Monday, August 10, 2009

Coming out of the closet

on health care.

Rant below.

I have a personal stake in how this healthcare bill turns out. A huge one. With four kids and no insurance I'm watching the debates with a knot in my gut. The disruptions actually upset me. I want civil conversation, I want people to behave like adults--not screaming mobs (both sides). What's worse, I'm listening to people I respect and like say insulting things about those of us who are hoping it will pass--calling us socialists, calling us lazy, calling us dead beats who don't want to work for what we get in life. Until now, I've stood silently by because I don't quite know how to respond without creating a scene.

It's not personal, I tell myself. They simply don't understand what it is to live without it. They don't know that they're standing next to someone who worries daily that one of her boys is going to get hurt or her husband is going to pass another kidney stone, and how on earth she'll pay for it if either happens. They don't realize that I'm one of the statistics, that my husband works regular over time just to provide for us, putting us into the middle class, beyond the reach of MC-Plus but still making just enough to get by. We're penny pinchers; we don't want handouts and that we don't mind paying regular premiums, but we want to know that the insurance is actually going to be there for us when we need it.

I'm done with wondering what people would think or say if they knew and I'm done with being silent. The next time this subject comes up, I'm going to tell them what it's like to be me.

I'd be thrill if health care providers would play nice, charging affordable fees for services, and promise the same care to everyone regardless of whether they're insured or not. I'd be even more thrilled if insurance companies would charge affordable premiums and give me a workable deductible that applies in small degrees along the way (the way our last insurance worked before the employer decided it was too expensive) instead of what we have access to now (a $1000 per person up-front deductible that we must meet in full before the insurance pays for anything--which means that my normally healthy family would never actually access it, just that they'd get to keep my 400 dollars every month and I'd get a nifty card for my wallet). But they don't and they won't, not without the government laying down laws that restrict what they can do, but that puts the government in control of businesses--and I guess we hate that--or providing a public alternative that will force them to compete and play fair--but apparently we hate that even more.

I'm frustrated with with the "let them eat cake" attitudes of those who don't get it, who are comfortable with their own healthcare plan and assume everyone else would have access to the same if they'd just work hard enough. Or they're simply uninformed, allowing email forwards to shape their opinions. Or they simply don't care at all and want the uninsured masses to shut up and go away.

Fears abound. They're afraid of "rationed health care" and what they don't understand is that we're already rationing it--those with insurance get better care than those who don't (ask me how I know this). They're afraid that our government is going to foul it up. What? Worse than the insurance companies have? They're afraid of more taxes. And I suppose they're getting their money's worth as it is? Wouldn't it be nice to pay taxes into a system and actually get something back out of it other than knowing our government officials are flying around in nicer jets?

Yes, I'm a little pissed about this. With good reason. In truth, I'm afraid too. I'm afraid that nothing is going to change, that the status quo is going to continue, that the insurance companies are going to keep all the cards.

So there it is. Me being more direct than I usually am and certainly less tactful. I get why you're upset about this and I get why you think it's a bad idea. But can you give me a better solution? If you can't, then maybe you need to be the one standing silently by.


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I'd be one of the people who would "benefit" from the plan, too. We are doing the "pay a lot of money and have a high deductible on top of that" insurance plan. But see, we're paying it because we don't want to do the what-if thing. We would actually be eligible for MCPlus if D's employer didn't "offer" insurance. That we pay for. That we're not supposedly able to afford, and that's why they set up these programs. :P Makes sense, right? LOL

I think it's easier to demonize someone than to try to at least see where she's coming from. One blog I read featured a commenter saying that anyone against the Obama plan is a selfish person and/or hasn't researched the facts. I called him a pinko communist swine-dog in return.

LOL No, not really. But I am glad you are out of the closet. My friend, none of us need to be there. I appreciate your candor and the fact that you can state your case without demonizing others.

We need more people like you out there, you know.

Hal Johnson said...

Mary, I have medical insurance, although as you say, it doesn't pay much for my family unless we meet the rather high deductable. You're right, so many people don't give a rat's butt about those who don't have medical coverage. It's a shame.

Debby said...

I don't understand why Americans are so unwilling to accept the fact that there are millions of people working minimum wage jobs with no health care. It's nothing to do with laziness. It's everything to do with the fact that big corporations are copping out, to maximize shareholders profits.

jeanie said...

Obviously it is a slightly different system over here - but they are lobbying for your style. Eek.

Scotty said...

I've never understood all the hoo-hah about having a national health care system, Mary - we have one here in Oz and for the most part, it works well and I should know since I've made use of it.

Here, it works two ways - one, you can pay private medical insurance (varying rates of course) and for that, you can get a private room, choice of doctor, less waiting time, etc.

Second, you can opt to be part of the Medicare system - for that, I pay 1.25% of my wage as a lump sum come tax time and the only difference is that I might have to wait a bit longer to be seen at a hospital (unless of course I'm close to death), I don't get a private room (I may have to share with 1-3 other people) and I don't get my choice of doctor.

But I don't get turned away either, ever. When I had my heart scare several years back, I spent several days in hospital, was given several tests, fed, and cared for, and it cost me exactly... nothing.

Socialised medicine? You'll never hear me argue against it since it guarantees that everyone will get a pretty fair shake for any kind of emergency surgery/treatment.

And anyone who can criticise someone for not being able to afford private insurance and 'not working hard enough' is simply a snob as far as I'm concerned. Basic health care for everybody should be a right, not a privilege that does nothing but widen the gap between the HAVES and the have-nots.

Anonymous said...

Watching the US healthcare debates from the outside is fascinating, because it would seem uncontroversial that your healthcare system is broken: you spend far more on it than anyone else and get worse outcomes. I wouldn't necessarily put the British NHS forward as the the best model for everyone else to follow, but I would never swap it for the US system. Being ill is stressful enough at the best of times, without having financial worries piled on top of it.

And then US pundits point to the British system and talk about bureaucracy and rationing... but all the stories I've heard about the problems with the US system are filled with bureaucracy and rationing to an extent which would be unimaginable here — it's just that your bureaucrats are working for insurance companies which actually make their profits by denying as many people care as possible.

I went to my GP with intestinal problems a year or two back, and after antibiotics didn't help he referred me to a specialist at my local hospital who ordered a few tests, including a colonoscopy and blood tests and so on, and eventually decided there wasn't much wrong with me.

At no point did I personally have to deal with any 'bureaucrats' (just doctors, nurses and receptionists); I only had to fill out one or two forms in the whole process and they didn't ask for anything much more complicated than name and address; and the only time money changed hands was to pay a prescription charge for the antibiotics (a standard nominal fee, not the actual cost of the drugs). If that's socialism, I'll take it.

Mary O. Paddock said...

What a great response! Thanks everyone.

Mrs C--I appreciate your take on this. I dislike it when people are so militant that they can't see another person's point of view.

Hal--The number of people who just want the problem to go away, who speak out against public health care without another solution, has surprised me.

Debby--Part of our problem is employers who won't pay a living wage.

Jeanie--If I were in your shoes, I'd lobby against it.

Scotty--Me either. To me it simply makes sense to offer both options. Thanks for your inside look at your system.

Harry--Thank you for stopping by and for all the information you shared concerning your health care system. I would love for visiting the doctor to be that simple.

Maddy said...

Newbie visiting from Mrs. C.

First I have to declare my bias because I come from Britland.

That said, now we are here, we do 'enjoy' the luck of insurance. The fact that we have a huge deductible is also our choice and our good fortune. The fact that it's only pays [at best] 65% of our therapy costs, usually 8 months in arrears after quibbling every little details and generally keeping us running around for eons is probably proof that they're running a good business and providing great dividends to their shareholders......I detect ramble so I'll shut up now.
BEst wishes