Saturday, January 23, 2010

(drama) Queen for a Day

I tend to be pretty understated when it comes right down to it, particularly when it comes to my health and what's going on in my life. I don't dare say I've never exaggerated, but when asked how I'm feeling I'll say "good" unless I'm on my deathbed and "things are fine" unless my life is in complete chaos. It's partly my way of coping with things (denial) and partly my dislike for drama.

After being re-invited to Twitter yesterday I signed in for the first time since last August. In order for Twitter to be interesting it seems that one needs to have several active friends in order to encourage checking in and activity of one's own. Partly due to my age, lack of interest and lack of active friends I haven't used it very much since I registered about a year ago. Fast forward to yesterday: I signed in and was shocked to see that 2 of the 5 close friends I originally signed up with have died in the past 5 months. Not a very good record: 2 out of 5 people!

Ok, my circumstance is somewhat unique, both those friends had CF. In fact, a fairly large percentage of my friends have CF - thereby exposing me to morbidity and mortality that most people in their mid-40s wouldn't ordinarily be around. Sure, many people know one or two friends who have had some type of cancer, diabetes, or another disease, but it IS uncommon for someone to have so many chronically ill and dead friends at a relatively young age. I'm not whining but just commenting on an aspect of my life that is unusual- in an understated way, of course!

Next- a little rant. If you're anti-universal health care you might want to stop reading at this point or risk elevating your blood pressure. There is little in life that I get passionate about, but I do have a few issues that will cause me to step up on the proverbial soapbox. Health care is one of them. I know that the health care bill in the senate is a huge disaster, filled with pork projects and too many pages for any one person to read. In some ways I can't blame people for being against it - nobody truly knows (even the senators!) what is actually in this bill. From my understanding of it, the only benefit for the people would be that insurance companies can no longer deny you for preexisting conditions. A step in the right direction, but way too little, way too late.

I honestly can't understand how people could believe that a for-profit health care is good for us. The insurance companies are in it to make money for their shareholders, and in order to do that they use a business model- take in more money than they spend, bottom line. "Customers" - aka patients- are given only what the insurance companies want to give, and their profits increase if expensive medical procedures and drugs are not covered. Preexisting condition? You may have to wait a year in order to receive benefits. In the long run this doesn't save insurance companies all that much, but it does deter patients from using that insurance carrier or plan. No longer their problem! Let another company deal with it. But what happens if nobody wants to deal with it? Tough luck.

Plans can be cancelled on a whim. Sure, not one individual's plan, because that's discrimination, but what's to stop a company from seeing which groups are the biggest drain on resources and canceling an entire group policy? Nothing. Believe me, it's happened. Drug benefits change from year to year. Medications that are deemed too expensive are dropped from policies and cheaper, possibly less effective alternatives are mandated. It's not what is best for the patient, but what is best for the company paying for the medication. Insurance companies have a huge lobby in Washington and they are not interested in seeing a government sponsored health plan which would compete with them, forcing them to lower costs. Not so good for profits, is it?

The general population is afraid of a government sponsored health care system. Why? I'm honestly not sure other than what I've heard people say: "I don't want the government dictating my health care", " I don't want to give the government any more of my money", " I don't want to pay higher taxes", "rationed care", "death panels", and "capitalism is why our health care system is the best in the world".

Just one second, here. How is giving insurance companies any different than paying into a government health care plan? Don't your insurance premiums go up every year? I know mine do. I currently pay over $850/month for my health insurance, which is 2/3 of my disability income. Wouldn't you rather have the money go to a plan that will cover every legal American citizen? In my mind the higher taxes and not wanting to give money to the government argument is an invalid one, in that I doubt anyone of my income level would end up paying such a large portion of their (and their spouse's) income to a national health care system, which would not be concerned with profit, but ensuring that everyone had the health care they needed.

Rationed care? Aren't insurance companies guilty of rationed care? Of course they are: they decide which tests, procedures and drugs to cover by how much they want to pay out. If that isn't the definition of rationed care, I don't know what is. How can a company that is for profit be unbiased in deciding who and what to cover? It's a complete conflict of interest.

Would a national health care system decrease the quality of our health care? The jury is out on that one for me. Contrary to popular belief, America does not have the longest average lifespan in the world. It's true. Granted, there are many contributing factors, such as lifestyle, diet and genetics, but I don't think anyone would argue that the availability and quality of health care directly affects lifespan. I'm convinced that if everyone had access to quality, affordable care and didn't have to depend upon emergency rooms for acute care in place of preventative care (which WE pay for in our insurance premiums) the average lifespan would improve. Prevention and education are key to avoiding more serious (and expensive) problems.

So, in a nutshell, I believe that having universal health care coverage would benefit all Americans. Those of us who are insured and pay high premiums for said insurance would at least have the money we fork over go to ensuring everyone is covered. We'd no longer have to worry that our insurance may drop us, no longer cover one of our drugs, or deny a particular procedure or test. Imagine living in a country where you didn't have to worry about losing your job- and therefore your insurance. The first things I hear people say when they worry about layoffs or changing jobs are "what will I do for insurance?" or "how can I afford COBRA on unemployment?" What if that wasn't a concern? Somehow, every other industrialized country in the world manages to do this, yet we are unable. What's wrong with this picture?

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