Monday, June 18, 2007

Health Care Is Very Sick

This past week, a doctor diagnosed a large lump in my mother's throat as likely being a cyst. A scan was done, and no fluid was found, so it is a solid growth. Another growth on her thyroid was discovered. The lab is backed up, so Friday she goes in for a biopsy, and next week Thursday she will get the results. We are praying for the best, and will do our best to plan for the worst.

This should be a very happy time in my mother's life. She has finally paid off massive debts this month she has been paying for 5 years. She accumulated the debts paying for assisted living care, and in home nursing for my grandmother who passed a few years back. At over $4,000 a month, you can soon be swimming in debt. Her other option was placing her own mother in a room in a giant facility with eight people with workers who were paid minimum wage, and often gave minimum wage effort.

This year, we had the good fortune to have applied for medicaid just in case for my wife, as we moved up to a new area without work yet. She had a complicated pregnancy, punctuated by two months of hospitalization. If I had waited, gotten a job, then had to wait for insurance to kick in, it would have been too late and insurance wouldn't have kicked in and paid for it, but our income would have made us unqualified for assistance. Our timing was indeed fortuitous. We would be swimming in debt right now.

When we had our last child, I paid out about $700 a month for insurance that entitled me to $50 co-pay for medicine and doctor's visits, and a $500 deductible for a child birth. Our insurance company kept not paying the part they owed, and what should have been a completely joyful time in our life, was marred a bit by dealing with the hospital, their collection agency, and our insurance company.

These are just some examples of how the health care situation in this country has affected my family. As Sicko is released this week-end, no matter what you may think of Michael Moore, at least we are going to discuss it. John Edwards' hair style, Rudy Giuliani's marriages, Hillary Clinton's pantsuits, Fred Thompson's bedroom eyes are fun. I engage in gossip about these things myself.

My family is not alone though. People are being devastated by the state of our health care system. Even when you have insurance, it can be denied, you can be kicked off your policy, you have to jump through too many hoops, yet there will be another white woman missing this week. Paris Hilton will leave prison. In a way, focusing on these fluffy stories is cathartic, but it can't be the chief focus in our lives.

As Sicko comes out this week-end, many of us will be waiting for test results, arguing with insurance claim specialists, wondering what plastic card can cover the bill in an emergency, then watching the news and learning a celebrity's diet secrets. Too much circus, not enough bread.

How Sicko.

Update:A wingnut in comments railed against the evils of the Canadian system and it reminded me to look up this study from Harvard. 50% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by health care crises. More than 75% of people who filed for bankruptcy were actually insured at the start of the illness. Taking care of a sick one often means leaving the job, which means losing your health care if you can't afford the COBRA coverage on no income. What a choice. Leave your loved one home alone, so you can keep coverage, or get financially ruined. I will wave the Maple Leaf flag on this. Our system is broken. Patching a gunshot wound with a band-aid really isn't going to work.