I am Scared…..Tremendously

I don’t work in the healthcare field. I’m not an expert in healthcare issues, but I am a person with health issues, and the way the healthcare system is set up in this country scares me – tremendously.

It was ten years ago when I became a “no longer healthy person”. Before that time, I went to doctors for mild reasons, in search of quick fixes to temporary, benign illnesses. I usually walked out of my doctor’s office with a prescription and 5-7 days later, I’d be back to normal. Healthy again. Living my life with the expectation I wouldn’t see my doctor again until another bug was caught, and another antibiotic prescribed.

Like many people who develop significant diseases spontaneously in the midst of their life, my pattern of going to doctors has changed. I no longer wait until my perfect health is temporarily hijacked by a nuisance bug to see a doctor. I am now on a schedule with my doctor. Every three to six months. Sooner, if I need. But no longer than six months. Got to be kept tabs on when your health is compromised in a, more than likely, permanent way.

Although I didn’t have much experience with doctors, and hospitals, and medical procedures when I was given my diagnosis, I was, however, very much aware of the term pre-existing conditions and its implication.

And it scared me – tremendously.

Luckily, I was working and had insurance. But I knew my disease was complicated enough that it may interfere with work. As doctors told me the treatment plan for my disease, the medications I must take, and all the procedures that were needed, I called my insurance company with a panicked heartbeat, praying everything I had to do was covered.

This scared me – tremendously.

Lucky for me, everything was covered. But that didn’t end my worry. What if I lost my job because I couldn’t do my work at the same level? I could never afford insurance on my own, and besides, no insurance would touch me because I now had a pre-existing condition.

I worried about  one day being without insurance, but having insurance didn’t stop my worry, either. Multiple hospital stays in the ICU for over two weeks each visit, racked up huge bills. My insurance paid everything minus the deductible, but I had a lifetime limit on my insurance of about five million dollars.

To a healthy person, that may seem like a lot. But when you’ve already spent over three hundred thousand dollars from hospital stays, and monthly treatment costs over twenty-thousand dollars, those millions go by fast. According to CNBC, in 2013 bankruptcies from unpaid medical bills was the number one cause of such filings. They also found “15 million people will deplete their savings to cover medical bills.” (CNBC) 

When Obamacare came out and ruled that insurance companies would no longer be able to discriminate against people with illnesses, and offer them coverage, I was morbidly relieved. I was assured that even if I lost my job for whatever reason, as well as the insurance benefits that came with it, I could be picked up by another insurer, despite my illness.

This was huge. I was no longer tremendously scared.

Not only did I no longer have to worry about being denied health coverage, thereby being left to die in the streets with no insurance, but President Obama also eliminated the lifetime limit. That was huge too, because hospitals charges are unfairly astronomical.

But now, insurance companies are pulling out of Obamacare because it seems covering sick people is just too darn expensive, and since the United States, the most powerful and developed country in the world, has a for-profit health industry, profit is the bottom line. Sick people be damned.

I’ve heard regular people, people who don’t work fancy jobs for insurance companies, talk about the situation as if it is perfectly normal. “Of course the insurance companies had to get out. They were losing hundreds of millions of dollars!”

Yes, let’s feel sorry for the insurance companies making billions of dollars in profit, as well as their CEO’s with their tens of millions in annual salary. These companies that are pulling out of Obamacare are still going to make billions of dollars in profit at the end of the year, but they may not make as much as they did back in the days when they only insured healthy people, while leaving the sick ones to fend for themselves or die.

For the first time insurance companies had to cover sick people and it cost them too much money, so now they’re out.

We should be outraged. Covering sick people in healthcare should be the norm. Where’s the healthcare in denying sick people coverage? The people at the top, filled with their greed, are laughing their asses off at the sheep we have become. Profit over people is a horribly immoral way to run a healthcare system.

I am, once again, scared – tremendously.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

When Will it Stop Being About the Money?

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For a long time our healthcare in this country (US) has operated more like health(s)care. This is not a reflection of the doctors or nurses who invest so much of themselves into helping sick people get better. I have had the great fortune of having wonderful doctors with tremendous bedside manners watch over my health, as well as caring and devoted nurses who have made my time spent in hospitals as comfortable as one could hope for.

The problem with America’s healthcare is the system. It’s all about the money, and when the bottom-line is always priority, sick people lose. This is a sad and dangerous sentiment when we’re talking about people’s lives. Those who need their medical treatment and medications to keep their hearts beating, or their lungs filled with air, never really have a decent night’s sleep because they know if God forbid they, or their spouse, loses their job, and subsequently, their insurance coverage, they will never be able to afford the outrageous price of insurance on their own.

No one can be assured the next job they apply for will have good insurance. Strong health benefits, as well as pensions and 401(k)’s, are slowly disappearing from employers’ packages to workers. There are many claims that companies like Walmart are deliberately cutting weekly employee hours so their workers won’t qualify for health insurance. Why? Because Health insurance is expensive and, like everything in business, it’s all about the money.

Up until a few short years ago a person could be denied insurance coverage just for being sick. Pre-existing conditions is what they called it. Insurance companies didn’t want to offer insurance to people who might actually have to use it. So the unlucky millions of Americans who had the audacity to get sick while not having insurance, (didn’t matter if they lost their jobs through no fault of their own like a company closure, or mandatory lay-offs) those individuals were deemed “uninsurable.”  At the same time, a stigma was placed on people without insurance as being “irresponsible freeloaders.”

During the 2012 presidential campaign, health insurance was a hot topic (still is) because President Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (Yes! Obama Cares! Thank you Republicans for a great nickname). I remember vividly Republican Presidential candidates Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Mitt Romney expressing their opinion that people needed to keep continuous insurance coverage to assure coverage when they suddenly got sick. The issue of hard-working people losing their jobs, and not being able to afford programs like Cobra, never came up. If one couldn’t afford high premiums it seemed to be their own fault for being poor.

Obamacare gave us some well-needed regulations in the practices of insurance companies. One practice Obama put an end to is the pre-exisiting conditions clause. Insurance companies can no longer deny a person for being sick. Alleluia. My only wonder is why the hell did the American people put up with this kind of a system anyway? Obama cited watching his mother fighting with insurance companies when she was diagnosed with cancer as his motivation for taking on the healthcare in this county, and thank God he did.

How many sons, daughter, wives, husband, mothers, and fathers watched their loved ones die because either insurance companies denied them, or the companies had found ways not to cover the treatment needed to save their loved-one’s life (yes, insurance companies were (are) very good at finding reasons to deny certain procedures).

Why did it take so long for something to be done? Easy. Insurance companies are powerful. According to ThinkProgress.org, United Health Group made a profit of 2.1 billion dollars in 2013. Two billion dollars buys a lot fancy lobbyists with plenty of incentives to offer members of congress to vote for policies that favor insurance companies.

Insurance companies are powerful, and, when standing alone, people are weak, but standing together…?

I don’t know why we, the people, never stood together as a country to put an end to the greed that lines CEO’s pockets off the backs of sick and dying people. It’s quite repulsive when one imagines a wealthy CEO making hundreds of millions of dollars a year (base and stock options), flying in private jets with all the luxuries, while a family huddles around the bedside of a dying loved one who possibly could have been saved if not for the unscrupulous practices of some insurance companies.

When sick people are deemed “undesirable”, a lack of human compassion is expressed when decisions and policies are made that affect sick people’s lives.

Take the profit out of healthcare. A single payer system is what we need.

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Photos courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net