal soup cans as your structure for a jerry-rigged, high-voltage electrical contraption), Osman succeeded in photographing the insides of both his iPhone and actual hand. By his estimates, one could conceivably leave an urgent care with a bill roughly equivalent to the cost of just doing the damn thing yourself.
“We did it, team. We showed the medical industry who’s boss,” Osman cheekily announces towards the video’s conclusion, a joke that unfortunately does little to ease our righteous anger directed towards a largely broken, barbaric national ethos that would rather wage disastrous Forever Wars than protect its most vulnerable populations.
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