I am such a blessed woman in that I have never had to think about healthcare until recently. My kids have always been covered and the only healthcare needs I have had were related to the births of my children. But as I shared with you in Feasting on the Bitter and the Sweet, my brother is now dealing with cancer. This has brought the issue of healthcare to the forefront for me and my family.
First of all, can we think of something else to call what health insurance companies do? It is certainly not health CARE. They don’t really seem to care. My brother is terminal and in constant need of pain medication to manage this pain. However, the insurance company will only allow him a 25-day supply of Oxycontin at a time because anyone, anywhere, could be an abuser. He might change his meds any day and have a bunch of controlled substances lying around. Could he be a terminal, pain-riddled, drug pusher recovering from chemo and radiation treatments? Even though his nurse appealed to the highest levels of the insurance company with the details of his particular case, the request was still rejected. So, my brother has to get a new prescription and a new refill every 25 days, when every trip out is a struggle for him or a job for someone else. Also, they would not pay for in-home oxygen for him unless his pulse ox dipped to 89, even though he has cancer growing on his lungs and any casual observer could see he needed help to breathe. So my brother was instructed to walk around the cancer center until his oxygen level was dangerously low. This achieved the result that the insurance company required and got him what he needed. Ridiculous.
In addition to these frustrations, he has answered many questions with ‘if the insurance company signs off on it.’ Treatments that his oncologist or radiologist determined that he needed were all waiting on approval, not from a doctor or nurse or medical professional of any kind, but from an insurance company that had nothing to gain from approving these treatments, but lots to lose. To think that these decisions would one day be made by the kind of people who often staff government bureaucracies makes me think. Do I want an over-stressed, under-paid slave of the system making critical healthcare decisions that concern me and my loved ones?
Does anyone out there, Republican or Democrat, think this kind of red-tape would decrease if the government was involved? I can tell you it won’t. Early in our marriage, when we were young and poor, I went to the County Health Department for maternity care for our first child. The care was excellent but the system was awful. The wait times for regular appointments were agonizing. The information was dumbed-down to the lowest possible levels. In order to receive care, you had to attend classes on the most basic of behaviors. I had to write down everything I had to eat in the past week to make sure I was eating well. I had to answer questions like, ‘do you have a refrigerator?’ They read every hand out to me because they had to assume I couldn’t read for myself. I am grateful for the free healthcare I got when I needed it. I am glad it is there for women who need it today. Would I want this to be the state of healthcare nationwide? No way.
I am grateful for the many thousands of dollars that have been covered by my brother’s insurance company. I am also thankful that the drugs that helped extend his life were created, studied and produced, even if they were staggeringly expensive. I can see many sides to the healthcare debate. I am all for reform, but I am very wary of a hastily-composed and desperately pushed-through solution to these problems.
When you think of the healthcare debate, think of people, like my brother, your mother, or your grandmother. Think of people who are out of work and cannot afford to go to the doctor. Think of what could be done to make it live up to its name – Healthcare.