Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Care Discussion

Thanks for joining the discussion yesterday. I was glad to read your comments and I'd like to respond to a couple of them.

Annie, I think there are a few good systems that work fairly well. We're not locked into choosing a whole mediocre health-care plan, but we could pick the best aspects of several, and piece them into the parts of our system that work already. I'm hoping that's what's happening.

Beck, I totally agree that we should have choice. That's why I feel so picked on. I have NO CHOICE!

Insurance companies exempt pre-existing conditions. That means that if you've been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, etc. before you apply for insurance, the company will not sell you a policy that will cover those costs. It's frustrating, because chronic conditions don't go away. People are doomed by them, even when they aren't life-threatening, because they rob you of time and money forevermore. This situation is getting attention as more and more people are losing their health coverage, and trying to buy insurance.

To Anonymous: Your "perspective" here seems judgmental and naive. I hope that, through your wise choices, you never have to experience "hardships you should have considered eventualities so many years ago." Our circumstance has nothing to do with a selfish or irresponsible career choice, as you imply. It has to do with poor health.

In our case, we have always been anxious and able to pay for fair coverage, but we are not a good risk. Because we have "known" health problems, the insurance company decided, "These folks will require expensive medical care, now and in the future. We don't want them in our pool. We want healthy people who have a better chance of staying healthy and therefore won't cost us as much." The agent might sell us a high-cost policy that exempts any benefits for the health problems we already have, but we cannot buy insurance that will actually help us. We do not have that choice.

We know of a young woman had two premature babies. Her doctor tested her blood and found a possible cause, and told her it might be genetic. He suggested her sister (someone we know well) also be tested. It was determined she might carry the same gene. Years later, when the sister applied for maternity insurance, she filled out the requisite questionnaire. One of the questions asked if she, or any of her relatives, had any genetic blood disorders. She checked the yes box, anxious to be totally up-front and honest. She was denied maternity insurance because she might carry a gene that might cause premature labor. The actual test didn't help anybody, and ultimately hurt her. She doesn't live in Canada or England—she lives in the USA, and she has no choice.

In further response to Anonymous: I am certainly not against the development of safer and more effective prescription drugs. It's not an abstract to me. Those very drugs have kept my husband alive for 30 years. Between Dee and I, we spend at least $500 a month on prescription drugs, and we have very common conditions. I feel we are supporting an unfair percentage of drug research when we regularly pay $140 for 30 pills, compared to a $10 co-pay.

Besides being miserable, poor health is expensive. For instance, although insulin is fairly cheap, the tiny little paper test strips a diabetic uses three times a day (to know how much insulin to use) are a dollar a piece= $100 a month. Syringes cost. Regular blood tests to monitor meds cost hundreds of dollars. It's upsetting to know that someone who had health insurance before he got diabetes has help meeting these high prices, and yet we cannot buy that same coverage.

People die of treatable diseases in the USA because they cannot afford their medicine. I think it is shameful that people know this is happening and don't want to help. Anonymous says my ideas (which ones?) and a quote about following Christ's example of caring for the sick "seem like two diametrically opposed positions, and very ironic in today's American outcry for separation of church and state."

Just for the record, I am a believer, and I want to follow Christ's example. I can't separate myself into "church" and "state." I'm suggesting that WE, as Americans, religious or not, Democrats and Republicans, ought to watch out for each other.

Anon said, "Yes, we should be generous and benevolent towards those in need, but why should government have any role in that?" Because I'm part of the government and I don't want a young mother with leukemia to go without treatment because it was a pre-existing condition. I think the choice to buy insurance should be a legal right, open to everyone. And I think the cost of medication should be the same for all of us. That's all. I don't want those of you who have it all to lose a thing. I just think the rest of us deserve the same opportunity.

But since I'm a little riled up, I have to say something else. Anonymous said "Sorry to be posting anonymously, but I really don't want your opinion of me to change because of what I have to say."

My opinion of someone goes up when they stand behind their convictions. I love discussing ideas with friends, even when we disagree. It exercises my mind. I learn from people who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable or experienced in what they're talking about. I have even more fun when we're both passionate about a topic, and don't know what we're talking about.

Keep your identity secret, Anonymous; my opinion of you would change if I found out who you are. I would be disappointed in you, not because of what you said, but because you didn't have the courage to stand up for it. Your confidence will soar when you realize your opinion, no matter what it is, is valuable because it's yours. Others will value it, too. You don't have to be Anonymous.



Marty, I am just catching up with this discussion. Its important. Thanks for your candor about your experience. You give me new understanding and a lot to think about. Something I have come to really appreciate about you through your blog.

Tiffany said...

I think the world of you. And I applaud your responses.

Anonymous said...

Here I go again with the anonymous posting, once more risking your contempt.  However, I must respectfully clarify a few things: First, that I was NOT implying that your career choice was irresponsible.  Indeed, if you re-read what I wrote, you will notice that I said we choose our paths based on our personal ideas of what we think is best for our families.  I admire the career paths that you and Dee chose.  It was a poor attempt to point out that we each travel our own paths based on those respective goals and that there are natural consequences, good and bad to those choices.  I apologize for the judgement implied in the comment.

Second, you said, "Anonymous says my ideas (which ones?) and a quote about following Christ's example of caring for the sick "seem like two diametrically opposed positions...""  To clarify, I mean your request for government intervention.   Your use of Ms. Gray's quote implies that Christlike individuals hold the responsibility of caring for others.  So whose responsibility is it?  Individuals or government?  Should the government force people to comply with the Christian viewpoint?  That is socialism at its extreme (aka communism).

You also said, "I don't want those of you who have it all to lose a thing. I just think the rest of us deserve the same opportunity."  But, as you pointed out yourself, you do have the opportunity for health care, it just isn't equal to what others have.  And yet, as I am sure you know, there are ways to get it, they may just be unacceptable to you.  That again is your choice.  However unfortunate it may seem to many, the founders of our country were attempting to guarantee equal rights, not equal things.

Your response to my post, although very succinct and thought-provoking, seems to be very hostile toward the ideas I presented and exactly the reason I posted anonymously.  Would you have been so candid had I revealed my identity?  Perhaps, but I venture that it would have been tempered by that knowledge.

Keri(th) said...

Sorry Anonymous,

In response to:

"But, as you pointed out yourself, you do have the opportunity for health care, it just isn't equal to what others have. And yet, as I am sure you know, there are ways to get it, they may just be unacceptable to you. That again is your choice."

Negative ghost rider.

Justice is non existent in an unequal opportunity. Why must one family pay $200 a month for healthcare, while another pays $1500? You are implying that anyone has the ability to obtain great healthcare, and if that person chooses not to sell a kidney on ebay to pay for it, it is nonetheless, still a choice.

I most honestly and sincerely hope that you and your family are never in a position in which you must choose between food and medicine. But hey, at least you'll have the 'choice'.

diane said...

I too love differing opinions. Part of why I love blogging. I also love a good debate. Thanks for getting this discussion going. I agree with you about Anon. not posting their identity. Stand up and be counted Anonymous. You know you can find out who it is on site meter. I'm not sure why people don't know that.

I watched the news conference tonight and am as confused as ever because our President will not explain how he will reform health care or more importantly how it will be funded...but I already know the answer. I will have to pay for it and so will everyone else with higher taxes. I am not happy.

My friend moved here from Canada. She has also had horror stories about socialized medicine. A simple story is that she had a suspicious mole and there was a five year waiting list to have it removed. She moved here and had the dangerous mole removed immediately. When I lived in Montreal, seeing the Dr was on a first come first serve basis. You arrived at opening hours to wait in line and hope to be seen that day. I spent many days sitting in waiting rooms from 9am to 5pm to be told I would not be seen that day. I had a life threatening tumor and had to come back to the US to have surgery. It was no fun. That is what scares me the most. Where will we go if our health care system implodes?

Anonymous said...

What a great & thoughtful discussion of this important issue. I don't know you all personally, but I did want to throw in one thought.

I do think insurance companies tend to be a bit greedy and even somewhat evil. That being said, there is another reason for the pre-existing condition clauses in many insurance contracts besides just that they don't want to insure people who are sick.

I imagine that if I were a greedy person prone to reckless behavior, I would not buy health insurance while I was healthy because I don't want to pay for it. I would do this because I knew if I got sick, I could just buy it then. Assuming it was a temporary condition, I could even drop the coverage after that. Even a mandate requiring individuals legally to have health insurance wouldn't solve this problem... Vermont has a law requiring auto insurance but about 10% of their drivers still lack auto insurance.

I know this is _not_ the approach that the blog author takes or would take (I ache for you and for others in similar situations, my own brother is in a similar bind). We need to do something about costs to make it so people can afford insurance & medical care. Then we need to change the pre-existing condition clauses so that you can be covered for pre-existing conditions if you are transferring from another health plan without a gap in coverage. This way we avoid the problems you have so unfairly encountered, but also keep people from only jumping into the insurance pool when they are sick.

It is cases like yours that show there are responsible, wise people who are slipping through the cracks of our current system... thanks for opening my eyes and helping me consider the current debate from a new & unique perspective!

Keri(th) said...


Wow. I must say that your experience in Montreal is completely opposite of my own happenings while growing up in Saskatchewan. I do know that the rules and regulations in Quebec regarding healthcare have changed substantially during the past few years and are a little confusing now. I also think it's horrible that your friend was told she needed to wait 5 years for a mole removal. There are appeals processes and second opinions that can be obtained at no cost to the patient, but they can be time consuming and most likely frustrating.

There were also several 'drop-in' clinics all over the cities that anyone could come to and wait their turn (similar to Instacare facilities here in the US), but there were also a myriad of Physician's offices that you could set a scheduled appointment with and chose a time of your liking.

I know that years ago, the Provinces of Canada all had uniform healthcare, and while they are all still mandated by Federal law regarding most policies, as the years have rolled on, each Province has changed certain portions of those policies, and a few have introduced a minimal yearly fee (B.C. and Alberta).

I will admit that when I cam to the US, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly one was able to schedule an appointment with a Physician, but horrified to learn that only those with insurance were able to do so.

I realize that Canadian Healthcare isn't the perfect model of a system unbroken, but what I absolutely LOVE is that every Citizen of the Country has access to healthcare. Every single one. As such, the overall health and well being of Canadian Citizens is in much higher standing (collectively) than that of the US.

I think it would be marvelous to take a look at other Countries that make it work (France, UK, Canada, etc.) and then establish something here in our Country that utilizes the best parts of those systems to create a plan that will benefit all American Citizens without removing choice and freedom.

So, idea's anyone?

gab said...

Wow. Passionate discussion!

pete said...

I found this helpful in clearing up some of the rhetoric that's going around: http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/