Single Payer Blues

For the last 15-20 years, my point of view has steadily remained left-of-center on a large majority of issues facing our country. Generally speaking, my perspective expanded alongside my life experience. This was not an accident. At that time, I made a conscious effort to analyze my own thoughts and opinions in an unfiltered manner. This was not easy for me, I was used to forming opinions through the prism of others. The concept of health and health care was an area that I deeply analyzed. Is it a right? Is it a privilege? In fact, my personal experience with our health care system is one of the major reasons why I became more vocally progressive over the years.

First and foremost, the Health Care/Health Insurance Industrial Complex, what I refer to as the Protection Racket, should be the primary subject of our frustration as a nation. It is designed to make a profit regardless of service or situation. The Health Care/Health Insurance Industrial Complex (AKA The Protection Racket) uses he concept of “care” as a weapon. As the consumer, we are forced to pay whatever costs they arbitrarily charge us. Also, as consumers of this protection service, we are simply unable or understandably reluctant to comparison shop. When it comes to personal health, preventive care doesn’t have as big of a profit margin. If it did, preventative care would be covered more often. The industry has gotten away with all of this because money trumps morality every time – even in life and death.

I don’t have a problem with the ACA mandate since a single payer option does not exist. I use the same logic behind my support for the auto insurance mandate. Which, interestingly enough, didn’t generate nearly the attention this insurance mandate has. Only the extreme libertarians were upset about having to wear a seat belt and buy auto insurance. The general public did not view it as an intolerable infringement of their rights. After all, someone has to pay the bill. We all pay it if there is no insurance coverage. Most Americans viewed it as common sense, not socialism.

The Affordable Care Act follows a model originally proposed by the Republicans in the 90’s. It’s also modeled after the system implemented by Mitt Romney for Massachusetts. The ACA is already starting to show positive results (including lower rates) in the states where Republican Governors are not standing in the way for political reasons.

Thankfully, I am now part of the 95% of Americans that get a decent (but not cheap) plan through my employer. That was not the case for most of my entire adult life. In those years, I WISHED there was something like Obamacare.

For many years I was a self-employed graphic designer/art director. When searching for my own benefits, I was told that I needed to hire someone. They said I needed to hire an employee in order to get insurance for myself. As if that was an option? Therefore, I had to buy numerous non-renewable six month temporary plans on a regular basis just to maintain coverage so nothing would be pre-existing. However, in spite of these efforts, my sleep apnea was eventually called a pre-existing condition. The insurance company made this decision on their own, even though I had insurance when it was diagnosed over 15 years ago. Not only that, I did not realize it had been changed to a pre-existing condition until after spending the night in the sleep disorder clinic at the hospital. I would not have their recommended second sleep study if I knew I was paying for it entirely out of pocket.

This was my life when I was a self-employed graphic designer/art director from 1996-2009. I was using my skills as an independent contractor. I was the entrepreneur – the rugged individualist. A self-employed man. Exactly what our culture likes to wax poetic about. This way of life sounds great, until you have to see a doctor. In these years, 1996-2009, I never saw the same doctor twice. The only insurance plans I could afford were junk plans that were not even worth their somewhat affordable cost. The only thing available to me was what is commonly called Emergency Room Insurance. Cheap insurance with a massive deductible. That’s the bullshit insurance made illegal by the Affordable Care Act. That is the insurance that I had to get because it was the only option I had, unless I wanted to be uninsured and one hospital visit away from bankruptcy. That’s why I say I wished there was something like Obamacare (ACA) back then when I really needed it.

When I moved to Wisconsin from Illinois in 2005 I was denied insurance. Fortunately I was able to join a state run insurance plan for people that had pre-existing conditions or no employer based insurance. Yes, a state run plan! It was still the same bullshit emergency room insurance, but it was better than nothing because at this time I was getting turned down by Humana and other billion dollar insurance companies. An insurance company employee was looking at a chart and determining if I deserved coverage or not based upon statistics. It didn’t matter that I had already payed who knows how much money into this protection racket.

Then in 2006 I moved to Georgia. Georgia did not have a state wide plan for people in my situation. I had to write letters explaining how I have treated my sleep apnea for almost 15 years, blah, blah, blah. With the help of my auto insurance agent, I was finally approved. Approved to pay once again out the ass and basically out of pocket for everything. All of this was just for the same old bullshit (now made illegal) junk insurance with a massive deductible.

In 2009, I was hired as a full time member of the faculty and now have employer based insurance again. For the first time since 1996, I have a regular doctor. This is also important now more than ever, because in recent years it seems like I’m at the pharmacy on a regular basis. If it’s not to renew my hypothyroid pill prescription, it’s for something else. I know I can look forward to more and more of this over the years because we age in only one direction, fast forward.

For 13 years, no matter what I needed or avoided getting done, I had to pay out of pocket because I was never able to meet my deductible. Now I’ll actually be able to afford to upgrade my CPAP machine (for sleep apnea). Mine is almost 10 years old. That simply was not affordable before with my previous plans. Also, I’ll be able to take more preventive measures, things that were financially out of the question before. No one should underestimate the peace of mind that can come with the ability to take preventative measures. We have been trained to brush aside what may prevent a serious health issue because the for profit system will likely not cover something until it becomes a serious health issue.

My previous insurance plans are the exact insurance plans that are now illegal. The ACA made them illegal because they were bad policies. Basically, the only way to meet the deductible was to be admitted to the hospital. Just think of a junk insurance plan as a junk bond and you’ll see how this entire debate is somewhat ridiculous. Before the ACA was enacted, no politician ran to the defense of people like me, the 5% of the population stuck with this pile of junk as their best option. Now conservatives are concerned?

That’s why all this talk about freedoms being taken away, etc. are way off base. More than anything else, our employer based health care TAKES AWAY freedom. For example, how often do people stay with a job or career they don’t like. They’re completely unsatisfied but have to stay because they have dependents on their employer provided health care plan. Regardless of the specific cost, the plans are too expensive but absolutely essential. It makes you fear changing jobs even though you are unsatisfied. It happens all the time. That’s not what I consider freedom.

A single payer system is what we need. A single payer solves the problem as a whole much better than anything else. It preserves your freedom too. We’ve had the single payer blues for decades and I’ve been telling people about it for years.

The Protection Racket

Many of you have enjoyed the piece of mind that comes with having the same doctor for years.

Many of you have received top notch care whenever you needed it, regardless of the circumstances.

Many of you are forever grateful for the expertise of medical professionals during the moments in life that are literally life and death.

Many of you have medical risks or have loved ones that do and that positive personal experience helps you take comfort in the likelihood that life-threatening changes will be quickly detected and treated with the greatest of concern.

The health care insurance industry as it exists in the United States is nothing more than a protection racket. I’m thinking of the neighborhood thug collecting protection money but in a systematically synchronized manner. Health care professionals know that health insurance for profit is the reason why our health care is inefficient on numerous levels and NOT the best care in the world.

At this moment, my cousin Theresa is very sick. She has been in the hospital since last Thursday (10/17). She has a hard time speaking and has a steady fever of 102 degrees. The medical team is working hard to figure out what is wrong with her. However, yesterday they moved her out of the Intensive Care Unit without a clear diagnosis of her condition!

Would I be a skeptic if I thought Theresa was moved out of the ICU without a diagnosis in part because she is poor and been on Medicaid and on and off of welfare for a long time?

Would I be a skeptic if I thought this played a role in why someone would ask Theresa’s husband if she was like this (in this condition) often?

Would I be a skeptic if I felt that whatever is wrong with her right now may be (in a small but not indirect way) be a result of years of waiting all day at Cook County Hospital to see her doctor when she needed to?

Would I be a skeptic if I were more concerned for her life than others because she has never experienced the quality of health care many of you have?