Meredith Finally Addressed One Of Grey’s Anatomy’s Biggest Blindspots

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Warning: This article includes spoilers for episode 2 of Grey's Anatomy's 16th season.
For a show all about medicine, doctors, and hospitals, Grey's Anatomy rarely addresses healthcare or insurance issues. It sporadically has had individual patients run into billing issues, but now Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is prepared to tackle systemic healthcare issues across the board.
Last season, Meredith was fired from Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital for committing insurance fraud. She used her daughter's insurance to help a young girl who had cancer but whose immigrant father didn't have sufficient medical care for them. Meredith has always been willing to go the extra mile for a patient, but, in episode two of season 16, she realized she could potentially help millions of people (legally) if she used her platform to talk about this country's inadequate insurance policies. At the end of the episode, she told her boyfriend and fellow doctor Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) that she intended to publish her observations about people falling through the cracks of the healthcare process.
Meredith had been inspired to do so by her court-ordered community service crew, whom she saw struggle with all kinds of health issues without knowing who to turn to and if they could afford it. Her work crew boss couldn't get in to see a doctor for months because it took her insurance so long to approve the specialist, and she feared she couldn't afford take the time off to go anyway. See, if her boss didn't show up for work, she didn't get paid, and then she couldn't pay her rent. Meredith seemed shocked by this, but that's a reality for many real people in this country. And it's been a reality for a very, very long time.
Even with the Affordable Care Act, many people are left with insurance plans that have high deductibles or don't cover much, or they are stuck dealing with bureaucratic rules that delay necessary screenings, appointments, and treatment. Meredith is extremely privileged and so are most of the doctors she works with. She doesn't handle billing or insurance issues at her hospital, and she hasn't had to really confront the systemic problems until now.
It's the first time the show has really gone there and explored how everyday people can suffer because of our current healthcare system, which is somewhat odd when you think about it. This show has spent 15 seasons dealing with serious issues and this is only just now coming up.
To its credit, the show handled the odd insurance issue in case-of-the-week storylines that usually ended on a happy note after a doctor did something illegal. For example, in season seven, Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) married a chronically ill patient to give him better healthcare and then they ended up falling in love for real. And earlier in season 15 before Meredith's own instance of insurance fraud, Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) intentionally injured a patient with a pre-existing condition so the patient could make a claim for emergency surgery that his insurance company would have to approve.
For most people, insurance and hospitals go hand-in-hand, so it's wild that Grey's Anatomy is really only starting to really address the healthcare discrepancy in full. And while there's no denying that Meredith has the platform to bring attention to the issue, she also needs to take her time to research the matter before she just writes and publishes something on a whim. Judging by her shocked reaction to her boss saying she couldn't afford to take off work to go to the doctor, Meredith has a huge blind spot when it comes to the insurance and healthcare struggles of everyday Americans. Before she can create change, she must know what change is needed in the first place.
Hopefully this is a multi-episode (or, Shonda-willing, full season) arc for Meredith and not a flash in the pan way for Grey's Anatomy to be topical. This issue is literally life or death for people both on the show and in the real world, and it deserves to be treated with all the respect and care Meredith and the show's writers can give it.

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