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Posts Tagged ‘Health Care’

I suppose I should finish this rambling blog that I started a couple of days ago.

I would like to also say, before I sit down to listen to the President’s State of the Union Address, that I hope I am not one of those people who everyone seems to think pinned all my hopes for the country on one man, one new President.  That was never the case with me as I have been following politics for years and became a bit disillusioned with the whole lot of them (politicians) years ago.  Looking back at the blog I wrote when President Obama was inaugurated, I said:

I don’t hold notions that the entire country, or world, can come together into a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” as Dr. King put it.  But I do believe that the the goodwill of the rest of the world is not something to spit on and we have a better chance of regaining that.  I do believe that the security of this nation is a priority and I don’t think we will be losing ground on that.  I do believe that many people in this country can work constructively towards a better future and I think many people are willing to put their best foot forward. 

That was it and I still believe that.  Although I used the dreaded word “Hope” to title that blog, it was not meant to say that all my hopes rested on one man. 

And now on to the much less controversial topic of health care.  Ha!

I figured it was time to get a little more personal….

When I was about to graduate from college, a friend of mine asked me a question for an article he was writing for the campus newspaper.  It was the end of the school year, seniors were about to matriculate off of campus and into the wide world.  I can’t remember for sure the specific topic of the article – I think it had to do with the things we were anxious about in regards to our graduation.  The job market?  Being on our own?  Maybe it was an article on the things we were looking forward to after graduation.  Independence?  Being on our own?

I think I said something along the lines of: “I’m worried about health insurance.”

Along with being kicked out of the nest of the university, I was also about to be kicked out of the student health insurance I enjoyed during my undergraduate years.  For the last 4.25 years, I had been able to see a doctor whenever I wanted, get prescriptions I needed, and not worry about what would happen to me if I was gravely injured.  Well, you know – not worry about going bankrupt and all that.  I would be worried, of course.  It may seem like a strange thing to feel anxious about when leaving college.  With all the world in front of me and no full-time job lined up, I was most worried about health insurance.   

You see, I didn’t have that growing up.  I’m willing to bet a lot of kids my age didn’t either.  But really, I’m not sure. If their parents worked for a good-sized company, maybe they all did have health insurance. My parents didn’t and so, we didn’t. 

I didn’t understand health insurance when I was a kid.  I remember going to the dentist on a regular basis.  I had to, what with the teeth extractions and the cavities and the braces and all.  But going to the doctor?  Not so much.  I remember a shot when I was very little.  Some sort of pain in my neck in 6th grade when I turned my head too fast.  And……that was it.  I don’t remember seeing a doctor between the age of – oh about 11 to age 19.  Not that I really needed one.  I was a fairly healthy kid. 

Except, really I wasn’t.  I got sick often.  When I finally saw a doctor during my first year of college and he asked me all sorts of questions and listened to my lungs, he said “You have bronchitis” and gave me some antibiotics.  “Really?”  I thought to myself.  Because I was experiencing the same symptoms and problems I’d had many times in the past.  I just never thought to go to the doctor.  Now again, I consider myself to be lucky because, even though it probably caused a world of stress for my parents, I got help when I needed it.  They paid for my braces.  They paid for my eye exams and glasses.  I just don’t remember if insurance was ever part of our vocabulary back then. 

But I do remember a lot of anxiety over the idea of needing to see a doctor.  This had mostly to do with the fact that my dad had a couple of scary stints in the hospital when I was younger.  The irony I came to learn later was that – I think Dad could have avoided the times in the ICU if he had sought medical help earlier with his doctor.  When I was in college and he was in between insurance carriers, he didn’t go to see the doctor until the pain and damage was enough to cause him to pass out when he finally drove to the hospital.  And then, he wasn’t covered by insurance and spent years paying off the hospital stay.  Didn’t matter that he had just been covered.  Or that, in a few more weeks he would be covered.  He didn’t have an interim policy and therefore, he was screwed.

Over the years since college, I’ve watched and listened to friends who won’t go to see a doctor when they are not covered by insurance.  I’ve seen friends fret over getting independent insurance when they fear that some benign old ailment will suddenly become the “preexisting condition” that results in denial of coverage. 

People like to throw out terms like “death panels” when talking about the proposals for health care reform that have been winding their ways through Congress last year.  As if the idea of someone dying because he or she is denied health care coverage under the new proposals is a completely novel idea.  Really??  Where have you been?  Oh sure, you say that anyone in this country can walk into an emergency room and get help.  Sure.  But they still have to pay for it if they are not covered.  For some people, the choice of trying to manage their own pain versus paying thousands and thousands of dollars for emergency care is not a choice at all.  Or, some people who seek treatments are flat out denied coverage by their existing insurance carriers and, believe me, there are not many things harder to do than make an appointment with a doctor, let alone a specialist, without health insurance.  I tried to do it. 

Years ago, I was dissatisfied with my existing doctor and wanted to meet a new potential primary care physician.  I wanted to meet this doctor first before switching to her so I made an appointment.  I went into the office to check in and gave them my insurance card. 

But wait, I was told, Dr. A is not your PCP. 

I know, I said.  I want to meet her first before I assign her as my PCP.

But then your’re not covered by your insurance.

Well, that’s irritating but ok.  Can you give me an estimate of how much it will cost to talk to her?

No.

No?  Excuse me?  Can you just give me a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to walk through that door right there, sit down with the doctor for 10 minutes and walk out?

No.

Why not?

We cannot possibly cover all the possible things that may happen.  We can’t give you an estimate. Why don’t you just call your insurance, change her to your PCP, make a new appointment and if you don’t like her, you can change your PCP again. 

Now tell me, is that a WTF? moment or not?  I’m standing about 20 feet away from the doctor I want to meet.  But I have to pay money to open that door and meet her.  And her staff cannot give me a price estimate.  Cannot give me a price estimate.

WHO DOESN”T DO THAT????  WTF?  You need your oil changed in your car?  You call a garage and get a price estimate.  You want to switch your cell phone carrier?  You can call companies and get price estimates.  You want to buy a new TV?  You can shop around and look at price tags.  Hell, if you want me to write you a Population, Employment and Housing section of an environmental impact report for a new development, the least I can do is give you my billing rate. 

But ask how much it costs to see a doctor in this country?????  Nooooooooo.  We can’t do that.  Who knows -you might slam the door shut on your finger, bump your head on the counter and suddenly – the doctor needs to perform brain surgery.  Yeah.  That’s right stupid little patient.  Do what your insurance company tells you and it will all be better.

So, that was my attempt to get help without proper insurance coverage.  I ended up walking out, switching my PCP and going back to meet her.  Crazy how we can meet with anyone else in the world we want to hire beforehand but we can’t seem to cross that magic door to see a doctor without the proper paperwork. 

After I graduated from college, I was lucky enough to picked up for a full-time position with the research group I had been working for as a student.  Ever since then, I’ve either been working full time or covered by a COBRA policy.  Or – now that I am working on my own, covered by my husband’s work insurance.  There are still problems, especially if we want to move back to the mainland.  But still – I’m one of the lucky ones. 

I don’t believe in, nor want, an only-government-run health care plan in this country.  I’ve said it before – it’s not feasible in the United States.  I don’t think it would be efficient either.  I’m not in favor of the government spending more money than they take in.  But I do believe that reform is needed so that people who can pay for coverage and want coverage can get it.  I think that, if we require drivers to have current auto insurance, we should require citizens to have current health insurance.  I don’t say this because I am some sort of bleeding-heart who wants universal love and peace.  I say this because covering costs for the uninsured ultimately raises costs for the rest of us.  And I say this because I’ve seen the detrimental effects on my friends and family members of not having health insurance. 

I suppose there is more I could write but I’m not really trying to convince anyone of anything with my babbling here.  I’m just trying to give a little personal perspective.  People expect stereotypes in politics.  “Well, you are XYZ, so you must believe ABC.”  Sometimes I follow a stereotype.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I believe in things because I research both sides and talk to people and learn as much as I can.  Sometimes I believe in things because of personal experience.  Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

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*sigh*

I have been trying to decide on a proper title for this blog.

“The Irony of Massachusetts”?

“The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure”?

“How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election”?

“Health Care Reform Now!?!” ? 

“What the TV Show “West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans”?

Fox News would tell you there is a lot at stake today with the special-election vote for US Senator to take the seat of the late Ted Kennedy.  I’m guessing this because of the disparity I’ve noticed this past week in the content of CNN versus Fox News.  Since the earthquake in Haiti, CNN has been spending a lot of time on the aftermath of the tragedy.  They have their first-string reporting crew on the ground in Haiti.  As do CBS and NBC.  However, every time this past week I have turned to Fox News it has been politics politics politics.  Oh, except for the one report from some correspondent I’ve never seen in grainy video in front of a gas station somewhere in Haiti.  Turn on the TV to CNN – they are interviewing former Presidents Clinton and Bush (the second) about their combined efforts to spearhead an aid campaign to Haiti.  Turn to Fox News and, once again, I am faced with the butt-ugly, caked-on-make-up, plastic face of Charles Krauthammer talking.  And talking.  And talking. 

ABC, CBS, NBC- on the ground in Haiti.  Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio.  CNN – Anderson Cooper in Haiti.  Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio. MSNBC? – well, I have no idea.  I never watch MSNBC for fear of Keith Olbermann yelling at me. 

Then, *ding* I suddenly remember that the Massachusetts special election is coming up.  I learn  that the race is pulling closer and closer with the Republican candidate Scott Brown suddenly ahead of the Democrat Martha Coakley.  I realize that one party in the Senate is in danger of losing their supermajority of 60 seats.  And then I understand why Fox News seems to feel they cannot waste any time on some humanitarian tragedy in a developing country when there is a possibility that Republicans in Congress may once again be free to wage a filibuster war without fear of cloture.  A-ha!  

Well, not to worry Fox News.  Maybe there will be another devastating natural disaster next month and you can cover it with some amount of respect.  Maybe it will happen in a more glamorous spot than Haiti. 

So, all this bruhaha for the Republican candidate who has vowed to fight President Obama’s health care agenda.  And a few other domestic issues.

And can he do it if elected? 

Can the Republicans in the Senate torpedo the health care legislation that has already been passed in the House and passed in the Senate by the existing members of Congress?  Ummm……possibly yes if the House has any changes to the Bill that would require the Senate to vote on it again. 

Funny how quickly things can change.  Vote in the Senate in December with 60 members who would not allow a filibuster to delay the process.  Vote again in January with 41 members who will allow a filibuster on the floor.  And Bam! all the pundits are discussing the death of health care reform in the United States.

And so…………not unusual…………my brain starts working overtime.

The Irony of Massachusetts?  That would be the irony of Ted Kennedy being the champion of health care reform and having his death be the potential sticky widget in the works that kills health care reform.

The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure?  That would be the fact that the practice of delaying the vote has been carried forward in certain types of governments since ancient Rome.  Caesar faced it in 60 B.C., so garsh darn it, we Congress members are going to uphold the right and tradition.

How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election?  That would be the complete inability of certain campaign managers to learn to NEVER TAKE AN ELECTION FOR GRANTED.  Hindsight commentators criticize Hilary Clinton’s primary campaign for being so sure of a win they had no strategy for a prolonged primary contest.  Seems that Martha Coakley let her lackadaisical campaign get a little too self-assured for their own britches. 

Health Care Reform Now?!  The reason I care about this issue at all is because I do believe that some health care reform is needed in the United States.  I’ve been trying to explain to people my feelings on the difference between Universal Health Care and Government-Run Health Care.  I support the former, oppose the latter.  I think that those of us who pay for health care ultimately pay the higher costs of a system that takes care of the uninsured.  I think that those of us currently covered by a health care plan should be able to transfer from one state to another as I face the specter of searching for a new health care carrier if I move back to California without finding a full time job.  I think that people who are searching for a health care provider shouldn’t be afraid to seek medical help for fear of suddenly being denied coverage because of an “existing condition.”  I have seen mandates for health care coverage work in other countries that provide public and PRIVATE health care options.  I do not advocate that the whole system be government-run.  What a disaster that would be. 

What the show “The West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans.  I think about certain episodes where staff members kept running to Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, for ideas on how to delay a vote (can’t remember if it was House or Senate).  Josh would pull archaic parliamentary rules from his memory that members would use to take up time on the floor.  Or the episode, The Stackhouse Filibuster.  When the White House staff realized why a particular Senator was waging a filibuster, they tried to help him out by enlisting the aid of other Senators via a rule that allows him to yield the floor without abandoning his delaying cause.  Of course, that seems to promote the nobility of the worthy filibuster. 

So, I decided on “Don’t Fear the Filibuster.”

Because right now, I’m a little pissed about the whole idea of a worthy filibuster.  But I’m more pissed that the Democrats and Republicans and pundits seem to think that a filibuster would kill the entire months-long effort of passing a health care reform bill.  It all comes down to votes in Massachusetts today because without a supermajority to end a filibuster, the Senate is doomed to not pass a bill?  What am I missing?  If you  have the votes to pass a bill, you have the votes?  How long, in the history of our government, did the longest filibuster last?  Hours?  Days?  Weeks?  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t weeks.  In fact, it was a 24-hour and 18-minute-filibuster conducted by Strom Thurmond in 1957 arguing against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  He read Washington’s Farewell Address and talked about his mother’s biscuits.  What happened to the Bill?  It passed.  Eventually.

So, my question is “Why Fear the Filibuster?”  So the vote is delayed.  Yes, it sucks.  It delays the work of the Senate on other important matters.  But maybe the Senators’ constituents will be upset enough to call filibuster shenanigans on their Senators.  Ultimately, won’t a vote still be made?  And if there are enough votes to pass the bill, it will pass.  Why does the entire health care initiative have to die if Scott Brown is elected?  Why are we being told the stock market is up today on expectations that health care reform is dead.

Seriously, someone help me out here.  Are filibusters that effective?  Can’t the other Senators hold their ground?  Or do we just ask the House to ok the bill as put forth by the Senate, negating another Senate vote, and hope adequate changes are made afterward?  When are the Democrats going to grow a pair?

I seriously understand how Jon Stewart feels here at about 8:22.

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ok, someday I will actually weigh in a little bit about my opinions on the attempts to reform health care in this country.  They are something along the lines of – Duh, socialized health care can work in some places.  Let’s move on.  It probably won’t work in the US.  I’m not advocating it here.  But stop saying it’s a failure everywhere in the world.  Just stop. 

I think a debate on health care does need to include some ideas for tort reform.  I’m not sure what the President’s reasons are for not advocating caps on liability lawsuits.  I think they should be considered.  Not happy with the idea that no tort reform may happen, given that I think that (most) lawsuits suck. 

As far as end of life counseling, I’ve had “the talk” with a parent.  That parent then became incapacitated and died.  I’m very thankful we had the end-of-life talk so that I, my mother, my sister, and my brother-in-law understood exactly what my father did and did not want to happen as he died.  We did it on our own as a family, with some help from an attorney years ago who helped mom and dad draw up some legal papers.  If the new health care reforms include reimbursements for families to have these discussions ahead of time, I say – Hoorah.  How you twist that around to then propagandize that the health care reforms will result in killing infirm people involuntarily…….I’m not sure.  Oh wait…….I do understand how that happens – IT MAKES FOR GOOD TV.  Bravo. 

For the moment, I have to applaud the archivists (again) over at the Daily Show for pulling together this little gem of old footage to display Glen Beck’s hypocrisy when debating health care issues in the United States.  I do think Jon Stewart gets a little overly snarky here, but then – the bad rhetoric is rising in this country these days.  Not a good thing.

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Glenn Beck’s Operation
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