Sunday, February 13, 2011

Healthcare and Me

My son is on his fourth day of the flu. On the doctor’s advice, we took him to an urgent care center, as his temperature kept going up and down and he wasn’t feeling any better. The doctor at the care center basically told him he had the flu. So now he is home, drinking fluids, taking Advil and Tylenol, and blowing his nose on a regular basis. And learning nothing of any use only cost us $15, thanks to my insurance. A great improvement over the last time he sought medical care. A little over a year ago, he started getting sharp pains in his left side. I finally took him to the ER. We waited almost four hours before he was seen. It was another two hours before he came out. The pains had subsided, they had no idea what the problem was, and they suggested if the pains returned that he should return to the ER the next day. The bill - $1235.00.

Fewer things have made me happier than the new health care decision to allow parents to add their children to their insurance up to age 26. My son will be covered from January to September of this year. After that, unless there is a significant change in the law, he will again be uninsured, as is his older brother. Both my sons are adults, and even though both of them have been pretty regularly employed, neither has worked for businesses that provide insurance. This also means they weren’t being paid enough for them to afford their own insurance.

If you are a parent, I’m going to assume that health care for your children, whatever their age, is a concern. Maybe you’ve already had that talk with your kid where you tell him he needs to go to the doctor to check out that lump on his neck, and he tell you he can’t afford it. In larger communities there are usually clinics with an income-based sliding scale, but it can take several weeks to get an appointment and you will usually wait for at least an hour past your appointment time. Most young adults aren’t interested in investing that much time.

Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t know all the ins and outs of the Healthcare Law. I tended to focus on those areas that were most important to me. Fortunately, I have decent (although not wonderful) insurance through work, but it is expensive and it doesn’t cover quite enough. In November, I had a blood test done. It was just to check my cholesterol and iron. It was nothing special but I was billed $135. I really have a problem with not knowing up front how much something is going to cost me. I was to have another test run this month, but it’s going to wait. Is there anything in the new law that requires providers to let you know how much a test or procedure is going to cost you? I certainly think there should be.

I know a lot of the arguments against the Healthcare Law had to do with the portion requiring everyone to have health insurance. I didn’t really understand all the to-do. It was my understanding that those who had no income would have a special provision. Reading an article in Newsweek, entitled “The Justice Will See You Now” by Ezra Klein, I noted that he described the individual mandate as a requirement that those who could pay to purchase insurance would have to do so. So what’s the problem with that? Mr. Klein also wrote that this alternative went back to 1999 when it was first proposed by a group of conservative academics, and was what the Republicans were proposing up until the advent of the new law. So why are they now so loudly against their own proposal? If this is another case of obstructionism, it needs to stop now. When you are talking about healthcare, you are talking about people’s lives.

Three of my friends are no longer alive because they either did not have insurance or they could not afford to pay what the insurance would not cover. My children are facing threats to their health because they do not have access to the kind of care that – Yes, I’ll say it – wealthier citizens can easily obtain. I can only hope that when the dust settles, the people whose job it is to oversee the safety and well-being of all our citizens, will be assuring that everyone can get timely and adequate care without having to worry about whether or not they can afford it. No one wants to hear that your child, your spouse, your friend, has only a few months to live because it is too late to treat the disease.


  1. I really hear where you're coming from, and you do wonder what sort of idiots (i.e. politicians) would make it "illegal" for people not to have health insurance and then not provide a cheap alternative for us. It's not like we don't want to have health insurance on principal (well, some might); it's that we simply can't afford it since we have to eat, pay to keep the heat on in the winter, etc. If we're barely able to keep ourselves off the streets with our meager incomes/resources why should we be further burdened with exorbitant premiums that won't cover anything until you meet the individual $25,000 deductible? (Yeah, that's the cheapest health insurance policy I've found.) Why do I need to throw $5,000 a year a way for insurance that won't pay anything I need in a typical health year for me anyway? Yes, we're gambling we won't need an operation (easily over $25K), but for those of us who shy away from doctors, take vitamins and don't smoke or do drugs, the $5000 a year premium money can be used to keep us fed and warm.

    It really is a screwed-up healthcare system! Let's pray something positive happens soon to provide health care for ALL Americans.

  2. Its amazing the difference health insurance can make. Due to the current economy, we recently got the kids insurance thru the state. Couldn't get us on it but the kids are covered. My youngest gets the exact same allergy prescription my wife does his cost us $2 hers cost us $50.