Friday, July 24, 2009

The Way Things Used to Be: Or Why We Must Have National Health Care

The day after I found out I might need surgery, I got some unpleasant news. It turns out, my premium for my health insurance has gone up.

Yes. Now, instead of my workplace paying a whopping $1000.00 toward my premium, with me picking up the tab for an additional $1500.00 (hey--I could go to Europe on all that money. In style...), my workplace will keep up it's end, with me paying not $1500.00 but $2000.00.

Now, that's driving around money.

And by that, I mean if I took all that money and put it together, the Tin Can of Death I call a car would be replaced by a much, much less crappy little number, maybe one with air conditioning.

Seriously. That is a big deductible. Granted, I may not end up spending all that money on myself, but really, if I was a person who did, at some point, spend money to save my creaking, pestilence-ridden body, I might. And that would be problematic.

Let's get to the real problem.

I might have to have surgery.

At the very least, I will need a CAT scan of my sinuses, which is disturbingly close to my brain, and that kind of scan drenches you with radiation, so basically I'm having my brain irradiated. And paying for it.

Now those kinds of tests aren't cheap. And the surgery wouldn't be either. So, all this means that I will end up blowing past the $1000.00 contribution really fast. And paying for all the rest of it as if I didn't have insurance at all.

This would be what Michael Moore means when he talks about all of us who are under insured.

So not only am not making the big bucks, as I am a college grad making $20,000.00 a year, I am under insured too. And I love my job. Love It. But this is the kind of thing that could make me not be able to do what I want with my life. In fact, I won't be able to at all.

Which is hard for me to think about, because I only just now found a job in the first place.

This got me thinking, thinking about what my grandfather probably lived through: a world where you could get a job and have it pay for your life. Yes. You could go out, find a job, work full-time without needing to have various post-graduate degrees to do it, and that full-time job would come with health insurance that would pay for your health problems without you having to worry about the dreaded Pre-Existing Condition or how much of each thing you could do for yourself (like visiting an allergist) before they decided they just wouldn't pay anymore.

For example.

Say you have a heart attack. Say you are at your doctor's office, and he says, "Gee, I think you might have had a minor infarction. I'm going to send you to the hospital."

Now legally, that doctor can't send you out on the street. You could sue. You could DIE. You could die and then your family could sue.

But you also have the teensy-tiny problem of your insurance. They will pay for the blood work, the MRI, the varied procedures involved with heart problems. They will also (help) cover the costs of very pricey medications that might well offer your body some relief. Not your mind (or wallet), but your body. What the insurance won't pay for is the ambulance ride that will take you to the hospital where you can have all of those things done.

Because I'm going to fall off a roof and be impaled on a fence, Buffy-style, and then I am going to sit up and stop the bystanders from calling 911. That's what I'll do, I'll save myself all the fees related in having my life saved. I'll just stand up, taking the fence-post with me as I go, and drive down to my local ER, even as my body goes into shock, just because that's what it takes to not have to pay the ambulance driver's yearly salary out of pocket.

That heart attack thing? Happened to my dad. Not only that, but when the happy-go-lucky local hospital realized he'd had a heart attack, they insisted that he need real treatment rather than the basic first aid they can provide. Since they couldn't just let him leave either (see doctor's office, above), Dad had to wait until yet another ambulance drove him all the way to Fort Wayne, where he could be told again that he'd had a heart attack but also that it was cool, all would be just peachy.

Now imagine the vein in my finger popped like a zit in front of hundreds of people, to their Saw-esque horror and my despair. Imagine my having various surgeries to repair the heart-stopping gore that my finger had become. Imagine all the money that would cost.

Because the bottom line is, I don't have health insurance. No, not really. I have a health savings account that the library pays into, and that money gets taken out by the insurance company and paid out to the varied doctors and hospitals and pharmacies of Central Indiana. Then I have nothing. Then I am back to choosing not to refill my asthma medication because not getting that means that I can eat dinner, or see a movie, or--heck--buy gas to get to work and pay for car up-keep.

Almost all the money I make is funneled back into paying to get to work, paying to make sure I can get to work, paying for the education that made me able to find work, and so on. Forget saving up for grad school, forget the new car I desperately need. The raise I'll get at my one-year anniversary? What raise? The insurance will suck it all up like flies on honey.

That being said, the people I work for have no control over any of this. This is what happens when you work in a Republican state. Keep taxes low, at all costs, and never, never give any more to the government than its already got! This is what life is like, what it has always been like when a board, or several boards, determine how much money they are willing to shell out. And here in Indiana, no matter what your board is managing: police and fire, school district, or church, boards are notoriously unwilling to raise taxes by paying for road repair, 911 addresses, etc. And small businesses are even worse.

And that's sad. Really sad, because that means Indiana loses a massive majority of all young people seeking employment after college. Paul wants to leave. He just wants to pick up and go to some other state, without any real idea what state he will choose, just because he knows almost any state is better than here.

And I will miss him. Maybe so badly that I will pick up and leave too.

That's two down. And in only one family.

Now, I'm not saying this will fix all Indiana's problems, but imagine a world where I didn't have to freak out about filling a prescription or considering the possibility of maybe not having sinus surgery at all even though I might really need it. Imagine a place where I could relax and know that my doctor could take good care of me without my saying no to important procedures, medications, or my never visiting him at all to avoid having to make those kinds of decisions.

That place exists.

It's called Sweden. And Norway. The Netherlands. Canada. Cuba. And there are more still.

And it is worse for other people. There are people that have to put off getting treatment for cancer! And these are people who have worked their whole lives, putting money from their checks into an insurance plan that insures nothing. We aren't paying for coverage anymore, or even to offset health costs, or even the illusion of peace of mind. No one even has that anymore. We are paying for a pipe dream.

We are going to become a third world country. We will educate the world's finest doctors while individuals in this country cannot afford to be treated by them. Instead, we will import patients from wealthy countries, business people and dignitaries that want the best there is to offer. In other words, people with money.

And we will hop a plane to Mexico because it's cheaper to get our appendixes out there. Or sinuses fixed, for that matter.

We have to pass Obama's national health plan. Why? Because we don't have any other option. And if you think we do, make all checks payable to Laura B...

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