Posted by: shannynmoore | August 3, 2009

A Question & Dose of Vitamin Democracy

A question:
How would your life change if you had health care? Would you quit your job? Would you get that invasive test that you really don’t want PILLS & MONEYbut have some nagging feelings you probably should? Would you stop saving up to cover your deductible and actually take a vacation? Your stories are part of the conversation of where we are going in this country…please share.

In case you missed your Vitamin Democracy, here it is. Remember, you will sleep better, you’ll breathe easier, your heart will feel better and you might be so excited by knowledge, you may not need the twin tub pills to keep you up at night.

Vitamin Democracy LINKS

Top 10 reasons to tell your president & his party aren’t fighting for healthcare for everybody

The Single-Payer Job Recovery

The Nation: Single Payer Would Stimulate the Economy


Responses

  1. It wouldn’t affect me personally, but I know several people who would be.
    I know 2 women who work only because they need the health care benefits. Their husbands, a farmer and a chiropracter, cannot afford health care for their own families, let alone their employees. These women have young families and would be at home with them if they didn’t need the health care benefits their jobs provide for their families.
    My boss makes hiring decisions based on health care benefits. We are only hiring part time, because our health care costs are already at 6-8% of our payroll expense – and that covers less than half of our employees. We have 3 pregnant women in our office right now, one with a high risk pregnancy, so our rates will probably jump significantly next year.
    You want to make jobs? Take the tie to a specific job away from health care, and you will see people stop working just for the health care benefits (opening up jobs for people who need the income). Entrepeneurs will open small businesses because they can work for themselves, hire the staff they need, AND have affordable health care for themselves and their employees.

  2. I am in a job that just kills my soul, but I am here for the family health insurance coverage. I would like to start a business but I couldn’t risk being without health insurance.

    When we paid for a private plan two years ago we paid $24,000 a year. 3 people in the family, no one sick at all (hubby on the basic American diet of lipitor and beta blockers, but not sick.) That is $40,000 before taxes. And that was through the Writer’s Guild.

    So much creativity would be unleashed if people were not chained to jobs they are not right for, just to get the health coverage.

  3. Having looked at the 5 major proposals currently floating around Washington, DC, I wonder which one you believe works best for the most people at the lowest cost to the largest number of taxpayers.

  4. I could stop usings my savings to help out my son’s family who have a LOT of medical bills. He is disabled, they have an autistic son, and his wife is the only one working. He quit work to stay home with the autistic son 15 years ago because she made more money than he did at the time. He became disabled about 9 years ago and does not qualify for Social Security Disability. They are typical of the working poor — not enough money to pay medical bills and raise a family of 3 still at home, but too much income to qualify for any assistance. They do have medical insurance — $2,000 deductible per person.

  5. I come with a different story, but it involves a 3 year term unemployed or partially employed, a middle aged crisis and a personal health related disaster.

    My name is Frank and I am a nationally board certified cardiovascular perfusionist. There are about 3,000 perfusionists in the country. We are highly trained; operate heart lung machines, bridge to transplant devices, long term heart assist devices, as well as a myriad of advanced blood product management technologies. We have a very stressful job, that has tremendous responsibility, and are reasonably compensated for it.

    In January 2005 I lost my full time position at a northern hospital in Michigan. Ostensibly as a result of down sizing my job had been eliminated. Interestingly enough, upon exhaustion of my severance package I was able to be rehired by the same hospital as a per diem (on call) perfusionist, at an hourly rate and no benefits.

    At this point my yearly salary had diminished from 95,000 to about $25,000. I completed a divorce in April of 2005 with child support payments prorated to my previous 95 K salary. I started to receive unemployment benefits which were garnished by the state, and then less than 30 days after my health insurance ran out (the first time in my life without it), I had a table saw accident where I lost my left thumb and forefinger.

    Because I had no disability, and no income or salary, the option to engage in the long term rehabilitation associated with trying to reattach the fingers (no guarantee of success here), I opted out of that course, and just had the fingers amputated.

    So now it is do or die time so to speak, and not being sure if I would even be able to return to my profession (very hands on- dexterity is essential), I decided I would at least try (with the help and conviction of my wife) and I accelerated my rehab- (basically doing right handed crunches – while getting my strength back in the left hand) and was able to successfully put a patient on bypass 40 days post amputation.

    Yeah it hurt, but so did the unpaid bills, and the continuous child support obligation. I was able as well, to negotiate a part time contract with a competing hospital for perfusion services, and started to network at a state and national level for per diem services. My original employer finally terminated me, so that revenue source dried up.

    Full time positions in my field are few and far between (due to the specialization of the field as well as other factors) so I applied for everything and anything. Traveling now became the only option.

    I secured numerous temporary contracts, that required long stints 1-2 months away from home, as well anywhere from 700 to 1500 miles away. The pay was good, inconsistent at best, but kept the creditors at bay, and the state of Michigan satisfied. No insurance or any sort of thing like that.

    Then crunch time again, in August of 2007 when the local hospital I had a contract with was absorbed, and the contract was not to be renewed. Any source of income in my field, in that city was gone forever.

    I finally found a full time position in Texas a little more than 3 years to the date of losing my job. I barely had the money to get out there, sub leased an apartment I found on Craigslist, and slept on a mattress for 7 months while I waited for my wife to get things organized to move out here. I used card board boxes from Sam’s Club as furniture, and had one camping chair to sit down on. By the way, don’t waste money on inflatable mattresses- they are a poor solution and they leak. I bought a single mattress smaller than my 11 year old daughter’s, and slept on that.

    As well as being in a challenging new position, in a new state, where there are some distinct cultural differences, I found myself once again having to prove myself to peers, contemporaries, and surgeons (at the age of 52). In our field no one gets a pass. You have to prove yourself, because the job is so very critical, and mistakes or lack of ability can lead to patient deaths or morbidity.

    Being behind by 4 payments allowed Countrywide to accelerate my loan and I barely escaped foreclosure by setting up a repayment plan. In the meantime, I had an $8,000 arrearage in child support (the court never modified the payments) and was now paying over $1300 a month to catch that up. It’s not enough to constantly worry about losing your job, but to also have to worry about a legal system and jail time for circumstances beyond your control- can take its toll.

    With the housing fiasco- we really couldn’t sell, there weren’t any buyers, so I took to Craigslist again, and found some renters. Of course that came as a loss to as my mortgage and taxes, and 2nd mortgage exceeded what they were paying by about $450.00.

    To offset that, I rented a 2 bedroom house for $650 a month, and now had a place to call home for myself, my wife, and three dogs I was unwilling to abandon.

    So we finally got caught up on everything, then the move to Texas cost so much, that once again slipped back on mortgage payments, and am now being foreclosed on. I had the money to pay Countrywide, and could have caught up by the time I am writing this, but they wouldn’t accept it, and threw in enough charges (based on what- I shall never know) to force me into a position to pay a bankruptcy lawyer roughly the same amount that I was delinquent.

    So…

    From owning a beautiful home in Michigan, to ruined credit, and renting. My car window on the drivers side won’t roll up anymore- so I cover it with plastic at night to keep the rain out from those summer Texas storms.

    But… The child support is caught up, payments reduced to the original level, and we will start from scratch once again- because the one thing I never lost was my wife’s faith in us, my Daughter’s love, and my determination to never, never, never surrender (Churchill).

    God bless us all.

  6. I could help materially in my son’s college expenses if my monthly premium for his health care hadn’t tripled in the past decade!

  7. God Bless you Frank. You sure have gone through a lot. I pray your life begins to smooth out. You are right; it is tough to concentrate on daily life with all the pressures mounting from the creditors and past debts and the worry of how we are going to get from one day to the next.

    We are the same age. I own a swimming pool construction company in Arizona. With the economy the way it is, this industry has been especially hurt. Not only are pools considered a luxury item, but also with the financial institution fiasco, there are no lenders for the type of loans needed to fund these projects. We have downsized to where we really can’t downsize anymore. I no longer have employees, but instead wear many hats to try to get by.

    My wife and I have gone through times of having insurance for health care to not having any coverage at all. Thank God we are healthy. Right now we have no health insurance. The monthly premiums do not fit in the budget, so we cannot have coverage. We muster up the cash for any health care needs we have.

    As a small business, we would love to be able to offer any future employees health care. I have been following this issue and have listened to all arguments from all sides. The system we have sucks. Big business has screwed us in this area, IMO. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies with their huge lobbies and political clout have shaped our health care industry into what we see today. Costs continue to rise and care continues to decline. People are commodities and denied coverage or dropped altogether when they become a “risk”. The “risk” is when they may actually have to use the coverage they have been paying for. When profit is the only gauge, people suffer.

    I am certainly okay with capitalism and making money. However, not when it compromises our health. That has to change. We need to get special interests out of this industry, and base our success here on wellness and the ability to provide care of all of our citizens. I support HB676, a single-payer plan.

  8. When my husband proposed to me, he actually said, “I know I can’t offer you anything you don’t already have–except for health insurance!” (I was self-employed with two kids.) I laughed, but in truth it was a godsend.

    We’re lucky: as retired military we have great insurance for life. But one of my children is already old enough that she’s lost it and the other will as soon as she graduates, so we are forking out lots of money to cover the kids with private health insurance. It’s a constant worry–and they’re healthy.

    I lived in Australia for almost twenty years, so I know what it’s like to live in a country with “socialized” medicine. Yes, we carried supplemental private insurance for about $600 a year, but that was our choice. There’s a reason Australians are happier and healthier than Americans. It’s a no-brainer. My worry is that the insurance industry in this country is so powerful we’ll end up with something that just makes them richer and bankrupts the taxpayer. The citizens of this country need to take our government back from Wall Street, the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and the military industrial complex.

  9. Well, I’ve been uninsured now for the past three days. I lost it when I lost my job. And COBRA is exorbitant. What a stupid program, even with the “Recovery discount”. 12 years and I’m SOL.

    If I had access to affordable Health Insurance on my own, I would have quit my job probably 2+ years ago. I’m a massage therapist, self-employed and am trying to build my practice. I would be much farther along if I had left my former employ, while I was still reasonably happy with the job. Instead, I stayed because of the health insurance and where did that get me? Things got a LOT worse at my full time employment and I finally had enough and spoke up. Now? No job, no insurance, and still on the ground floor of my life’s passion: Helping people heal and stay out of the doctor’s office! Insurance doesn’t cover massage therapy. It should. I can keep people off pain medication. I can help people be productive again. I can keep them off the psychiatrist’s couch. I can help them just FEEL better. You’d think that would be important somewhere in the decision-making process.

    I will prevail. It’s what I’m made of. But now I’m in the same boat as millions of people who are just trying to stay above water. I’m lucky; I’m really healthy in general.

    I don’t even like to think about getting injured or sick. Especially now. CT has a decent health care option, but still, it’s barely affordable. Especially now.

  10. If we had universal coverage, my dad would get the hyperbaric treatments that he needs to save his leg.

  11. My husband and I would be able to retire now except for health care. Where he works his insurance does not carry over into retirement so he must work till he qualifies for Medicare. We neither one would qualifiy for individual health insurance because of diabetes and a couple of other minor things even if we could afford it.
    I know many other people our age in the same boat. With all the problems we have in this country with unemployment it seems to me if the age of Medicare was lowered to say 60 or so it would not only cover the health care of some early retirees but open up some much need jobs for younger people.

    • Just to touch base here and it may NOT apply but if you have a known big insurance company (like BC/BS or UnitedHealthCare) and you lose your job, you ARE eligible for individual coverage through that company (even with pre-existing) since you have been continuously insured.

      If you went from company insurance to individual insurance through the same company, I don’t think the pre-existing exclusions apply. You would need to check on this but it frequently applies as just a “switchover” from company to individual.

  12. Wouldn’t it be nice if Social Security were offered to all those 45 and above? This is the age that has the most problems finding work, and the age that medical care is most important. At least basic medical care is assured under Social Security. I’m hoping for a single-payer medical plan for everyone, however. Medical insurance through employers has gotten more expensive every year, and copays are more expensive, deductibles are higher, and less is covered. This is the United States! We should have wonderful medical care — like Mayo Clinic — everywhere (or at least affordable basic medical care for all).

  13. I was laid off over two years ago and lost my health insurance.Cobra is a laugh as the premium was double what i had been paying and the co-pays and deductibles were the same .On unemployment I could not afford both cobra and to pay for the medicine I need So until I was able to get medicare I had nothing,just had to hope nothing went wrong and made use of a discount card for drugs.Premiums have gone up so far and fast that the small company I worked for had to get new insurance companies every year to be able to keep giving us at least some health care insurance but each years everything went up.We sure need some kind of change and the first place is the insurance companies and the drug manufacturers.

  14. I too am one of the fortunate ones. My husband is also a physician so we have access to every type of physician we ever need through the group practice at the hospital.

    And we feel guilty – because for us it has been easy. My husband could have retired over 5 years ago, but loves what he does and it covers my medical until I am Medicare eligible.

    My husband has end-stage Meniere’s disease. Five years ago we traveled to the House Ear Institute for surgery – although it stopped the vertigo, he is now surgically deaf in one ear. During the 3-4 months prior to and after the surgery, his paycheck continued without question, he was able to work as he could, and we never saw a medical bill.

    Over the last 5 weeks, he has begun to experience symptoms in his “good” ear. Aside from the personal implications, we know that medically we have no issues with medical bills regardless of the outcome and regardless of what he chooses to do.

    When he went into medicine, it was not for money, it was because he knew from the time he was six he would be a doctor.

    Everyone should have this access. No one should have to struggle to decide whether to eat, pay the bills, or get treatment. This is the richest country in the world and has the worst health care access in the world.

    We are in favor of a public option and a single payer option. This entire debate in Congress is being driven and influenced by lobbyists and we all know that Congress is taking the money as fast as they can.

    We need to look at our elected Representative – and frankly they all need to go. If they don’t care about you or your family, vote them OUT.

    We have heard so many horror stories and frankly there is NO excuse for any of this. Aside from a do-nothing Congress, we could fix this mess for people.

    But we have John McCain and Jon Kyl, who care only about themselves and their bluff and bluster. Some of you do have good representation and I envy you. We try to get through to them, and they are unresponsive because we do not share the same political party. For some reason, if you are NOT a Republican, they don’t care if you live or die in Arizona.

    All of us needs to apply as much pressure as possible. Don’t leave it to the blogs – get involved. Send email to your rep – call their office. There are enough of us here in the US – we can make a difference. But it’s going to take hard work and a lot of phone calls.

    It’s worth it – we know they don’t listen to us, but we still call and write. Otherwise we feel that we haven’t tried.

    • Endolymphatic Hydrops- a retrocochlear tumor- I remember studying it from when I worked in the ENT dept at the Navy National MedicalCenter, in Bethesda, MD.

      Hi Basheert, I am sorry for the diagnosis and pray for your family-

      Frank

  15. I was born in Germany and at 21 moved to Canada and i just can’t wrap my head around it that the Us has no universal heath care. Our systems are not perfect but to me it beats the alternative .
    I gladly pay more Taxes so i don’t have to worry about it and my heart breaks when i hear all these stories.

  16. Every year my wife and i try to save for emergencys. Two years ago i had a car accident that cost me about 15000 bucks. Single car accident so no insurance coverage. 12 hrs in the hospital…15000 $
    This last winter my wife needed a colonoscopy and ensuing followup of biopsy…About 4000$ We need another followup colonoscopy now. But this summer has as yet brought in money enough to do it. We need to make sure we have enough for the winter as funds get even tighter. Well baring a collapse on the floor we will just put up and shut up. WE are both in our mid 50’s and we pay through taxes toward medicaid. I am not sure we will live long enough to see any of that. As we work to pay the bills but make to much to receive any help. This is called the just dont get sick health plan. I dont like deciding on heat an food or health. Thats what it is and i dont even think of wasting money on a trip! Hell we dont even go out to eat.
    I know there are others worse off than we are but i cant see how these people we elect to represent us can be so…..Greedy.

  17. AKjah: You fall into the “working poor” category – and there is no excuse for it.

    Last week, Ray Blunt remarked “everyone has health care, they just need to go to an emergency room” (I apologize if my attribution to Ray Blunt is incorrect).

    First of all, hospitals are ONLY required to render emergency care to stabilize a patient. They are not required to take care of patients except in a true emergency. It is however, virtually impossible to turn away people.

    But when people use emergency room as a primary care physician, it costs 4-6 times more than seeing a physician does. And guess who is paying for that? We are.

    Everyone should have access to a physician – easy access. Keeping people healthy cuts down on costs.

    There has to be an answer – for everyone’s good health.

  18. Basheert. We dont use the emergency room….well aside from the accident. We have found the local doctor to try and use the clinic AMAP. If we pay cash things come out much cheaper.. like half! But cash only goes so far. I dont want to get into the dental stuff but he is willing to barter. I guess thats why i like a small town!

  19. AKjah: I apologize if it seemed like I was implying that you used the ER inappropriately.

    Our daughter is a Trauma ER RN and her stories would grow hair on your chest. I was using that example only to show how it drives costs up.

    The ER is THE most expensive healthcare available and if not used appropriately, truly sick/injured patients don’t get seen within a rapid timeframe.

    Again, I’m sorry if it came across that way – I meant two different things!

  20. Wow Shannyn, I have to say I think you’re wrong. Wrong on almost everything you write about. The government has no money unless it takes it from someone else. For producers to be compelled by law to support non producers will simply remove all motivation to do well. California has a tax rate of over 50% now for the high end earners and so they leave. The same will happen to New York. If there were one person working in the country would they be responsible for the health care of the rest of the country? To lay the burden of caring for the lazy, on the people who work hard is simply ridiculous. My parents both died of cancer after years of treatment that they did not pay for. They were broke early in their illnesses but never were denied treatment or care. Your assertions are ignorant.


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