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Certainly, in this time of great uncertainty in the United States, many issues are of importance to me, and indeed to us all. The poor state of our economy, and the handout of billions to the very people who made this mess, the morally bankrupt, never-ending war and threat of war, the use of fear of "the other" by our leaders to control our thoughts and actions, the loss of civil rights (such as privacy in our communications, and the right of dissent with said governmental leaders), the tenor of some politicians' discourse, seemingly calculated to engender a firestorm of hatred against their opponents, to name but a few. I could go on, perhaps ad infinitum. Our nation is truly at a cross-roads, and where it goes from here is either on the road to recovery or to ruin, in so many ways. But one issue seems to me so obvious as to how it must go, and sometimes I feel like I am the only person who feels as I do.

As I write this, I sit by the bedside of my beloved fiancée, who at the age of 46 was struck by a near fatal health crisis. This crisis was over two months ago now, and thankfully she is on the road to recovery herself. Had it not been for the loving generosity of some very wonderful friends, though, she would be in a charity hospital receiving only minimal care, and likely on the road to a lifetime of confinement in a nursing home. Let's face it folks, in the good old U. S. of A., you get the best health care you can afford. I've been "affording" an excellent private health care package for her since she was forced to quit working due to longer term health issues.

She was repeatedly denied coverage by traditional insurance companies, and is covered under what is termed the state "high risk pool". You don't want to know how much that coverage costs every month. During that first traumatic month, I was almost forced to choose between working to pay for that insurance, or being at her side where I was needed so that I could make health care decisions for her, literally at a moment's notice. The aforementioned friends covered that insurance payment for her so that I could be there for her.

Now to my point: Joe Klein almost went there in a a recent Time blog post:

Oh, and by the way, if government activism is now back on the table, we can begin to talk about the real answers to our entitlement problems: Medicare and medicaid can only be solved when they're included in a comprehensive, regulated and managed universal health insurance system.

I only have one problem with that quote. Even he still feels the need to use the word "insurance" when describing the solution. I am in complete agreement with the rest of his statement. But health insurance? Truthfully, the solution is not any kind of insurance. Do you buy insurance to pay the fireman who comes to save your life in the inferno that was once your home? Do you buy insurance to pay the police officer who responds to the armed robbery in progress in your small business? No, you don't, because those are seen, rightfully so, as basic services provided by government in order to "promote the general welfare" of the people. Why then must we continue to talk of "insurance" for one of the most basic of "general welfare" needs of our people?

It's simple really. This need is being driven by the profit motive, rather than the altruism of the first fire departments, or the "protect and serve" motive of our police departments. Why is that? How did it come to be that altruism is not the driving factor of the practice of medicine? I don't really know, and in all honesty, it's not why I come before you today. Rather, I come to you simply with the proposition that health care IS properly a basic need that is at least as important as fire and police protection. In both those instances, you do buy recovery insurance, and perhaps there is a place in my grand scheme for health recovery insurance. I contend though that the quality of treatment of a life threatening condition should not be determined by what you can afford to pay. The time you spend waiting for diagnosis should not be determined by the inverse of your bank balance. No family should ever be forced to choose between being at the side of a gravely ill loved one and being able to pay for the best possible care.

So long as the word "insurance" is part of the national health care discourse, so long as the profit motive is more important than the Hippocratic Oath, we will never get to where we as a nation must ultimately go. Health care reform begins with removing that word from the conversation. How do we do that? By enacting HR 676 as soon as possible.

Originally posted to wyldraven's place on Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 01:47 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Absolutely agree. (6+ / 0-)

    We've got to keep pushing this issue, and pushing BACK against the idea of "insurance companies as the answer".  

    The number of people suffering horribly and needlessly because of no access to health care or restricted access to health care should be reason enough.  But I also wonder how many wonderful ideas and new businesses are not progressing because people can't afford to leave jobs with insurance?  I'm tied to MA, with its' mandatory insurance law--because it's the only state where I can GET insurance that covers pre-existing conditions.  (I'd be considered high-risk)  People shouldn't be tied to a job, or tied to a geographical region, only because of access to health care.

    Hope your fiancee continues to improve!  So glad you were there for her...and bless the friends who made it possible for you to be there for her.

    "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    by revsue on Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 02:45:23 PM PST

  •  Health care is also my top are not (5+ / 0-)

    the only one!

  •  A recent diary spoke of HEALTH CARE (6+ / 0-)

    as opposed to insurance - that's what it is we're all needing:  access to care when we need it.

    Blessings to you and your loved one and all those who support you both.

    I've been extremely fortunate to get what I need when I needed it - some of it, however, has been necessitated by not getting what I needed the first time around.  And still, it's been a horrible, long, drawn out fight to figure out my very complex situation... So while I don't know the specifics in your case, I've been somewhere similar and I send Godspeed for her continued and full recovery.

    May you have many happy, healthy years together.  Best wishes on your eventual nuptuals.  ;-)

    All I want for Christmas is impeachment

    by MsGrin on Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 03:23:32 PM PST

  •  It's Sad. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KibbutzAmiad, fokos

    The US has no money, unfortunately, and will have much, much less over the next few years.

    According to the El Paso Times yesterday:

    Third of El Pasoans get medical care in Juárez

    EL PASO -- El Pasoan Luis Alvarado pays cash for his doctor visits and medicines in Juárez.

    "I don't have health insurance, so I see doctors in Juárez whenever I get sick, and buy whatever medications I'm prescribed at the pharmacies there," said Alvarado, 28.

    Alvarado may be typical of El Pasoans who cross the border to use medical services or pharmacies in Mexico, according to a new study that found nearly a third of El Pasoans have used some kind of medical service in Juárez.

    Among the main findings, 32.5 percent of El Pasoans had used some type of medical service in the two years before the study; about one in seven had visited a private doctor or clinic, about the same, 15 percent, had been to a dentist; and about 20 percent had bought drugs at a Mexican pharmacy.

    FWIW -- Americans can buy full Health Care insurance in Mexico for about $1,000 per year.

    •  "US has no money" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hens Teeth

      According to the National Priorities Project, the US is currently spending $341.4 million per day, or nearly $125 billion per year. That could buy a lot of health care, even at the currently out of this world prices we Americans pay for health care. And that's just one example of money we are already spending very unwisely. It's not a matter of whether we have the money, but rather of how we prioritize our spending.

    •  Penny wise, pound foolish (7+ / 0-)

      Call it an investment.

      When people have access to health care, minor problems can be treated before they become major problems. The emergency rooms won't be crowded with people that have no other option. People can remain productive longer.

      Universal health care will make our businesses more competitive in the world. It will give people the option of working for a small company, or maybe even starting their own.

      About 30% of our health care costs go to insurance companies. That means that we pay them to find ways to deny coverage. The US pays far more for health care, but gets far less care than any other first world country. Single payer, universal health care should cost less than our current system.

      The only people who are happy with their health insurance plan, haven't used it yet.

      by Hens Teeth on Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 11:12:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Health Security - Social Security (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, wyldraven

    I agree with you that the word 'Insurance' used in the context of Health Insurance for all, or National Health Insurance is a misnomer. But the text books almost always refer to Social Insurance Programs when the government is involved. And today the term has a political animus. We don't call the system of collecting fuel taxes to pay for highway construction and maintenance the Highway Insurance System. But we do call almost any government program involving Health Care, a Health Insurance system.

  •  Did you know you might be covered for ESRD? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Are people generally aware of how many Government Sponsored Health Care Programs exist?

    VA Benefits
    Free Care & Clinics (varies by locality)
    And many other programs for children

    This PDF Link describes how people are covered for End Stage Renal Disease. Hooray.! If your 40 and dying of Kidney failure, you might be able to get Medicare.

    •  Wehave more info than most (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KibbutzAmiad, snakelass

      My fiancée is a retired medical social worker. She knows about pretty much every program that exists, and sadly, qualifies for none of them, other than that very expensive state "high-risk" pool.

      •  sadly, some people resort to hiding assets (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snakelass, wyldraven

        and income to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.  Under other circumstances I might be inclined to criticize this, but not under the current circumstances of health care accessibility in the US.

      •  I found the same (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snakelass, wantstoknow, wyldraven

        issue (though far less an emergency matter) with dental care.  People imagine there are options for those who can't afford it.

        Unless you earn virtually nothing - and I mean that quite literally - you qualify for pretty much no programs in my state.  And dental schools take a tiny percentage of the people who need their care and contact them.  Dentists no longer take payments, they want you to get a "Care Credit Card" (issued by a bank) to charge your work, and for anyone with a less than stellar credit rating (or who can't afford the repayments) , well, buy pliers, I guess.

        •  "Care Credit" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KibbutzAmiad, snakelass

          Been there, done that. And dental care can sometimes be "near emergency", like when you have resistant infection in the jaw because you need root canals you can't pay for... :(

          •  I'm sitting (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snakelass, wyldraven

            on one of those infections right now.

            I cannot get this taken care of until I find out if we are going to be able to modify our mortgage or lose our home.  There is simply no money.  I am not in dire straits yet but it won't be long.

            •  And the sad reality is (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KibbutzAmiad, snakelass, vernonbc

              that even if you had traditional health insurance, you wouldn't be able to get that infection treated. Medical insurance treats that as an "uncovered dental expense", no matter that the infection may become life threatening if treatment is sufficiently delayed. Then you will have to go to an ER for treatment, and it will cost one hundred times (for rhetorical purposes, actual cost comparison unknown) what it would have if treated early.

  •  I think about what Kucinich said... (5+ / 0-)

    "They're talking about health insurance...I'm talking about health care." Too true.

    •  Health care.. (5+ / 0-)

      ..vs coverage.  When I studied public health at UNC there were all these long winded discussions about "access to care" and I used to wonder--what's the big deal?  Your sick you make and appointment.  How hard is that?

      After I got out and started working as a health care professional and needed to see the doctor for whatever reason I started to get the picture.  Often I would find the effort to navigate the system was worse than whatever ailment started the journey to healthcare land in the first place.

      This was my impression as a well connected insider.  While waiting on hold for my lab results that were often "misplaced, lost, done incorrectly etc." I wondered what must it be like for most people that aren't wired into the system.

      For years now I have chosen not to use my excellent coverage since the care available is not worth the effort to access it.

      Sometimes it helps to look at a problem from the small end of the telescope.  Until there is care worth receiving how is providing access much of a benefit to anyone?

      My personal vision of my next visit to the system is me sitting on an ambulance ramp clutching my chest and screeching "don't come get me until I keel over, perhaps it will go away of its own accord"

      I hope you and yours come through this well and wish you the best.  What I wish for the country is that our new administration trains a spotlight on the health care system and fixes the structural problems that make me hesitant to even use it.

      Then I hope everyone is given access to a new improved system that dosen't feel worse than being sick in the first place.

      Here's to HOPE in Honduras

      by wallyslittlebro on Sat Nov 15, 2008 at 10:40:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I watch this debate as a spectator, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snakelass, vernonbc, wyldraven

        I am a Viet Nam veteran, and use the VA for my health care. I also believe in a preventative maintenance lifestyle. I have this odd belief that IF THE POLITICS WERE REMOVED FROM THE VA, it would make a good model for single-payer health care in the US. Politics accounts for poor service by the VA health care system far more than does incompetence...treatment is denied for conditions that are not politically admissible. If, for instance, the VA was right there for troops suffering PTSD and exposure to DU and other toxic weaponry, we would have to admit that we were killing our own soldiers in order to open markets for corporate America.

        •  I've watched the VA debacle (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snakelass, socalmonk

          from the distance of a spectator, and even from that distance I am saddened and angered by what passes for care for our veterans. I am of that age who barely missed registering for the draft for Vietnam. I have always been grateful for the sacrifices you all made for our benefit. Thank you, and my sincerest regrets for our lack of appropriate repayment of that debt.

          •  I have had excellent care from the VA, but (0+ / 0-)

            we Viet Nam/Viet Nam era vets had a much better health care contract than our military gets least, the enlisted personnel. I only entered the VA health care system about four years ago, and only out of necessity. I know my VA medical entitlement, and don't let them okey-doke me. They are under-funded, understaffed and swamped with work. My stepson came home from Iraq a year and a half ago, and couldn't get the help he needed for PTSD until he (unsuccessfully) attempted suicide. I was not "in the loop" or I might have been able to help. I uncle recent vets through the maze of VA paperwork to get medical care when I can, just because I know how, and don't like to see them taken advantage of. It could be easier, and better.

  •  Insurance, as a word, comes with too much baggage (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, vernonbc, wyldraven

    I am a single-payer advocate and I cringe every time I have to use the word "insurance" to describe single-payer.  Single-payer is insurance in the sense that it absolutely insures that you have access to health care.  But it is certainly not insurance as we know the term from our experience with the private insurers and to a lesser extent the underfunded and overwhelmed public safety nets.

  •  I'm a low income (4+ / 0-)

    student. I recently was without access to the student health center and got ill. Had to go to the Urgent Care because it felt like pneumonia. Turns out it was just pertussis (whooping cough) but now i need to pay the hospital the equivalent of 2 1/2 months rent for that experience.
    I'm already in debt to the government for my schooling and now i'm in debt to the health care system.

  •  Socialized insurance, not socialized medicine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, wyldraven

    The problem you identify is the parasitic, non-value-added role of for-profit (and non-for-profit) health insurance companies in rationing health care.

    This suggests our target is health insurance reform, not health care reform, since the delivery of health care is good in our nation. Health insurance, however, is the problem.

    So when the ideologues denounce socialized medicine, I think we should correct them. We want socialized health insurance, like Medicare. We don't want socialized medicine.

    And I suspect a large number of Americans would prefer Medicare for all or socialized insurance more than the status quo.

    Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Progressive Public Affairs The opposite of capitulation isn't partisanship.

    by djwinfo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 06:56:01 AM PST

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