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14 April 2009 @ 03:11 pm
In which I rant about Health Care  
I saw Michael Moore's "Sicko," last night. I got paged at 1am, and I had to spend a while trying to free up space on a server that was running so low on hard drive space, it was about to crash, and that would have been bad. I had it on in the background, and while I was waiting for files to copy, I got sucked in.

I have not watched "Fahrenheit 9/11." I have no plans to. Why? Not because I think it's wrong or bad, but because I know it's mostly right, and it would just kill me to see all my fears come true. Sometimes I have to live in denial in order to stop being jaded or enraged.

Sicko was something like that. And like a road accident, I couldn't help but watch. I know some of the facts were hand-picked and others probably ignored to make a point. I know it's a fairly biased liberal slant. But there are some things I know from personal experience are true.

First, the fear of socialism in this country is amazingly uneducated. "Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equality for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation," says Wikipedia. Basically, we all put in and we all share. A lot of people say this is communism, which is really "a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general." Communism is an extreme branch of socialism, where the free market is also removed. Sadly, we have seen the communism doesn't work very well, especially if your neighbors are capitalists. Communism pretty much kills motivation, which is why they constantly had all those propaganda materials in Soviet Russia. Then it becomes a dictatorship, and the thriving black market shows just how strong capitalism really is; it will grow anywhere people need anything.

I am not willing to abolish capitalism, free market, or the individual pursuit of wealth, freedom, and happiness. I don't want to overhaul the constitution. But the argument was made for me many years ago with my maternal grandmother's health care. She returned to Sweden to get proper health care and died in her late 80s well taken care of by the state for free. I know, I had visited her many times in Ågarden near Boden. Her niece, Henna, lived until her 90s and the last few years in a similar assisted living apartment. Now, my grandmother did say, "Health care here is like the Post Office back in the US." She did wait for things. But she did not die waiting for them.

When my son was born in 1990 at Georgetown Hospital, our hospital bill was almost $58,000. Both my wife and son were in critical care during most of for a week, and my son had to stay an extra week. Both nearly died. Christine's company did not insure her because back then, it wasn't a requirement, so we owed all the money. Luckily, she was fired for missing a week of work, and the laws in Washington DC stated that unemployed people would only owe so much. Our bill dropped to about $13,000 immediately. On top of that, the midwives we had advised me to sign nothing, no matter how much the hospital threatened, coerced, or told me it was not a bill. I was told to state, "I am unable to pay. I cannot sign any forms, as it constitutes fraud. You are required to give her the health care she requires. But I cannot pay. I am a good honest man, but have no money." Repeat. And repeat again. Sadly, I got this advice a little late, and I had signed a few forms which boiled down to about $8500 that I ended up having to pay. Oh, the hospital did send bill collectors for a lot of the rest of it, but when I asked for "proof I approved this procedure or was even present to do so" fell flat when they could not produce any paperwork with my signature. $8500 of it they did have my (or my wife's) signature. It took me about 9 years to pay it all off.

We are now insured. This still does not get us off the hook. Every time I visit the doctor it's a flat $25 just for showing up (my co-pay). Every time, they want tests or blood work, which is another $20-50 per visit (though usually only $20) which is "patient's share" according to MAMSI, who sends me a summary of what they are going to pay. If I wasn't insured, those tests would be around $350, so I guess $20-50 isn't so bad in comparison. Sometimes, the insurance company refuses to pay. Half the time it's because my doctor charges too much (notably my dentist) and they tell the doctor to bill me directly for the difference (my dentist usually just doesn't bill me for the rest). The other half the time it's because they don't think the treatment is necessary.

Let me repeat this for those of my friends who have good health: Your insurance company can refuse treatment against a doctor's orders. This was also brought up in "Sicko," although none of them involved me losing fingers or dying because of it... yet. I have run into this more often with medicine. "You insurance plan says you can only have so many pills a month," I have been told. A $9/hr call center employee can deny my medication because it is against the rules. None of these meds are "controlled substances" in the manner Codeine, Vicodin, or Viagra are. They are simple blood pressure meds like Cartia and Hyzaar. I am under a lot of medications. I have asthma, migraines, high blood pressure, and diabetes. I take 5 meds every day, plus my inhaler which is for emergencies. My meds are mostly paid for, but the costs of those meds are over $120/month. Christine's are about the same. When we could afford CR's medicine, his was a little more. So after copays, we were spending almost $350/mo on medicines alone at our peak (now it's about $210). A few times, meds we had been taking went "over the counter," which meant the insurance company no longer had to pay for them since they were not perscription. The co-pays averaged out most of the time (like Prilosec OTC is about what we paid for it as a co-pay when it was a prescription). I also cannot order a large supply of them all at once. The max my insurance company will allow is 30 pills a month, and some even less. One of my former doctors would "up the dose" and even though the prescription said, "take 500mg of this every day," he whispered, "take only half a pill every day," thus cutting my cost in half. I miss Dr. Payling-Wright, and wish he didn't have to finally retire (age). Some drug companies got wise to this, and changed their pills from tablets to capsules, making it more difficult to take half of one a day.

Some of you may know that takayla used to work in commercial insurance. She told horror stories about meetings where their own legal experts tried to put a spin on an accident so that they wouldn't have to pay the victim or their family. On involved hitting a guy with a bus. How could they make it look like it was the dead person's fault? She left the industry shortly after that.

The biggest problem is that the medical industry in the United States is a business. A business is out to make money, and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Like a the cheetah that eats antelope, that's what they do. It's the nature of the beast. But you wouldn't want a cheetah to, say, guard the antelope to prevent it from being eaten by other animals, would you? No. Nobody would trust a cheetah to guard antelope. In the same way you shouldn't trust a business to guard our health care. It's not that business are evil, but sick people are not profitable.

Now, some will argue the government is a collection of paper-pushing fools. This is true in many cases. Opponents say that socialized medicine is a terrible idea, and socialism is bad, and it will cost the taxpayers untold millions, billions, and trillions of dollars. Taxes will go up, I am sure. But so will our general well-being. I mean, look at most of Europe and how good their health care is. It's not perfect, sure, but it's a HELL of a lot better than what we have now.

When CR was born, we were financially ruined for about 6 years. We couldn't even afford the best health care he could have, so we had to get cheaper medicine, skip medicine and treatments, and as a result, he will be affected for the rest of his life. On top of that, good nutrition in this country is FAR more expensive than crap and junk food, so we took that way out as well. And a lot of our health problems as a family were because for many years, we couldn't afford to take care of our own health or eat decent food, so we're all fat and unhealthy. I am not sure we will be able to undo all those years before we die.

I also looked at some of takayla's relatives and how they fared. Her mother died due to hospital neglect and drowned in her own stomach acid in her hospital bed. Her eldest sister is in assisted living in her 50s because of misdiagnosis and treatment that damaged her organs (she won the lawsuit). Her only brother died from complications of Hep C he got from a blood transfusion in an accident. One of her younger sisters died of MS, but how she died was they couldn't find an oxygen mask to fit her face, so they asked her to hold it to her face... she passed out... her hand fell down... and she died. Why couldn't they find the right sized mask? Why wasn't anyone watching her? That hospital has changed owners since then, after numerous lawsuits. And that's not to say there aren't bad doctors or neglect in the finest of French hospitals, but it does illustrate that for-profit hospitals are no better than state run ones.

And what would socialized medicine have done for any of them? Almost all of the people in these stories were poor. They couldn't afford good health care, or any health care. They only health care they could have most of the time were state-run or volunteer programs that assisted the poor.

Is THAT socialism?

Michael Moore also points out that school is free for kids, nobody ever charges you for a police or fire emergency (unless it's a false report). The post office is largely government subsidized. Social Security is... [gasp] shared SOCIAL earnings. Same with Medicare.

Why are we so behind with universal health care? Lord knows we have the money. Look at that silly Iraq war. Or Vietnam. Or bank and car company bailouts. We're going to pay for that. Did we get anything out of it?

Shit, people. We have to do something.
 
 
 
ravyn: WTF?ravynmaniac on April 14th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
<standing ovation>

i'm trying to find coverage before the divorce is final. i've been declined once, and will probably be declined again. My guess is because two conditions i have require expensive medications. Next step for me is the MD Health Insurance Plan, i should qualify since i've been declined, but i'm not sure how much it will cost me, definitely more than my current coverage. And i'm LUCKY, i might be able to afford it one way or another. But this is the shame of our nation.
feyandstrange on April 14th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
As somebody who's been on city and state care for the last few years, and damn grateful I live in a kind liberal state, I feel you. I've been without one of my pain meds for several months.

I didn't get the wheelchair I needed because Medicare rules say that if you don't need the mobility gear in your own home, you don't get it, even when three doctors say you need it. And how are we supposed to leave our house to get to the doctors? Fortunately Medicaid in my state did away with that rule. I still had to pay 20% of the cost.

Doctors don't want to treat me because I am not a profitable patient; I'm not going to get any better, there are no fancy new expensive drugs for me, and I'm on Medicare and Medicaid, which don't pay market rate for anything.

Heck, Medicare doesn't pay for an annual physical! I'm not sure what they do pay for, honestly, other than a few measly days of hospital care if I get worse. And they won't pay for the extra hospital fees.

But most insurers won't cover me now either.

My city has a program that helps cover poor folks, thank goodness. When I can afford to I donate extra cash to them, because they've helped me so much. And I am fortunate to have family and a partner who can afford to help me out.

Most folks like me, who are living off of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid because they are too sick or disabled to work, are below the Federal poverty line. Which is a lot lower than most people think. I'm just about balanced on it, and I make a whopping $1200 a month.

As for cost: the US currently pay a LOT more for health care than places with great socialized medicine like Norway, and we don't get half as good care. Even by capitalist standards we are failing.

One of my favorite punk songs these days has a chorus that goes "Don't get sick - don't grow old - don't ever be poor - do what you're told".
rtredrtred on April 14th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
We already spend more per person on health care in the country than most other countries that have universal coverage, yet many people have no coverage. It's criminal.
maugornmaugorn on April 14th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
Bravo, Punkie, bravo.

I hope there are many more like you making these calls and bringing up these points.

It's so sad that people get so trapped and riled up by "isms", never realising that there is no style of government, no "ism" that is the *solution* to all of our problems.

All are tools that are available to us to *solve* our problems. And the mere fact that some "ism" isn't *our* "ism" isn't anything near a good argument against using it or some portion of it.

I find it perfectly acceptable to give something back for the common good in a country that helps me prosper and keeps me safe. It's a shame that so many don't prosper despite that, and it's a bigger shame that so many people are so incredibly selfish that they can't see that helping the common good helps and protects them as well.
DrAndy: BlueBallbeta58 on April 15th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
We need to talk.

I don't have an email or phone # for you.

Any chance you'll shoot me a TXT or somesuch, with your # and a good time to give you a ring, my friend? :-)

856-655-8979
junkpc on April 19th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Well said, sir.