Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Healthcare Reform

Nothing makes me feel more helpless than the issue of healthcare in America. As a person with a preexisting condition, diabetes, this issue directly impacts my life. At present, I am a healthy, talented human being who contributes to society by having a job, participating in politics, and spending what little money I have on housing and basic necessities.

I also live in poverty, dependent on the state for the basic necessities of food and medicine. If I chose to have a job that would make me enough money to bump me up a tax bracket or two, I'd lose my medical coverage and I'd be faced with a huge, new set of problems. Problems like having to fork over $700 per month in insurance costs and medical expenses in addition to paying for rent, utilities, food, and other basic needs.

If I had a "real" job that covered all of my normal expenses, it would still cost me $33 per day just to keep breathing; that's the daily cost of my medication, the means to inject it, doctor's visits, and minimal food. That's $231 per week, and $924 per month. Individual insurance doesn't help me. In fact, with an average $450/mo policy and a minimum $5,000 deductible, paying out of pocket almost SAVES me money.

I've called for policy quotes from insurance companies many times. They have a list of questions that they ask. After determining your age and sex (and whether or not you are pregnant), they ask personal questions about your medical history, "do you have or have you ever had cancer/stroke/heart attack", "do you smoke", "do you drink alcohol", etc. At about the 4th or 5th question, they ask if you have diabetes. Then the questions stop. Once you confirm that you are diabetic (or have any other kind of chronic illness that needs medication for upkeep), they give you a quote between $450 - $550/mo with a high deductible between $5,000 - $10,000/yr. Even insurance companies that claim the cheapest rates never dip below a $400 monthly cost.

With the amount of money I have to spend on medical costs, I could be renting a 3 bedroom house and a small studio space outside of that, and still have money for utilities and food. Instead, I've been reduced to poverty and food stamps by a government and country that believes that one can only be sick and alive if one is rich. The alternative is to be either sick and poor, or dead. And with the audacity that the insurance companies display in their rising rates and premiums, their opinion is obvious; the sick do not deserve to live. Hospitals and pharmicutical companies share that opinion by refusing full and adiquate treatment to the uninsured, and with the high, rising costs of medications and medical supplies.

You might be asking yourself why I don't get a job somewhere, anywhere, with health insurance. The answer is simple, I am not guaranteed any sort of coverage that way. If I cost the insurance company too much, I will be forced to pay a higher rate to keep my coverage. The insurance company can also choose to drop me and cancel my coverage or simply refuse to cover me in the first place. This is not unheard of, nor is is uncommon. In fact, insurance companies are notorious for discontinuing their coverage if a healthy client falls ill. Also, the company I work for can also choose to not cover me. This is a little less common, but if I make it more expensive for the company to cover ALL of its employees, it can happen.

Writing about this issue is hard for me. Being objective and not losing my cool and screaming obscenities is the most difficult part. I wonder, who are they to tell me that I don't deserve to keep breathing? Who are they to tell me that I am an inferior human being? Words like "liability" and "high-risk" that are used to label the sick and disabled are insulting, demeaning, and thrown around by insurance companies as if they are harmless. I've made many a phone call for quotes that has ended in tears of hurt and frustration. Their negligence and ignorance are more harmful than any healthy person can realize.

The continuation of this line of conversation goes into the topic of how healthy people simply don't understand what it is like to be sick. This is a very basic observation, but you'd be surprised at how much it clouds their judgment and impedes the progress of reform. But I digress, and I'll refrain from going any further with this line of thought.

There are so many people in America who cannot afford insurance. There are still more who can't afford the medications that they need to live. If the government were to start regulating and charging for air, we'd all be in the same boat. Fortunately for us all, that won't happen any time soon. (Could you imagine oxygen insurance?)

The point I'm trying to make is this; our current method of health care in the United States IS NOT WORKING. It needs to be reformed, rethought, and radically changed. Even if it is done by baby steps over the next 75 years, it needs to be done, and it needs to start NOW. Discrimination against pre-existing conditions must STOP. And the impersonal treatment of the sick and disabled must end.

Write your congress people, both the senate and the house need to know your thoughts and concerns. Tell the house to pass the senate's bill, even if it does not include a public option, it may just be the baby step toward reform that people like me, people like your friends and relatives, pray for with every breath, every pill, every injection.

Healthy people of the free world, unite and help the sick. We need your support for the changes that must be made. Brothers and sisters with diabetes and the host of other invisible chronic illnesses, unite for change and reform. Together, we can make a difference and make breathing easier for everyone.


  1. I agree actually that healthy people don't understand the impact of a chronic condition on one's life. Hearing the financial ramifications alone are eye opening. I've not even though about the daily, practical aspect of it.

    But I completely agree with you. Allowing issues such as a citizen's health be lay to the winds of capitalistic economics rubs me the wrong way. For as much as this country says it believes in values, human dignity, etc., I think its infatuation with capitalism betrays those very values—ironic then, I think, that most social conservatives who wish to preserve those values (at least in name) are often more economically capitalistic-leaning than most other demographics. Is it some long-embedded fear of Communism (and apparently, in their mind, its little cousin, Socialism)? Why is there is incredible fear that the more power the government has over economics, especially when it comes to certain issues such as the health of its own citizens, everyone gets in an uproar?

    There's no guarantee that government will do better, of course. At least in this country. I'm not well-versed enough in overseas health care (i.e. what the Socialists do, oh no!) to make a comparison. But the way the capitalist philosophies have seeped through this country, from Ayn Rand to Alan Greenspan to Joe-the-so-called-Plumber, I find really disturbing and completely incongruent with what this country says its founded on. Capitalism is not hard-wired into democracy, and it is not a democratic method of economics. In fact, in its final form, it is extremely totalitarian. The idea that competition will create better civil services with lower prices for the citizenry is a theory that proves flawed in practice.

    Whatever the case, I want government to be agnostic and apathetic when it comes to these big corporations, and passionate about the health and well being of its citizens instead of the clash of hot-headed economic models and theories.

    I'm even more confused by how the right is trying to make a comeback and regain power. They had eight years of government completely to them—to run the show as they saw fit, to experiment with their ideas and economics. It floors me that they would think things like the housing crash and banking crisis does not send a signal that their model does not work. I really have no patience with these people who block the health care reform on basis of economic philosophy, and I have only so much patience for those who are so frightened about what it costs. We were gotten into this mess by massive borrowing for economic factors that would "even themselves out". And now that they haven't, they want normal people like us to eat the fire.

    Tea Partyers should think long and hard about what side their on. They had eight years of their own men, and those men sat in board rooms with Haliburton directors, asking what they wanted out of the Iraq war. And they're afraid of what mysterious Mr. Obama will do for this country? Like actually take care of people who are actually real plumbers, or work for a living, whether they like it or not?

    Like I said… I really have no patience with it. If another conservative regime takes power and the possibility of turning a new leaf in this country culturally and policy-wise gets drowned out by a sea of haphazard "populists", I think it would be high time for me to get and leave. I'd rather not live in a country that would implode due to its own navel gazing.

  2. We see eye to eye on this, for sure. I too have contemplated leaving the US because of this issue. At least Canada would try to take care of me as a citizen where this country gives me the finger. If the reforms do get shot down, I'm still game for leaving and taking my illness and my money elsewhere. Take that American Capitalism...

  3. I really hate this whole American idea of, "Don't tell me what to do, I clearly know what's best for myself!" Bullshit. We are a community, this whole patriotism rush should make people want to help other Americans.
    My parents and I would've lived on the streets had my dad's illness not been classified as being caused by his military service. Whenever politicians talked about cutting vet benefits, I knew that could mean my family and I would lose our house. Why is it that the struggles of those in need are ignored? I hate it

  4. Whoa, sister. I'm so sorry to hear abotu your healthcare struggles. I am lucky enough to have my health care (and my kids, thank god) covered by the state. I have had to leave a doctors office because they would not let me see the doctor without paying 100 dollars. Ugh.
    Thanks so much for sharing,