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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

American Healthcare Doesn't Care... or How I Learned to Love the Idea of Socialized Medicine

As kids we are naturally disposed to the idea that we will live forever. We run pell mell, tilting at windmills, never supposing that there are huge fucking blades on those things that knock you over and hurt you. In our young adult hood we've been seasoned a bit and baring the odd motorcycle crash or fall down a flight of stairs, we still believe that serious hospitalization is a long way off, even though this is the point we start seeing our parents and grandparents going in and out of large white buildings, that we vaguely remember from that time we fell off skateboard and had that funny feeling around where our foot used to be, but now look there's this white and red thing sticking out... It's not until most of us are in our 40s or 50s that we start really considering the benefits of older men and women with specialized instruments and really good medication that is legal. It's also the time that our grandparents' grandparents were starting to be fitted for a whole in the ground. We've come a long way in longevity but the adverse of that is that, usually our ancestors did not shuffle off this moral coil from sheer cliff of mountains of debt. There was a time when doctor's charged what you could afford.

Pull back the curtain a little...

Healthcare in the United States has a checkered and varied history. There have been efforts to provide a type of Universal Healthcare since the 1880's. Starting with the Progressive Era, that time in American Political movements, when politicians really started looking at the people they were representing and saying, "Why are we allowing this to happen," organizations and individuals have been trying to ensure people are insured. What they were doing was trying to bring back representative government.They were trying to get rid of the bosses of the political machine. According to the website, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNPH), one of the people at the forefront of this battle was Theodore Roosevelt, even though he supported insurance programs.
If you were sick during this time you basically had two options, come up with money and find a doctor, or hope that you would get better at some point. If you had enough money to do the former, good for you. If you didn't have the money you became one of the average 157.7 per 100,000 people that died. This was the reality for our grandparents and great-grandparents. If you have money, you get better, if not, well, they're running a special at the funeral home.
Then in 1965 Lyndon Johnson, one of the most progressive President's we've had, though not one that is considered so, by today's standards, instituted Medicare. Public Option insurance, for the poor and the elderly. This was the first time we saw a real attempt to address healthcare in the United States. Since that time there has been a constant conflict to address the issue. We've had many attempts to expand and defund Medicare. The Republicans always put up proposals and hold budgets hostage to get cuts to Medicare, such as the Republican controlled Congress in the 1990's, and again after 2010. They want to get rid of Medicare, they want to defund it, they want to tie all sorts of things to it, that will essentially kill it. This is true, and you can see all sorts of video on Youtube.
Medicare is called the single-payer option for reason, because the government is the one footing the bill. One payer into the plan. and many recipients. We pay for Medicare and the state Medicade programs with taxes. Then we still have to buy our own insurance. This is a bit of double dipping to my way of thinking.

It Finally Happened in 2010 Insurance for everyone... Ya know, if you can afford it. 

In the United States we basically had two ways to get insurance if you weren't on another social program. You could buy into your company's group policy, or you could buy private insurance. The problem with this system continues to be the fact that over 48M people were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act was passed. It cost individuals and families more than their grocery bill for a month to be covered, and that was only if you didn't have a pre-existing condition. 
I remember when we found out my mother's kidneys were failing. She was trying to get health insurance, and had to go get a physical exam. They ran a test on her kidneys and found the didn't function like they were supposed to, so she was denied insurance. She had failing kidneys meaning a life of dialysis and possible kidney replacement, and no insurance. There was no amount of money that she could give an insurance company to have them help her. She worked two and three jobs at a time to make sure we had food, she sacrificed her money, health and time to give us Christmas, and never took anything for herself until she got sick and had to stay in bed. My mother never asked for anything, and now was having everything taken away. Have you ever tried to work while connected to a machine that was recycling your blood, to remove impurities, that your body could no longer remove. You can't. You are strapped to a chair for 4 hours while this thing pulls your blood out, runs it through a filter then pushes it back in. 

Thanks Obama

Now we have the American Health Care Act, which ensures that people cannot be denied coverage but it also means that you have to have insurance whether you want it or not. You have to be covered or pay a tax penalty. With the only real incentive being a penalty, what I wonder is why it doesn't just take the next step and raise everyone's taxes a little and make sure everyone has a basic insurance. Medicare for all, that you can opt out of if you want, to go get your own private insurance if that is what you want to do. You'll still have to pay the taxes, because when you think of it that's how insurance works already. A bunch of mostly healthy people paying in for a few sick people. That's why pre-existing conditions were a cause for not covering you in the past, because you came in saying, "I'm sick, here's my $20, now I'll take my $2000 worth of test please." Except if you didn't have insurance the hospital would say, you're sick give us $20,000.
That hasn't changed much under the American Health Care Act. It probably helps that the AHCA is a redrafted version of the 1993 Republican Health Care Proposal. (Kaiser Health News). It also has many elements of former Governor Mitt Romney's Massachusetts Health Care Plan from 2006.
The American Health Care Act was written by the insurance companies for the we the people to give them more money. It is not what we asked for and not what we need. What we need is a a single payer option. We need to find a way to provide insurance for people like my mother, and my grandfather, and my wife, and even myself.

My Story

In 2008 I had three heart attacks. While I was in the hospital I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease.
Grave's Disease via Mayo Clinic
I have a hyperactive thyroid that has has become toxic, and will probably require surgery at some point. I don't have the money for the medication, the surgery, the doctor's visits, or the treatment that will be required afterword. My partner, Aly, started a gofundme campaign because in 2013 I started having seizures, and had to go to the emergency room on New Year's Eve. That one trip to the emergency room for approximately three hours cost me $4000. The doctor wanted to hospitalize me, but I refused.  He looked shocked, but I told him I had no insurance and no money. He was concerned enough that he agreed to see me for free. They still don't know what is wrong with me, and even though I now have insurance, because of the AHCA and the Federal Exchange, I still can't afford regular visits to the doctor. 
This is a very personal issue for me, because I live in one of the 19 states that has decided to not expand their Medicaid coverage for low-income families. I'm considered middle class based on my income but I can't afford preventative care. I can't afford to make sure that I will be there when my son graduates college. I have to rely on friends and family to help me out. I watched my mother make the decision to die because she didn't want to go through dialysis a second time. I can't blame her for making that decision, because I'm pretty sure that in her position I would do the same, when faced with mountains of medical debt and a lifetime of stop-gap measures that are just prolonging existence, rather than engendering life. If you want to help you can donate by clicking the donate button to the right, or by clicking here. (author's note: campaign concluded.)

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