Monday, June 25, 2007

My pet issue

beyond Iraq, beyond the shredding of our Constitution, is definitely healthcare. Well said, sir. I cannot wait to see Sicko. 47 million uninsured, and we don't know how many millions more who think they have insurance until they try to use it, and then find out that it was just an illusion of coverage. I've said it before, but I was one of the "lucky ones" - twice. Once when my own insurer was able to put my dying husband on my policy and cover him at the end of his life. I would be bankrupt today if they hadn't. Another was in February when my brain blew up. Never mind my health issues, I would be in the middle of filing bankruptcy - under the new and improved bankruptcy laws that were put in place to protect the creditors from those deadbeat sick people - right now, but for the very good coverage provided by my employer. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. But I know exactly how lucky I was - if I had a part time job, because I did not "have to work" - or worse, been a SAHM - when my previously perfectly healthy husband was diagnosed with a weird and hard to diagnose cancer already running wild in his body - we would have been screwed. If I did not have good insurance this year, through my small employer, which still provides coverage to our small work force even though it's hideously expensive, because it is the right thing to do - I would be screwed. I am a health insurance lottery winner. It has nothing to do with education, career choices, or good decisions on my part. I could just as easily have taken a job somewhere else, that offered coverage from a different program, that would have left me forced to sell my house today. You don't know how your insurer will treat you until you are in the middle of the crisis, and then it's too late to do anything about it.

Of course, all of this is different for me now - I am one of the unwashed uninsurables now, along with people who had cancer two decades ago, or have asthma or bad allergies or a bum knee, my brain makes me one of the unwanted - I cost an insurance company money, so if I lose group coverage, like, say, if I get laid off by my employer because I am in an industry that is currently in the toilet, I could never get private coverage and there is a fair chance that I would never have insurance again. The ugly and insane system Americans have been trained like parrots to claim is "the best healthcare in the world" is all but useless for a huge chunk of the population - the uninsured because their employers don't offer it or they only work "part time" - don't get me started on how the theme parks get around that one - and the now uninsurable but healthy like me, the "Oh, we have insurance, we're safe" poor shmucks who don't know they're paying premiums for nothing until serious illness strikes and they learn the horribly hard way.

And still, this basic issue, something that we all should care about, is going to be a fierce uphill battle, because the Noise Machine has been at work for decades, making sure we know how to think. And the result is that nice, intelligent people like the woman I work with, when talking about health care, use the phrase "socialized medicine" with revulsion - because we've been brainwashed by decades of framing and positioning by the insurance industry to think that way. God Bless Michael Moore for putting this issue in the public eye, in a way that even conservatives can't bluster and bullshit away.


Anonymous said...

Amen. I'm working for the insurance, because now my husband is one of the uninsurable- he's just had surgery for prostate cancer. I'm looking almost every day on the insurance website and watching the bills roll in. And I am lucky, so far they have covered nearly everything. But any changes and he will no longer be covered, so I can never leave this job. Fun thought.

OK, let's discuss socialized bridges and roads, sewer systems and water treatment, schools, street lights, etc.

Ginnie said...

I am among the uninsured. I work 2 jobs and make too much for state basic health. I find it so offensive the attitude that so many people have about insurance, and so called socialized medicine. Most of those who don't like the idea are sitting pretty on their insured butts. ANd really, the taxpayer pays one way or another, so what is the big deal??

Cheryl, the knitting Jungian said...

I'm self-employed. My state provides through a state plan insurance for folks like me, so the premium I pay is based on my income. Otherwise, my husband, who is retired, and I would have no insurance because I could not afford it. The Republicans and the health insurance dudes in this state want to kill the state plan of course.

dragon knitter said...

the really sad part is mental health care in this country. my son is adhd/ocd/odd, and had to have therapy weekly for a number of years. he went on my insurance in 2003, and by the end of 2005, he had hit the lifetime maximum for mental health care under my policy. fortunately, he was also on medicaid, so they picked up the difference, and he was able to continue with his therapy. he no longer needs it, which is good, because, being on my husband's insurance, their "panel" of preferred providers is so small the waiting list to get in with one of htem is a year or more. and, of course, using a non-preferred provider means that we have to pay double before the insureance even DREAMS of kicking in (he still sees a psychiatrist every 2 months or so for medication mainatenance), and then they only pay about 60%.

scary part? this is typical of most mental health coverage. (this includes in-patient and out-patient treatment for addictions. ugh)

Janet said...

God, yes. I can't say it better than you did. I do know, though, that at least with the plans I've worked with in my previous position, if you go straight from group insurance to an individual policy with the same HMO, they have to take you. Is this just a California thing?

And of course the bastards are going after Michael Moore for going to Cuba. Jesus.

Catherine said...

I'm not sure, Janet, but an individual may be able to use the "certificate of continuous coverage" loophole to move to a private plan - but the astronomical premiums keep many people from doing it. It's like paying COBRA for the rest of your life. I know the "certificate of continuous coverage" is what let me move my husband onto my group plan after his was canceled while he was dying. But if we had to pay for private insurance for that length of time, we'd have lost the house.

Catherine said...

Ginnie - the funny thing is, many of those who think they're fat, dumb and happy and one of the "safe" ones who have insurance find out the hard way that they aren't as safe as they thought they were. People who file bankruptcy due to their medical bills usually HAVE insurance. I did the same thing Kimmen did after my brain surgery - after my vision returned and I could sit at the computer, I kept checking the insurance website, watching the claims roll in, to see what they paid, with fingers crossed that it would all work out. And isn't that a hell of a thing to have to do as a patient, while recovering from brain surgery or going through cancer treatments or whatever?

And tying our health insurance to our employer is sheer insanity, because even a generous employer, like the one that left my husband on the insurance for months after he became disabled, when there was no way he'd ever be returning to work, won't do that forever. Most don't do it at all, nor do they have to do it. Many, if not most, people who get seriously ill lose their jobs when they can't return to work. If I hadn't been able to put him on my insurance he'd have had none at all, because there is a 2 year gap between being declared fully disabled by Social Security and being eligible for Medicare. So we rely on employer-sponsored health programs that go away if you actuall get seriously sick and NEED them, and then there is a two year wait to get Medicare IF you meet the criteria for SSI disability. Even though Stage IV renal cancer is an instant full disability, my husband's "Welcome to Medicare" package showed up a month after he died, two years after diagnosis.

ikate said...

Ha! I have "good" insurance. It is decent coverage, but I pay through the nose for the premiums - it's nearly 1/3 of my paycheck. And, when I gave birth last year, I had to pay nearly $3k OTP - to have an UNMEDICATED, very simple and textbook birth. All because I went to the hospital closest to me rather then traveling 90 miles to the nearest "in network" hospital approved for birth. Oh, and my Midwife (who was covered) did not have rights at that covered hospital.

Sicko is right!

Ginnie said...

I have no ideas for solutions, and so I am no part of any solution. I just believe in this country, like many other progressive countries, we should have some sort of medical care guaranteed. I am able to pay for a catastrophic illnes policy, but I have to pay for medication monthly on my own. I am grateful that I can. But hardworking people should not be able to lose their home over a catastrophic illness. I am glad that during your husbands and your illness, at least there was insurance, so as not to add to an already copious amount of worry. One should not have to worry about those things when they have life and death decisions and threats facing them during an illness.

On a more positive note, once I get moved, I will make much less and will qualify for state basic health coverage. At affordable rates.

Bliss said...

Then there is the "dandy" Medicare RX plan they put into effect. If you need expensive medication, you will reach the "donut hole" quickly which means you must pay $3800 out of pocket before your drugs become "affordable" again. Yes, since I receive about $1000 in disability a month that is totally reasonable for me - not. So I go without the disease modulating medicine for MS that slows the progression of my disease. They also disallow any pharmaceutical company from giving me free drugs as some had in the past.

Insurance? Forgetaboutit. Once you have a diagnosis of secondary progressive MS, you can't get insurance at any cost. This includes companies who "say" they have Medicare supplements for people who are disabled and not old enough for the normal Medical supplemental insurance. The moment they hear my diagnosis, they tell me they can't cover me. Makes me wonder who they DO cover? Who gets disability without a chronic or disabling disease?

My husband is in the hospital again. A repeat of several occasions of the last 9 years. He has insurance, but we pay a lot of out of pocket expense every year - about $14,500. I once had a decent job that allowed me to have decent insurance and a decent savings account. Continued medical bills have made that savings disappear.

Then there is one of my caregivers who has no insurance. Her teenaged daughter needs knee soon as they come up with $10,000 in advance.

My personal opinion? Put all of Congress on minimum wage, and do not allow them to tap into any other monetary funds they may have. Then let them live the "high life" on all that money, trying to find insurance and affordable healthcare. Gee, I'll even vote to let them all have Medicare. Make them start payng into the Social Security fund so they can wonder if the money will be there when they retire - because we are going to donate their healthy retirement benefits to the "needy."

Healthcare, Medicare and Social Security would get fixed so fast it would be amazing.

Rolls off my soapbox and pulls it along behind my wheelchair.