Thursday, July 23, 2009

Special Request: Healthcare Note

I know I said I was done with this blog but I posted the following note on Facebook and one commenter asked me to please post it here. I guess so it will be more widely seen or something (though I don't think this blog gets much face time anymore since it's all, you know, ended). Anyway, here's the note, enjoy - this one's for you, Matt.

Listening to all the news reports on the fight over Obama's healthcare plan is making me a little crazy. I realize that the president's plan might not be perfect. But at least the man is TRYING to provide an option for those of us who have none. Maybe it's socialized - gasp! - but in this case, it's necessary and important.

John pointed out the reality that when you are sick, it is like your house is on fire. There have been systems in which the fire department was privatized. When they showed up at your burning house, you had to pay them before they would put out the fire. If you didn't have the money, they'd just leave, and you had to deal with it - something way beyond your ability - on your own.

This put me in mind of my recent bout of mastitis. For the first 24 hours I didn't do anything about it, because it's relatively difficult for me to figure out what to do when I have an urgent problem on the weekend when the doctors aren't working. I finally decided to visit the urgent care.

After I was triaged and told to register, the receptionist was trying to look up my account (which was complicated b/c we just moved from No Cal Kaiser to So Cal Kaiser, which are not the same company). She told me that neither of my plans was effective. For a few terrifying moments, while she called member services and learned she was wrong, I actually had to consider what I was going to do if I didn't have insurance.

At that moment, I was running a fever of 103.5. My breast was bright red and hot to the touch, and bleeding. I could barely stand up and had chills. I was really, really sick. My body was on fire. I needed help, and I couldn't give myself the help I needed.

Mastitis is easily treated with a round of antibiotics. This medicine is entirely unaffordable without insurance (not to mention the doctor visit - and followups). But I had to stand there and ponder just going home and trying to "self-treat" a bacterial infection. Or go to the county ER and wait most of the night in pain and misery (with the baby up hours past her bedtime), after which I'd have been slapped with a bill we couldn't possibly afford right now (remember we are unemployed for nearly a year now).

I started to panic as I realized I had no idea what I was going to do. At that point you have to decide if the "fire" is bad enough that you should shell out money you don't have, or not use your rent money towards putting out the fire and risk it destroying you. In my case, the mastitis would have developed into abscesses, which would have required surgery cutting into my breast tissue to remove (plus a hospital stay of several days during which I could not nurse my child). This is what I would have had to choose whether to risk - without the option of even discussing it with a doctor.

Seriously people. We need a public plan. Period.

It's not that scary. Everyone puts the money into the pool, and the people who are sick take out what they need. This guy on the radio just said, "Why wouldn't I choose to pay half the price for the same medicine? Because I'm using YOUR money, not mine!" Yeah, except one day, you idiot, YOU'll be the sick one who needs help! And then your attitude will change real quick.

It's part of the ethos of capitalism (and somehow, sadly, American Christianity) to say that it's up to individuals to take care of themselves and their families, and government intervention somehow violates privacy. It's bullshit. We take care of each other because that is basic human decency, and it's civilized. It is not civilized to let children go hungry and get sick because you don't want to pony up a little more in taxes. That's ridiculous. Get over yourselves people.

And even if you don't want to do it because it's kind and decent, then at least do it so that you will one day be taken care of. It could take a damn long time, but hopefully one day we'd create a culture of caring for one another - and especially the least among us - that would teach children that they automatically care for their elders. I mean, it's SO communist...or is it just basic human decency?

I realize that there's always the argument that public health care could cause massive runs on the ER and huge wait times to see doctors. Well, to me, it's better than not having the option to see a doctor AT ALL. Yeah, maybe some people die waiting to see a doctor. How many people die because they don't have the option to see a doctor now?? It's not about having to wait, it's about having to go to the same doc that the poor people go to. It's about people who have good insurance not wanting to share their good fortune, not wanting their own quality of life to go down a little bit so that somebody else's can be raised. So selfish.

An affordable public option for healthcare that's available to all regardless of income means my family would have the ability to go to the doctor when we get sick. It's as simple as that. If you need to know a person who this affects before you will care, you know me. You know John, and you know Maggie. Please think of us when you discuss, when you call your representatives, when you march.

Thank you.


rbarenblat said...

I am so sorry to hear that you had this mastitis scare. Thank you for posting this.

I've been thinking of you lately, actually; I'm expecting my first baby in December, and have been thinking a lot about how this might impact the last year of my rabbinic studies. I feel grateful to have teachers and a spiritual director who are incredibly supportive of the sacred task of parenting, but I don't know what it's going to be like for me. Anyway, I've been thinking of you, and I hope you are well.

Gail P Smith said...

Read a really sad story about a woman's whose husband had cancer that was suppposed to be covered by her healthcare, but kept getting turned down.
She felt the insurance companies stalled people so that instead of making the decicsion to go ahead and pursue treatment at their own cost, the sick person who keep fighting with them, delaying treatment and eventually the problem would solve itself when the insured person died. Which is bascially what happened to her husband.
Why are you done with this blog?