Contemplating The U.S. Navel

Me, Chicago, Hollywood and The Federal Government

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
December 31
Title
Communications Manager
Company
Insurance Brokerage
Bio
I am about as liberal as they come, and please don't expect to change me, though I do sometimes sneak up on you with a surprise (pro-death penalty, for instance). Although gainfully employed as a full-time Marketing Manager, I keep my toes in the freelance pool as a journalist, theater critic, blogger and proud President of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. To read my work on this page is to find vignettes about Chicago, Hollywood, my own turbulent life, and of course, my number one passion: local and national politics.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
APRIL 24, 2012 4:54PM

America's Health Care System is Still Broken Part II

Rate: 18 Flag

 

Our-Health-Care-System-Neither-Healthy-Caring-Nor-System
 

I will keep writing about this because I am one of the lucky ones. I will keep screaming about the system's inherent abusiveness because I can and I must - for all those who are sicker, less financially solvent and don't have a forum in which their voices may be heard.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote this post, recounting the stress of divorce compounded by unexpected health news of the unfavorable kind. After being diagnosed with Stage 2A cervical cancer, I learned that I was considered persona non grata by prospective health insurance providers until I was in remission. At the time, I received the core-rattling news that none of my women's health needs would be covered for 3-5 years, or until the part of Obamacare that forbids insurance companies from playing pre-existing condition roulette with people's lives takes over in January 2013.

Since I wrote the first post in this series last year, a few important events have occurred:

  1. I underwent a successful procedure in June, 2011 that completely removed all cancerous cells from my body - no chemo or radiation required. A six-month checkup in December found no evidence of irregular growth.
  2. I have since gotten into the healthiest shape of my life. I was already no slouch in the exercise department, but have taken the upkeep of my temple in whole new directions. I have learned, through therapy and hard work, to better manage stress. I am invested in a romantic partnership that brings untold levels of peace and satisfaction. I am more careful about what I put into my body and my approach to preventive medicine has changed completely.
  3. I am officially divorced, no longer on my ex's insurance plan and employed full-time at a housewares manufacturer with great benefits.

As I have already indicated, I was fully prepared for my women's health coverage to be excluded for 2012. Whether I think the situation is fair or not (not) is irrelevant. You know the saying, "it is what it is." I was planning to bide my time, and though I am not religious, ask Mother Earth to keep the cancer at bay. My single-adult premiums on the new policy amount to $6,000 annually and while I felt forced into a "cross your fingers" strategy as pertained to the cancer, at least I would be covered under all other circumstances right? Wrong.

The new Big Brother in my healthcare decision-making world, a company that will remain nameless but rhymes with Dew Toss, Dew Field of Iroquois, has declared a blanket "pre-existing condition clause" that covers EVERYTHING for which I have ever been treated. Surprise! This clause runs the full calendar year, so I have the honor of forking over $6,000 in the event I am shot or hit by a bus (neither of which has ever happened), but if I need therapy (you know because I was depressed about having cancer), antibiotics, birth control or my first annual cancer screening - all of that must come out of my pocket. My doctor and I jumped through numerous hoops and made many arguments, to no avail. A girl who rides her bike 68 miles to work and back, under the age 35 with the bad luck to get a little spot of cancer last year, is reduced to nothingness until 2013.

And as we all know today, the conclusion above represents the best-cased scenario. Subsequent to the decision by a bunch of corporate bureaucrats that I am too risky for any sort of benefits, though my money is still welcome, a bunch of mostly old ,white men on the Supreme Court will sit in judgment of my fate beyond this calendar year. By June we are told, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury will decide whether to throw the baby out with the bathwater on health care reform, because a few hundred lobbyists and Tea Party crackpots chafe against the individual mandate portion.

So we can make car insurance as a condition of vehicle ownership law, but this is somehow different? Can they really declare that no part of the reform benefits the American people? What about the part where, I don't know, insurance companies can't refuse you access to ALL TYPES OF HEALTHCARE because you had a treatable cancer that was cured in one shot?

If the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare, I am out in the cold for 5 years, perhaps longer if an emboldened insurance syndicate decides so. I can't believe this is America.

About the Supreme Court's deliberations, the Daily Beast remarked in November of last year, "By agreeing to rule on the issue of national health care, the Supreme Court foolishly politicizes its deliberation process and needlessly damages its own reputation."

But this is about more than a simple PR misstep, the negation of jurisprudence. This is about American rights and lives. I think I have a patriotic duty to protest my provider's current right to kill or bankrupt me in the unfortunate event that my cancer recurs, or that I come down with the flu and need antibiotics and a short hospital stay. I want the Supreme Court to consider that with the same fervor with which they seem to regard a libertarian's right to refuse health coverage when that refusal burdens everyone else.  

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It's an appalling system. Here's hoping you stay healthy and that the Supremes don't throw out Obamacare. But it really shouldn't come down to that.
It is utterly unfair and no, this is not America. It is Corporate Ass-le Land.
You wrote:

----->>"...the ladies and gentlemen of the jury will decide whether to throw the baby out with the bathwater on health care reform, because a few hundred lobbyists and Tea Party crackpots chafe against the individual mandate portion."

Some of us don't believe that the commerce clause gives the Feds the power to order citizens to purchase products from for profit companies. There is the thing about enumerated powers, you know. And if this mandated insurance was so obviously necessary why did Barack Obama campaign against a mandate?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R-z-fFnuh0

Maybe the lobbyists you are referring to were the ones that somehow convinced a one Max Baucus to have single payer advocates arrested at a hearing:

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/13/baucus_raucus_caucus_doctors_nurses_and

Am I to believe that most democrats would support this same scheme if passed into law by a republican administration? Are you prepared for endless republican mandates?

Why did prohibition require an amendment to the constitution?

----->> "...So we can make car insurance as a condition of vehicle ownership law, but this is somehow different?"

This is *fundamentally* different because first of all it is a state mandate and second of all insurance is only required if you drive on public roads.

There has never been a federal requirement for all citizens to purchase any product in the history of this republic. Why is that?

Anyway, I do wish you the best and hope that you remain in remission.
This is insane. As long as the system runs on profits, there will always be abuses. The only cure is to move to single-payer...not perfect, but the most humane option and actually the best way to keep costs down. Even if we can't do a total overhaul, we should at least change the fee for service model which is wasteful and breeds corruption.

Glad to hear you're doing well Rebecca, personally and professionally. 68 miles on a bike every day...damn! You must have legs and lungs to die for. I thought I was in decent shape these days, but clearly I need to step up my game.
I'm so glad you are well. I'm afraid the Supremes are going to vote the health care law down, but I'm hoping that it will end up opening the door to single payer Medicare-for-all style healthcare. After all, there is nothing that could be constitutionally challenged about that set-up....We'll see if Americans sit up and take notice or if most of us sleep through it. That will make all the difference.
The sad thing is, health care costs are eating up nearly 30% of GDP. It's a serious economic issue. It's eaten up a large part of wages, as company's wage and benefit costs have gone up much more than take-home pay.

I feel pretty strongly that insurance is the wrong way to pay for health care. And half the time, insurance doesn't work. The minute you get seriously sick, they start thinking about how to duck those costs.
I applaud you writing about this issue. These stories must be told. I have stories to tell, too. But then you lost me when you wrote:

"I am too risky for any sort of benefits, though my money is still welcome, a bunch of mostly old ,white men on the Supreme Court will sit in judgment of my fate beyond this calendar year. By June we are told, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury will decide whether to throw the baby out with the bathwater on health care reform, because a few hundred lobbyists and Tea Party crackpots chafe against the individual mandate portion."

I'm not sure why you employ the ad hominem attack against the Supreme court, as if people can help that they are old and white. But, I digress.

I'm not a tea partier. In fact, I'm about as liberal as they come on most issues, and I am firmly against the so-called "individual mandate" because it feeds money to the private insurance industry. The problem, as you seem to be well-aware, is the insurance industry runs our health care system, yet then you undercut your own position by supporting the individual mandate. The individual mandate is a republican idea, for Jesus' sakes. They were for it long before they were against it. Now we have Obama's presidency hanging on his defense of a republican idea. It boggles the mind.

So, which is it? Do you support the private, for-profit insurance industry that has royally screwed you, or do you advocate for a single payer system that is the norm in the rest of the civilized world?

Being against for-profit insurance-based health care does not a "crackpot" make. I'm am against the individual mandate and for a single-payer system (something Obama never even seriously considered). Your problem would not be a problem if you lived in Canada. Single-payer is the only way to have equality in health care, a thoroughly progressive ideal.
Met me be clear: I am FOR single-payer, through and through. I think that is the only way to turn things around. But since I'm a realist and don't believe that to possible (still scarred by summer 2009), then for God's sake we have to do SOMETHING about the existing system. I don't think for-profit insurance is the answer - ever.
Why I have Drew Boss of Drew Field of balifornica myself! They suck monkey balls. They've raised my premium over $200 more in two years. They don't pay for pretty much anything anymore, or you know, an insulting $5 for a $500 procedure. Why don't they just send me a little card that says, "Eff you, little serf." My doctor doesn't help because she is insured through her job and doesn't believe me when I say things like, "Yeah. Don't write that down. We don't know that. But, my insurance company will read that and drop me." She said in a very naive way, "But it will help you get more help." No, it will not. It will get me uninsured.

@Jason It's not that simple. It's not my favorite thing to have mandated insurance. But, if that destroys the entire law, that would be worse. I'm hoping it paves the way to universal care eventually, as that would be the best goal. However, with Congress mainly the prostituted sluts of corporate interests, it'll have to be done slowly and carefully. So, it's not really an either/or situation. What's clear is that we have to take what we can get when we can get it, not do a "Ralph Nader" in the name of our principles. I'm sorry, but that whole fiasco screwed us enormously. And throwing the baby out with the bathwater here will do the same damned thing.
A lot of people like large chunks of the so called Obamacare reforms.

Or perhaps more precisely, they are generally pissed off, but need the reforms to simply hang in there.

One reason why the wholesale trashing of this by the Republicans will backfire.
I know that very few people care, and that the idea of a rule of law is archaic and all, but the function of the supreme court isn't to decide whether a given law is a good idea or not, it's to decide whether it's allowed by the rules in the constitution. You know, if all the people who are pissed off by BCBS were willing to pitch their premiums into an HMO/charity, y'all could probably put them out of business.
Rated and post on FB. Good job writing on something that makes me want to spit glass shards.
Rebecca, I hope you stay healthy. This is one more good example of how intolerably crazy and cruel our non-system is. I myself paid huge premiums for a worthless UHC policy with all kinds of exclusions and a massive deductible (the first $15.000 in yearly expenses were my responsibility). To add insult to injury, UHC refused to even credit any of my large out-of-pocket expenses toward their deductible. It was always some openly lying excuse why they didn't even have to do that. Their game was so obviously rigged it wasn't funny. And I had no recourse. For-profit health care--pseudo-care-- must go.[r]
@Odette
Ha! I got you beat! My insurance (not Blue Cross) up premiums $2,000 in one year. All because in getting one year older, my husband and I passed into a new age band.
@Odette
Ha! I got you beat! My insurance (not Blue Cross) up premiums $2,000 in one year. All because in getting one year older, my husband and I passed into a new age band.
I'm glad that your health has improved, and I hope it continues to be well. I think you will live long and prosper.

But there is no natural, moral right to forcibly impose the costs of your illness, an illness most likely brought on by your own personal choices, onto others.

In other words, nobody has an automatic right to their neighbor's back pocket. To claim otherwise requires one to justify the threat of violence and aggression against peaceful, non-aggressor neighbors. This cannot be justified.

If we had a total separation of health care and state -- a pure free-market system -- the price of health care services and products would be much, much lower than present, and your problems would not be as bad.
Rebecca, I feel for you. It is like we are in a different country, which some people are beginning to see -- leave here? It's left us, we seem to be recognizing. I do not buy the Obama - Scare that the media keeps thumping as though if it were a disease itself, as we are so inundated with a myriad of Insurance company BS and this monolith that literally controls our lives, that we can become confused, even disoriented . It is a huge mistake to abandon reform of this curious industry. Yet, if we do nothing, the predominately Repub backed industry will win. Again. It does not have to be this way. Obama made mistakes -- let's hold onto this baby .... it's all that we have.
Larry3000 writes "If we had a total separation of health care and state -- a pure free-market system -- the price of health care services and products would be much, much lower than present, and your problems would not be as bad."

People can see a very good example about how this kind of system works in Burkina Faso:

The Burkina Faso government, with the help of the donor community, has developed ambitious strategies that have lowered maternal death rates in some parts of the country. However these are undermined by failures in implementation and a lack of accountability that allows medical personnel to get away with abuses, such as illegal demands for payments.

As expected, Larry3000 doesn't understand how insurance works.
Larry3000: "Personal choices"? I'm surprised, that passed without comment. By that logic, perhaps we should not insure or pay for smokers who develop lung cancer, or deer hunters who contract Lyme Disease. But then we would also need 'panels' to determine which lifestyles we shall insure and which we will not, hardly the best way to care for patients. Let's abstain from the "I'm more moral than you attitude" and actually take care of people. Larry3000 can you imagine your own physician refusing to treat you because they disagree with your personal choices?
I don't have the answer and can't pretend to understand how what's proposed is really going to fix things. Could you drop your premiums and just bank the money until the pre-existing clause come through? Or just do catastrophic? So many of my artist friends have been doing this for a long time...I did it until I got a "real" job. That's what worries me about health care reform. Mandated payments and less choice/flexibility.
@odeterroulette: If you believe accepting the individual mandate (forced by the government to pay for-profit insurance companies) will ultimately result in a single-payer system you are being naive. Let me know how that works out.

It really is that simple. The individual mandate is a gross overstep of governmental authority. One either advocates for freedom and equality or one does not. Obama could have fought for a single-payers system, but he didn't, by all accounts, ever seriously consider it. Yes, our system is broken, and it is BECAUSE it is controlled by the for-profit insurance industry. Everyone knows that, and it is pathetic to see people, people who would call themselves progressives, come out in support of for-profit insurance. It drives me nuts to see so-called liberals support an idea that was dreamed up by republicans in the first place.