Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Time For Another Leap

July 20, 1969

I'm ready for another giant leap.

It seems like we've side-stepped the health care issue long enough. To me, it's a very personal subject.

A career change in 1985 put an end to our health insurance. We moved to York, England for a year where we were automatically covered by their national health plan. Seven kids can rack up a lot of doctor and dentist emergencies in one year, and I needed a couple of fillings and a crown. Dee had some problems with his eyes, plus we needed medications. Excellent, immediate care didn't cost us a dime.

While in York we visited friends in a couple of different hospitals and a rest home. We were surprised at the high quality of care. Although the buildings were older and smaller (no private rooms) than we were used to at home, patients had the treatments they needed, when they needed them.

Dee's master's thesis was on the adaptive reuse of buildings in Britain. Many old manors had been converted into small hospitals, and we toured several good facilities that were available to anyone, no questions asked.

We didn't come home totally converted to the British system of health care, but we experienced it in action and were favorably impressed. Since then we've had a chance to compare it to the American system.

When we re-applied for health insurance we were denied because of pre-existing conditions. Being self-employed compounded the problem. It seems that in the USA only healthy people are insurable. So we are "self-insured." Regular doctor's visits are expensive, extra tests are extra, and our medications cost over $500 a month. Our medical costs are usually around $1500 a month. Unless they're more.

A few years ago we found a group plan, and signed up for "catastrophic" health insurance. It required a year of payments before we could recieve any benefits. We paid $890 a month for 11 months and 10 days, while still paying for our regular care and Rx. When I had emergency gall bladder surgery they denied payment because I was 21 days short of a year. That episode alone racked up $23,000 of hospital bills. And there have been others.

It's offensive when people with health insurance imply that those of us who want it are asking for a freebie. It is simply unavailable to many people. I was disappointed to read an article saying that the religious right decries "the socialist tactics of robbing people who take individual responsibility, and giving to others who fail to earn their keep."

Angie Gray said it beautifully: "Health care is so inherently intertwined with religion. How we treat the sick and the poor is of utmost importance in the eyes of God. Christ spent most of his time teaching religion and healing the sick; it ought to be one of our top priorities today." Let's Talk Politics and Religion

I hope steps are taken soon to stop insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Other steps towards lowering the cost of both prescription drugs and malpractice insurance would help everybody. It's not rocket science, but it would be another giant leap for mankind.


gab said...

Why does health care have to be so complicated?! I hope some reasonable solutions are found in our lifetime.

Kay Dennison said...

Well said. And it should and could be done be done without bankrupting the economy.

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.)

I agree that there needs to be reform of the health care system, but very much decry a national health care plan.

I know that prescription drugs are costly, but also realize that the costs of research and development of those drugs is built into the consumer pricing.  If drug companies become regulated by the government, the potential loss (in human terms) of future development of drugs could be massive.   I also know that some drug companies have programs to help those who cannot afford their medications, and even though it isn't every drug company, and doesn't take care of everyone, it reduces the idea that all prescription drug companies are out to "steal" money from consumers to a mere flap in lawmaker's jaws.

You quoted Ms. Gray when she said that "Health care is so inherently intertwined with religion."  Doesn't that then suggest that health care becomes the responsibility of religion not government to take care of the poor and needy?  Your ideas and her statement seem like two diametrically opposed positions, and very ironic in today's american outcry for separation of church and state.

While yes, Christ went about healing the sick and caring for the needy, he was never mandated by Caesar to do so, and in fact, he said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s."  Does this not also suggest that His role as a healer and reliever of suffering had no bearing on Caesar's role as a governmental leader and vice versa?  Yes, we should be generous and benevolent towards those in need, but why should government have any role in that?

"Forced benevolence is not charity." -Ezra Taft Benson

From my perspective it seems as if you are complaining about the natural result of following a career path that didn't offer heath care benefits.  You may say that you shouldn't have to choose between your dreams and your health, but how many of us could still completely provide for our families while trying to follow our dreams of being an artist or author or basketball player?  We all make sacrifices; some in our careers, some in our time, and some in following our dreams in order to provide what we decide is best for our families.  It is unfortunate that you are now experiencing the hardships that you may not have considered as eventualities so many years ago.

kenju said...

Marty, we had no insurance for several years until we both became of age for Medicare. I shudder to think what would have happened if Mr. kenju had his stroke before we had Medicare - it would have been catastrophic for us financially. My heart goes out to those who have no insurance and I certainly hope that the government will do something to help.

Anonymous said...

I hear from so many who have had health care in Europe or Canada who have been pleased. I cannot understand why we cannot learn how they do it and do it here. Why reinvent something that works elsewhere? We can improve maybe, but these are good places to start. It seems the biggest opponents are the wealthy who fear losing something. Ridiculous! They still would be able to buy their cosmetic and elective procedures!


Beck said...

I have a close friend from Canada who is living here in the US and while in Canada was unable to have the necessary surgery to be able to facilitate conception due to their opinion that it was "unecessary". When she and her husband moved here she immediately elected to have the surgery and attempt fertility treatments because she had a choice. When I asked her about it, she said that she'd take the US health care system over the Canadian health care system any day for that reason alone.

Any woman who has experienced infertility would probably tell you that they would want a choice when it came to treatment. I know I am grateful I have a choice.

diane said...

Okay so I had a horrible experience with socialized medicine while living in Canada. I was being treated at McGill University hospital. It was a nightmare and I could not wait to get back to the USA. I do not want any part of that.

I like choosing my own Doctors and hospitals. I have health issues that require loads of meds and frequent doctor visits and though expensive I can hire and fire my doctors when I choose. I want to keep my private insurance PPO and my benefits.

We will all pay with higher taxes.

Tiffany said...

I think what people don't understand or realize is that the story you told is not some obscure exception to the rule. It is far too common a story.

My dad owns his own small business, which meant that insuring our family of 10 was absolutely impossible as we were growing up. Thankfully (miraculously?), we managed to get along without any major surgeries or medical costs. But even as a child, I felt that stress looming over our heads. We couldn't afford to get sick.

Annie said...

You've started such an important discussion. Thanks for sharing your experiences. (I'm a different Annie than the one who already posted, by the way. You have multiple Annie readers!)

Keri(th) said...

Wow, I've been up on a ten foot ladder with mortar in my hair for the last few days and can't believe I've missed these fabulous posts on healthcare!!

I have much to say on the matter (shocking, I know) and will be back later tonight, all curled up in my jammies and ready to unleash!

Nina Lewis said...

Being reasonably healthy myself (except for last winter when I fell, smashed my face, broke my teeth and my elbow) and also having insurance, I had no clue as to how expensive medical costs are for the uninsured! Trying to figure out how to pay the bills is enough to make a person even sicker!

I can't believe all of the hassle you went through! And how much it will be costing you! For your sake, and for the sake of our nation, I sure hope the health reform comes soon -- and that it is definitely an improvement that will help folks like you.

Keri said...

As a Canadian who has resided in the US for over 17 years, I have experience with both Country's healthcare systems.

It is true that in Canada, the wait for non-emergency surgeries is significantly greater than the United States. I waited almost nine months to have a tonsillectomy. However, when I finally went to the hospital, there was no copay, no worrying about how long I could stay (2 full days), free prescription antibiotics, and no insurance company that required pre-authorization. And since everyone is insured, we have our own choice of Physician, and can receive a second opinion at no cost. The best thing about Canadian healthcare is that everyone is covered. No one goes bankrupt due to outlandish bills and no one is without basic and emergency care due to their own economic lacking. Sure, it has it's flaws, but an incredible humane system indeed.

That being said, I'm not entirely confident that this system would work here in the United States, not only due to resistance and fear of socialism creeping in, but also because the American system has already been established and an extreme change would be required to bring about a similar system.

Up until last year, My husband had always had employer healthcare benefits. We paid our monthly premiums and our small co-pays, and went about our daily business. No worry about pre-existing conditions while reaping the benefits of an employer based plan. Though we were aware of the looming healthcare crisis, we had not yet experienced the loss of coverage (by no fault our our own), and the astronomical toll this loss takes on family stress levels and finances.

(This is the blissful state in which I imagine Anonymous is coming from and perhaps due to the lack of experiencing this nightmare personally, is unable to have true compassion regarding the frustrating matter.)

Last year we moved to another state to find a school that could work with our son. In doing so, the only job my husband was able to find was a contract position with zero benefits. And so began the era of Cobra. $1200.00 a month with the same benefits we previously had. Except that the insurance company began denying every single claim and after eight months of ridiculous bills, hours on the phone with insurance reps, and physical illness due to the insurance nightmare, we decided to 'shop around' for our own healthcare.

Imagine our delight when BC/BS of Texas sent us our letter of approval! We immediately canceled Cobra and were ecstatic about paying less a month and actually having an insurance company that paid our claims.

Keri said...

Wrench in the plan.

Huge one.

Three days following our welcome letter, BC/BS Texas sent a supplemental letter informing us that I would not be eligible for any coverage (due to an innocent heart murmur I've had since birth that has never required any treatment whatsoever) and that our Son (the one most in need of benefits) was also denied because a few years ago a Physician unofficially diagnosed him with a mood disorder (incorrect diagnosis as he now has an Aspergers dx). We were horrified and sent in an appeal letter, which was denied. We then contacted Cobra and explained in writing what had happened, hoping that somehow our benefits could be re-instated. To no avail.

My husband immediately began searching for a position that would offer benefits, and we remained uninsured for just over eight months. The stress and financial burden that was incurred during the eternity in which we remained uninsured was nothing short of horrific, and I prayed every night for my family's health and well being.

An ER visit with no insurance would be almost impossible for a person of middle class to pay for without monthly installments. There was also more than one time that I should have gone to the Doctor, but refused and put my health at risk (which is something that Canadian's will never have to experience), so that we would meet our monthly obligations. Once my Husband finally found a job with benefits, we had been without them for more than 3 months and are currently in a 'pre-existing' clause that will remain in effect for the next six months (and according to the new insurance company - everything is pre-existing!).

Nice stuff.

The fact that we now have insurance is absolutely a relief and a blessing. The fact that there are others in this country that do not is truly tragic.

I think that healthcare is a basic human right. I have hope that a new plan is on the horizon, yet fear that those who have not experienced life without this basic right will not understand the urgency and will speak out against it.

With healthcare costs on the rise, even seemingly stable employers are beginning to cut benefits, so who knows - perhaps everyone will have the chance to experience a life without insurance.

Of course, by then, it may be too late for reform.

Thanks Marty for your thought provoking posts on this critical issue!

p.s. If you disagree with my opinions, don't fret. It simply means that I disagree with yours.

Keri(th) said...

Oops, I signed in with my old google account. The last two were me, though I'm sure you've already figured that out.