Wednesday, March 02, 2011

2011: The Year Without Health Insurance






In January, I started off 2011 with my blog post 2011: The Year Without Snark, a plea for more civility on the Internet and in all our personal communications. Thanks to all who commented or have taken the pledge seriously and are doing your best to eradicate snark in all its nasty forms.

This month, I’m tackling yet another example of uncivilized behavior apparent in the world today, particularly in the good ol’ U.S.A. You’d be correct in assuming this is a piece about the unfair current state of health care in this country. What you might not have guessed is that I, your dear blogger, am caught in the middle of the whole sordid mess.

Yes, I’m one of those Americans who *gasp!* are currently without decent health insurance.

Since there really is no “emergency back-up plan” for Americans once they’re unemployed (or the family member whose insurance plan included them becomes unemployed) other than the ridiculously expensive COBRA option, we go overnight from being freely allowed in the front door of a doctor’s office if we have a complaint to being told (sometimes politely, sometimes not) to get lost. I think the acronym COBRA says it all—we are transformed into poisonous snakes who aren’t worthy of a fairly priced (or free for those who can’t afford it) health insurance plan. And the fear of snakes is a very common phobia indeed.

So we are forced to choose between health care and food and shelter. After the last month of record setting low-temperatures and snow dumps in the Midwest, guess which items we chose to fund? Well, we didn’t quite freeze and we didn’t eat like kings, but we’re still here.

At the prodding (read: demanding) of my mother, I finally found an overpriced, super-high deductible, temporary health insurance plan we can barely afford to tie us over for at least six months. However, I hold little hope that it will actually help out much should the need arise. If the deductible is more money than you have, and you’re currently unemployed and living on your meager savings, how the heck are you suppose to meet the deductible? Will a surgeon perform emergency surgery knowing you’re only going to pay him a small fraction of the bill? I suspect hospitals routinely use these temporary health insurance cards for toilet paper for all their worth.

To be honest, I carried my defunct insurance card in my wallet around for a while, so overwhelmed was I at the prospect of being denied medical help. I figured if I was in a coma or knocked unconscious, the paramedics or police would rummage around in my purse and find the said lapse insurance card and assume that I was properly insured and would give me the emergency medical care I require. Only after I became conscious and they found out the truth would they have been forced to kick me out of my I.C.U. bed and tell me not to come back until I could afford treatment.

Yes, it is a worse case scenario, and I do have an overactive imagination I’ll admit, but somehow I get the feeling this scenario is based more on fact than on fiction.

Since no one enjoys a whiner, I direct your attention now to a blog written by a friend who expresses her concerns over the current healthcare debacle quite well:
souptonutts.blogspot.com

How can we prevent our fellow unemployed/underemployed citizens from discovering their health isn’t important as those with money and power just because they’re not carrying around a current, decent health insurance card? You do wonder if the darn cards aren’t made of platinum or gold… In some way, perhaps they are.



ADDITIONAL: I'm currently reading Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former insider who describes the whole WikiLeaks phenomenon. One of the more interesting quotes I've come across has to deal with a leak about a German pharmaceutical company.

...The public didn't take much interest in the files we published in November 2009 concerning a German pharmaceutical company. If I had to name my favorite leaks from that year, these files would definitely be among them. They read like a case study in corruption and can be easily understood by laymen.

The files concerned payments made by pharmaceutical representatives to doctors so that they would prescribe more of the company's medications. We published ninety-six pages of investigations carried out by police and prosecutors. They detailed the practices used by some pharmaceutical company representatives. If doctors prescribed their patients those products, they received a cut of the additional profits. Moreover, there were direct payments. In an internal e-mail, one of the company's regional directors had written, "If a doctor wants money, call me and we'll find a way." Another means of encouraging physicians to prescribe more of the company's products was to give them coupons for expensive seminars.

---from Inside WikiLeaks, pp. 50-51. (Daniel Domscheit-Berg with Tina Klopp, Crown Publishers, NY)


It does make one wonder who really is driving healthcare costs through the roof--the doctors, the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry. Of course, we'll blame (and double bill) the patients... After all, they can help it if they get sick or injured, can't they?

6 comments :

A J said...

Someone once said 'The US is a rich country - but so many of us can't afford to live here.' I put most of the blame for this on the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their pets in DC.

Cindy said...

Hear, hear! Until someone has the guts to take on these PAC groups sponsored by the pharmaceutical and related industries, we're pretty much going to remain mired in this mess.

marybelle said...

I am Australian. I can walk into any hospital & receive free expert medical care. My family Doctor does not charge for visits either. I can't imagine how frightening it must be not to have this safety net.

marypres@gmail.com

Susan said...

I agree that health services are screwed up in America due to the expenses of government interference and pressure by insurance lobbies. While I was working I paid for insurance and the excessive deductions they asked. My COBRA was impossible to pay for on Unemployment. It is incredible how many loving doctors are out there who give their time to us as charity. My doctor who immigrated from England saw how government interference destroy patient care. I still get medical care now from my state by removal of several branches of their oversite Federal down to closer to me state help. Who proved I was disabled and on 14 different medications a day and needed help. I discovered some pharmacutical companies had heart also. So if the government want to interfer let it be where the problem starts in courtrooms where they allow excessive awards be given against the doctors & hospitals so insance companies can lower premiums, a reverse tricle down process.

Susan Lathen
SuzyQ1955@aol.com

hotcha12 said...

HI CE,

WELL, HERE'S MY 2-CENTS: HOW IN THE HELL DO I HAVE TO FIGHT TO GET A NEW POWER CHAIR WHEN I PAID MY DUES WITH WORKING 30 YEARS? HELL THE CHAIR IS MY LEGS!! YEARS AGO, ON MY BILL I GOT CHARGED 5 BUCKS FOR AN ASPIRIN AND 200 BUCKS FOR A MORPHINE PUMP THAT NEVER WORKED!! I TOLD MY INSURANCE CARRIER AND THEY BLEW ME OFF. NOW HAVE TO PAY FOR HEALTH CARE AND 300 BUCKS EVERY 90 DAYS! GUESS I SHOULD JUST DIE LIKE THEY WANT.

Cindy said...

Glad to know Aussies have that safety net, Marybelle!

Susan, I'm still waiting to see if we'll see any sort of "torte reform" so the doctors aren't stuck paying such high malpractice insurance and then, in turn, passing it along to their patients. I sure wish I could find a nice, charitable doctor to help me when I'm short of change, but they seem to be non-existent where I'm living now. First thing they ask when you call a doctor's office is, "What's your insurance?" Odd, you'd think the first thing they should ask is, "Where does it hurt?"

Hang in there, Hotcha! We both need to be stubborn and not die and give up the fight. We've gotta keep fighting for our children and grandchildren's sakes. Yeah, I'll never forget about 20 years ago I asked for ONE TISSUE to blow my nose while in the hospital giving birth. I was charged $5 for the box on the bill... Uh, what's the deal hospital? Kleenexes don't even cost that much today!

Yesterday, I found an interesting quote about the pharmaceutical industry I'll post here.

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