Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Health Care Reform

I have a good friend who is in an unfortunate situation. It involves the health care dilemma in America. She is an example of what many people are going through and I asked her permission to share her story. She said I could.

My friend and her husband have two children. He works two part-time jobs, more hours than a full-time job, but has no access to health insurance through either employer. She was employed for a health care clinic, and they offered health care to her, but not her family. Because my friend has a history of health issues, she of course purchased a plan through her employer for herself. They were working hard to make ends meet.

Six weeks ago, she got injured. She fell and broke her ankle. She had to have surgery to repair it, and it included seven pins and a plate to put it back together. Her husband did the best he could to pick up extra hours to cover the difference, but it's obviously been very difficult. During her medical leave (unpaid), she was laid off. Not only does she now have no prospect for income in the near future, she also lost her health insurance.

The State of Minnesota is currently paying 60% of Cobra for nine months if you lose your job. She and her husband are going to be able to cover the expense of Cobra for those nine months then, but have no idea what they'll do beyond that. She is not yet in good enough health to find another job, and isn't sure when they will be.

Here you have a hard-working family who cannot afford to buy private insurance for themselves. It's not because they're lazy (which seems to be the code word for anyone who would benefit from a government option) or want someone to just hand it to them.

My opinion always has been that we should have a government program, with affordable premiums, available to all Americans so that people like my friend and her family do not have to go without health insurance. I cannot even imagine what would happen if something else happened to any of them!

For those of you who oppose a plan like this, what do you suggest? They are not alone. If you look around, you'll find countless people who do not have access to health insurance through their employer.

I'm just so sad that the proposed plans are weak. That they're really not going to help anyone in this tough time. I'm sad that we're not taking care of each other.

It's been awhile since we talked about this. Anyone up for a discussion? (As always, anonymous comments are not allowed.)


Jan said...

Just a comment on the "taking care of each other part"-- I feel that we can take care of each other on a more individual basis- not through a governmental way. When Ron majorly broke his leg we felt very cared for by lots of family and friends, near and far and in many ways. We truly made it through okay because of it.

Sometimes these tragic things happen for a reason--we learn about ourselves and how strong we really are and who our true support system is. I don't think we can substitute a government agency for that. Sometimes we have to trust that things will be okay, and lots of stuff is just material. As much as I would hate to lose our house or whatever, it is just material. I would still have my family and friends.

I am not trying to make light of what your friend is going through, but trying to shed what can be positive about it. Broken bones are horrible no matter what kind of insurance one has. I don't think a government can substitute for people caring for each other.

Leanne said...

I think government can be a supplement to taking care of each other.

People are drowning in debt because we're not helping them. They're DYING because we're not helping them.

While I don't disagree with your point, I don't see why we can't have both...humanity in our community and government support for those unable to support the corrupt profit-filled insurance industry.

And I am glad that you made it through. Some are not.

Leanne said...

Edit: Some are not making it through, NOT some are not glad. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think government insurance is the answer. We can't afford another government handout paid for by the people that are working and forcing more small business owners out of business. We need to look at Canada and other countries that have it. Do we want to let the government control IF, WHEN, and where we can get care? Do we want to put all health insurance companies out of business? I think if we could get rid of the malpractice claims lawyers (ambulance chasers) that have forced doctors to pay such high malpractice insurance premiums, health insurance would be affordable. There should be a limit of what people can sue for. I agree you should be reimbursed for actual medical cost and even lost wages, but there is too much fraud in coming up with amounts due for other ailments (pain, real or imagined, lost pleasures, etc). I am currently shopping for insurance for my college kids that are no longer covered by our insurance, but I don't expect a handout. Sorry for the long post, but this subject is important to me. Aunt Karen

Leanne said...

Karen! Thanks for your comment. It's important to me and I appreciate your input.

The only thing I want to say is that the government option ISN'T a handout. Your description sounds like a single-payer system (ie Canada), which is not on the table for the United States. At all.

It's a government-run insurance company. It collects premiums; it's not free. I think there is a lot of misconception about that.

And no, I don't think all insurance companies should go out of business. I think a government insurance company would be the competition needed to put premiums and costs in line, that's all.

IMO - with the soaring costs of health insurance premiums and the burden health insurance benefits are putting on businesses - big AND small, I don't think we can afford NOT to do something.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leanne said...

One other question...why wouldn't you WANT a government health care plan for your college students?? Let's say it was something affordable...$100/month and they got reasonable care at any practicioner they chose (administered like Medicare). Wouldn't that be a great option for them?

I'm assuming that you're shopping rates, and that none of your college-aged students have a pre-existing condition. Because for the thousands who do, forget about buying private insurance. Period. It's wicked expensive.

Leanne said...

I should have said: it's either wicked expensive OR not available. Health insurance companies do not like to insure people with high risk.

Leanne said...

Anonymous - can you please tell us who you are so I don't have to delete your comment?

Amy Isaacson said...

Americans pay the most for health care, in the world, and we benefit the least from it, in terms of standard of living and infant mortality rates. According to the World Health Organization, the US Health Care system ranks 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness. Yet we somehow find a way to spend over $500 billion a year on the military? That amounts to half of our entire economy, by the way. We spend more on defense than every other country in the world COMBINED, just in case anyone thinks we lack funds for health care reform.

The system now is making huge profits for insurance and drug corporations. There is no incentive for them to change the current system. In fact, many of their lobbyists are railroading the debate in Washington. In America right now, if you lose your job, you can lose your health insurance. If you buy your own health insurance and get sick, you can lose your coverage. If you have a pre-existing condition, like asthma or arthritis, the insurance company can refuse to insure you.

If we stay with this system, in seven years the average American family will pay $28,000 a year for health care costs (one-third of their income, on average.)

Americans need to pick a side. Anyone standing in the way of reform right now is siding with big corporations and profits, whether you like it or not. Apathy is the corrupt politician's (and lobbyists) best friend.

Leanne said...

In light of Amy's comments, there is really great commentary on this site. It's meant to be comedy, but it's not funny.


elizabeth said...

It will be interesting to see what happens when I investigate health insurance options next year. Unfortunately - I checked the box that says I have asthma many times - and my current insurance company believes I have it. I don't, but I get asthma-like symptoms when I am around cats, so I thought I had to check it. My doctor confirmed that that is going to hurt me when I do look for coverage. I guess we'll see what happens ..

elizabeth said...

Many people have a strong support system. They are lucky. Many many more people do not. I would like them to make it through too.

Amy Isaacson said...

I think there are a lot of myths out there about health care in other countries. Bill Moyer's website is an excellent, balanced source of information. Here's one page I found particularly helpful: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08282009/profile2.html He provided a link to an article on some health care myths, which I'm not going to try and sum up here, but it's worth reading. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101778.html

Also, one important thing to note is that I don't hear conservatives offering other solutions for reform. Sticking with our current plan (or lack thereof) will be extremely detrimental to the American public. George Bush had eight years to do something about health care- costs only went up during his two terms. I get the impression that a lot of conservatives are just anti-change and aren't interested at examining the evidence. One of Robert Kennedy's favorite quotes was "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality."

One former insurance industry insider, Wendell Potter, has spoke out about how the insurance industry peddles influence in Washington. He talks about how his company tried to silence Michael Moore during the filming of "Sicko," his film on health care. The companies pay for ads labeling any government-run programs as "socialized" medicine. They will contribute to the compaigns of candidates who will support their agenda.

Amy Isaacson said...

Oops.. that pbs link posted incorrectly. It should be:


(or just add a "html" on to the end of the first link posted, if I screw it up again.)

Anonymous said...

I say why not give it a shot. It's got to be better than what we have.....or don't have....right now.

Anonymous said...

Leanne- I do not consider $100 a month reasonable health care when I have 3 kids that need it ($300 a month). I realize that is just a figure you put out there but I think that is the problem today. It isn't that all the un-insured cannot afford it, but many choose other ways to spend their money. Not all the un-insured are in the position of your friend. There is no way the private sector can come close to competing with the government. Medicare for example, requires doctors to accept minimal amounts for their claims. Many doctors don't even accept medicare patients. What incentive will there be for doctors when they have their freedoms taken away? I found insurance for my kids for $48 a month. It is not the cadillac plan that the government could give, but it will work. You say the government program wouldn't be free, but I am quite sure that it will be for the majority of the people on it and the rest of us will be paying their share through our own policies or taxes. Just my feelings, Aunt Karen

Anonymous said...

My husband has health insurance through his work that covers our family. However, my son has specail needs and requires a lot of medical and therapy expenses that the regular insurance does not cover. So his secondary insurace is medical assistance. Because we are smart with our money and created a savings for our future, we have to pay over $700 a month for him to have his MA. In no way is anyone 'paying for' my sons share of medical assistance, and I would love to have an option where a secondary insurance for him would be only $100 a month!

Leanne said...

Of course others spend their money other ways. Of course some people don't work hard and expect charity. Of course some people abuse the system. That's always been the case, and I expect it always will be.

BUT WHAT ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE? That's the point of this story. Since I have been paying attention to this debate, I have heard countless stories of hardworking people in situations such as this one.

I'm not even sure why I keep talking about this. I realize that many of you are unconvincable. I just think we have a monumental chance to change the future of this country. I think the opposers to other government policies in times past now realize that we are better off with many of them. You don't find many people turning away their social security checks when they retire.

I guess, specifically, Karen, I wonder if you think we need any kind of reform, then, or do you think things are fine as they are? That's my original question. If not a government option...then what?

elizabeth said...

I guess that's sort of my gripe .. I don't think that "people are going to abuse the system" is a reason to not do something. People abuse every system. And we have all taken advantage of some system ourselves. It's a reason that gets presented like it's the rule, when in fact it's the exception.

elizabeth said...

by taken advantage, I meant that we have abused it in some way - be it large or small - not that we have benefitted from it (though that is true also)

Scandy said...

Hey--good comments here!

I haven't heard much in the way of answering your question, Leanne, of what should be done about the situation...but it's been a good conversation.

Please, let's be careful about saying anything about ourselves...and how if we can accomplish something, others should be able to, too.

We are very privileged to even be having this conversation. We are privileged, period. And, because of that, we do need to take care of others who are not as privileged, as does our government.

It's what Jesus would do...and I don't say that lightly.

Anonymous said...

There are two points I would like to make. First your comment about social security, I will gladly collect it (if there is any there) because we have paid into it. That is the money that has been taken out of our paychecks as long as we have been working. Second, I do believe there has to be a change. Read bill H.R. 3713 'The American Health Care Solutions Act' by Mike Rogers. Just because I don't agree with a government option does not mean I am against change. Aunt Karen

Leanne said...

Good enough. That's always been my question. Everyone is so anti-goverment option, but then has nothing else to offer. More of the same won't work.

I don't know that bill, but I will look into after the kids go to bed tonight.

Thanks for your comments! I don't agree with your viewpoint, but I respect your position.

Sue said...

Hi Leanne...friend of Shari's, sister to Kristy and Cindy here.
I agree something has to be done...I wish I had some brainstorm idea to post but I will say that we buy our own insurance and it is so expensive and getting worse. Our premiums went up 24% in October...that's ridiculous. I agree that the lawyers have made a big impact on costs with outrageous lawsuits. Also, that the insured are covering costs being left behind by the uninsured that are using emergency rooms for things that could have been dealt with at a primary care physician before they got to be an emergency situation. I do think that if insurance was made affordable that more people would go to well-care visits and nip problems in the bud, so to speak. Sure there are emergency situations that have nothing to do with well-care but how many heart attack/stroke, diabetic shock or asthma visits could be prevented if the patient has received proper treatment?
Something has to change...wish I had the answer but if I did, I'd probably be up there on Capital Hill putting my two cents in instead of sitting here at my computer.
BTW-nice to "meet" you.

Amy said...

For those people who oppose a government option to health care, my response is that I hope you decline Medicare/Medicaid when you become eligible, because that is exactly what that is: government-sponsored health insurance.
That is all I have to say.

Leanne said...

Sue, thank you for your comments! Yes, something must be done. 24%?! Insane.

Something else we haven't mentioned: My parents own their own business. Their insurance costs for their employees is out of control. This is the case for many small businesses. Makes me so sad. The only way they can retain good employees is to offer benefits, so they have no option. It EATS up their profits.

Amy - agreed.

Amy M said...

I don't have any answer but I agree that something needs to be done. I am lucky enough to work a job that has insurance but it is not what I want to be doing. I am going to school to be a massage therapist and would love to do that as my job. The thing stopping me from quitting my job to be able to do what I love and to be able to spend more time with my kids is having insurance. So I will work all kinds of shifts in a job I like but not love because I don't have another option. I don't think anyone would be willing to pay (in the cost of a massage) for me to have insurance. Yet they expect people to be around to give massages! Or cut your hair-Or serve you in a restaurant- Or do all the other jobs that don't offer insurance.
I agree that we need to take care of each other. @Jan- You should consider yourself lucky that you have a great support system but many don't. I like to think that I do but I guess I don't have that same trust that you do that everything would be okay. What should the people that don't have that support system do? You say that broken bones are horrible no matter what- just imagine doing it alone w/out insurance.
I didn't have insurance for a few months because of a waiting period and during that time I was so stressed about someone getting sick or hurt. I knew that it was going to end- I cannot imagine what it would feel like to not have an end in sight.

Jan said...

I guess I didn't illustrate my point well enough. A support system doesn't just happen- it is built. We help others in need, they help us. At the time of Ron's accident, we got a monetary gift from some old friends of Ron's parents, who wrote a letter telling about how his parents had helped them in a time of need. We pay it forward and we pay it backwards.

I do think there should be some changes in the health care system-
but I not sure what. I just don't want to add the huge debt our country is already in.

My point was simply that we can't replace caring for each other with a government agency. There were social services before there was social services- it was neighbors helping each other out. But I suppose we shouldn't open that can of worms...: )

Juliana Johnson said...

It is really not that complicated. DEBT is not the solution. In Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" he explains the imoportance of getting out of, and staying out of Debt. When you aren't constantly paying creditors outrageous borrowing fees, there is so much more to go around. Dave explains how when we do this, we can GIVE plentifully. I know this is on a personal level, but why can't it also apply to Government? Especially since so many people look up to our Government and put their complete trust there (a government that wants to take more and more individual choices away from us)Don't kid yourself, China isn't just giving us all of that money, and I'm not so sure that they will just let it go, if they don't get it back. I've spent time in Europe. It's quite different. Anyone can have free health care- but the Quality isn't there, because Doctor's don't have as much drive. They are paid more like teachers. Most families have one vehicle for everyone to share. They give up an astronomical amount of their income to taxes. Personally I think the tax refunds are great- trusting the individual! If someone wants to buy health insurance, so be it. If they want to piddle their money away and be poor and sickly, so be it. The quality of life, freedom of choice, drive are all present in a free market economy. Private sectors, keep price down and quality up! We have an awesome local doctor. She stopped treating Medicaid patients. Guess why? She never received payment from them! (I really think they-our gov't. -has any money left)She really wouldn't be able to pay off her loans if she didn't only accept private insurance/cash patients. She is also the cheapest doctor around. Also, my daughter has Juvenile Arthritis. The only Specialist within 5 hrs was in Green Bay. And they didn't accept Medical Assistance either. But guess what? Out of the goodness of his heart, that Doctor treated her. When I tried to give him a few $20's in an envelope, I recieved them back through the mail, back at home- he wanted us to care for Ali. Goodness is still out there- trust others! Humanity IS still alive. And YES FORGIVE, like you read on the Amish. If only those money hungary individuals, starting expensive lawsuits could realize that we are all human, and mistakes sometimes happen. This has only been my experience from which I can speak.I don't think George W. was all that great w/ managing money, either. Ron Paul, 2012!-he wrote an excellent book.
Lovingly, Juliana Johnson