The article’s datelined Austin, although I see nothing ATX-specific in it other than a passing mention that we’re a magnet for young people just out of school. I think that here Austin’s merely a stand-in for all of Texas. The usual statement is trotted out again, that Texas has a higher percentage of those without health insurance than any other state (“Happy-go-lucky Young: the latest targets for insurers,” The Economist, October 4, 2007). Whatever the rate of uninsured for all Texans, I’d bet that Austin’s rate is higher than that. People who do have jobs that offer health insurance sometimes stick with them, even though the work is detested. Anecdotally, I know more and more people who don’t have a so-called “primary care physician” at all, relying on walk-in clinics for small emergencies and hospital emergency departments for large ones. Some of the compounding pharmacies around town seem to have staffs that sound like surrogate physicians. The vitamin and cure-all aisles appear to take up ever more space at places like Sun Harvest, Central Market, and Whole Foods; and it often sounds very much as though the employees are offering quasi-medical advice there, too. There are many small businesses around town selling herbal specifics of various kinds. Friends heartily recommend practitioners of various forms of Asian medicine. I’ve come to believe that all these thriving non-M.D. dispensers of advice and non-prescription substances mentioned above and others besides are indicators of the number of Austinites without health insurance and of the resulting anxieties that lead us to consult and seek relief from those sources in the hope of avoiding incurring big expenses elsewhere by resorting to the health-care systems of the insured.

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