lurkitty: (Pogo)
I woke up this morning with a general feeling of unease, like someone was not okay. I checked my flist and email. All quiet. I went off to satsang.

I returned to find an email that said my friend who has brain cancer has been transferred to a care facility. Hospice has been called. There is a note to call before going to see her. The last time I spoke to her, she said she had gone to the doctor in hopes of getting approval to get her drivers license back. That wasn't on the doc's agenda at all. The doc wanted to discuss going off the chemo that is not working and just doing palliative care. She had told me herself 3 months ago that she had no more than 6 months left. But the cancer is in her brain. She doesn't know what she has said from one week to the next. She cannot drive because she can't remember what she is doing from one moment to the next. The last time she drove, she stopped in the middle of the block and sat there, wondering what she was doing. I help drive her where she needs to go.

My friend Mary's story is a sad one. She has just turned 65. She was a dutiful, but rather mousey wife who was married for 25 years to a man who took her for granted. She was a stereotypical housewife and raised a child and kept the home. She never went to school herself, never held a job outside the home. When he found another woman whom he thought suited him better, he didn't think she should be entitled to the fruits of his labor.

She ended up keeping the house, but he held up support payments until the court ordered him to pay. During that time, she had symptoms she suspected were colon cancer, but she knew if she went to the doctor without health insurance, by the time she got insurance it would be a pre-exisiting condition and they would not cover it. So she waited. We counseled her to go - but she waited.

When she finally got insurance and saw a doctor, it was too late. The cancer had metastasized. They did do surgeries and chemotherapy regimens that may have given her more time. But the whole experience transformed her from mousey housewife into a strong woman, willing to fight for herself. I am very proud of what she has accomplished in her last year on earth.

I don't know if I am more sad and angry at the ex-husband (who died before her of a heart attack), or at the system that kept her from going to a doctor over a year earlier. Would her treatment have been cheaper and more effective had she been able to see a doctor at the first symptom? Or, better yet, if she had preventative screening at a fraction of the cost as part of basic health care?

Long lines of thunderheads have been marching across the sky all day. My friend's time on earth marches along with them, toward the horizon, making me uneasy. Mary did well for herself. But did we do well by her?
lurkitty: (Default)
I had lunch today with a good friend I hadn't seen in a long time. I was immediately reminded why I really enjoyed her company, and made a note to myself (and a comment out loud) that we should really see each other more often. She is delightful company. You see, we stand diametrically opposed on most political issues, but we can carry on a genuinely friendly and spirited conversation and actually listen to each other.

She is a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian conservative.

Our conversation inevitably turned to healthcare as she told me that her husband (both as conservative and as affable as she, by the way) was back in the hospital. Oddly, when I began talking about the nationalized healthcare system in Australia, she commented that something like that would be great for the US!

I did a double-take. Such a comment coming from her was like hearing Bush suggest an Iraqi withdrawal timetable. She then added, however, that it would have to be different than Canada's system because those poor Canadians are forced to pay 30% of their income toward their healthcare system.

One of the biggest misconceptions we suffer in this country is the stealth nature of the cost of health care. She, like most Americans, did not realize that she was already paying that amount or more. The only difference is that she doesn't see it.

Here's the breakdown as provided by The National Coalition on Healthcare (these are 2004 figures):
-The average yearly premium an employer pays for a family of four is $10,800 (full-time minimum wage earnings would have been $10,712).
-The average employee pays $2,713 on top of that.
-retiring elderly couples need at least $200,000 to pay for the most basic medical coverage
-healthcare spending in 2004 reached $1.9 trillion (the national debt is now just over 8 trillion)

Our healthcare system is not less expensive than that of Canada, but more expensive.
And what do we get for our money?

-50% of all bankruptcies are, at least in part, due to medical reasons. 68% of those undergoing bankruptcy actually have health insurance.
-every 30 seconds, someone in the US files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious medical problem.
-25% of housing problems, including inability to make rent or mortgage payments and bad credit ratings, had to do with healthcare issues.

We need to stop pretending that we can fix this shambles of a system and look at the systems that really do work. Why are we saddling employers with the cost of coverage? Why are we paying for dozens of insurance companies, each one requiring tons of discrete paperwork, making doctors into paper-pushing clerks instead of caregivers?
The saddest part of all is that the people who can actually act to fix this have no notion of the problem. Members of Congress believe we have a great healthcare system because their coverage is wonderful.

And so, I give you my proposal.

All members of Congress, as well as the the President and his staff, shall hereby be placed on Medicare. The premiums formerly paid to their insurers will be paid into the Medicare system.

If it's such a fantastic system, let them go on it.


lurkitty: (Default)

August 2011

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