She is 89 years old, and if you saw her now, you'd never give her hopes to go another month let alone another year. Her husband died thirteen years ago and for a few years, she was able to make it on her own, with her husbands meager retirement, a small sum she was getting from his social security and healthcare through Medicare/Medicaid.
She had suffered from heart disease since she was in her forties, now it progressed to congestive heart failure. In the past few years, signs of dementia had started showing itself. Her family had a history of Alzheimer's, she had lost a sister and a brother to it. The doctor's performed extensive tests and ruled it out, however, the dementia was still progressing.
Once living by herself, she eventually moved in with her daughter, who helped provide care, until she reached a point where she was a risk to herself. She spends her days in a nursing home now, her health and declining mental faculties made it necessary for her to have round the clock care. Her moments of dementia are more often and longer then her moments of lucidity.
Except for when my mother and uncle were little, my grandmother had worked most of her life. The jobs she held were low paying, sometimes dirty, often times thankless. My grandfather worked in a glass factory, long hours on the line, cutting glass. Between the two of them, they made ends meet for four kids. Now she relies on the Medicare/Medicaid (MCR/MCD) program to survive. Luckily, the nursing home that she is in, is well managed, clean and she is well cared for, despite, being a MCR/MCD patient. Many of the elderly on MCR/MCD aren't so lucky.
Over the years, we've heard the horror stories of wretched care of the elderly and bedridden. In the past six years, cutbacks to MCR and MCD, has threaten the health and well-being of the individuals who have built this country up to what it is. As doctors and facilities receive less in payments for these patients, more are either refusing to take them, or have limited the numbers of patients with MCR/MCD to their practice.
In an attempt to cut back costs and reform the programs, the Republican congress and President, over the past years, have converted Medicare and Medicaid plans to either health maintenance organizations or preferred provider organizations. Although most look good on paper, often times, doctors and patients are left jumping through hoops, trying to get needed tests, under these plans.
The enrollment process for these plans are often confusing to even the youngest of Medicare and/or Medicaid patients. They're deluged with information, that, unless you're an insurance specialist, or in the healthcare field, is often difficult to understand.
We can lay the blame on the doctors and facilities for wanting more money, but let's not. I work for a company that provides information systems to healthcare providers. The payments providers receive from MCR/MCD for services are often less then what it cost to perform the services that are approved. Should the insurance companies deny the claim, then practices who I work with usually end up writing off the cost of these services and continue to treat these patients. These are physicians who take their hippocratic oath seriously.
Rather then laying blame, our elected officials must continue to work at providing a healthcare package for those individuals who are in need our governments assistance. As the 2008 elections approach, our Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are jockeying for support to get them past the primary. While the candidates on the right discuss terrorism, abortion and family values, it's the Democratic candidates, or some of them, that are discussing healthcare reform and comprehensive healthcare packages.
It is imperative, that as our parents or even ourselves reach our twilight years, to elect an individual who is truly interested in ensuring that the elderly, especially the poorest of them, receives the quality of healthcare necessary to allow those years to be golden.