“These are all these vague, feel-good ideas. The fact is none of these ideas address the real problem. If you’re going to save money in health care, you have to deliver fewer services. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.” Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute.
I am not a brain surgeon. I don’t talk about politics or other assorted large issues on this blog. If I did perhaps I’d have more readers, or maybe more people would donate, or I would have already rocketed myself into the stratosphere of blogosphere super-stardom. I avoid the things that are A Really Big Deal. I do this, dear readers, ’cause I treat you all like potential bedmates, each and every one, and I know that the number one way to cockblock yourself is to seem like an ignorant loudmouth. Which is what I am, basically, but I don’t want you to know until after we share breakfast. Sometimes I discuss sports, which can be equally as offensive, but I just do that to prove I’m cute and a rough-and-tumble type of girl, which can only improve my potential.
You’d think that as a vegan who could see herself marrying a woman one day that I’d be a little bit more aggressive about my ideals in a public forum, but the truth is that I recognize that I’m pretty much misinformed about a lot of things, and selectively informed about others. And nothing is more dangerous — or irritating — than a person spouting nonsense on things that actually do matter. So I use this blog to whine about work, mainly. But something happened the other day that I need to get off of my very flat chest, and I can tie it into work since my business card these days reads: Ainsley Drew, copywriter, cancer caviler, and marginally-bored and underused home health aid. It’s the last one that got a bit of a slap in the face the other day, albeit with a simple, skinny piece of paper.
I’m not really sure where I stand when it comes to my views of the medical field and its assorted conundrums. Yes, yes, I know, Obama, universal healthcare, reform, Senate Finance Committee, blah blah blah. But all of that stuff falls on my little, selfish ears like Charlie Brown’s teacher explaining nuclear physics. If I explained my personal health insurance situation to you, chances are you wouldn’t believe me. But my mother works a minimum of twenty hours a week in a tiny, dirty landscaping office in order to cover her health insurance, if she doesn’t clock in for that many hours, she can’t get coverage. This still stands in spite of how much discomfort she’s in, how little time her prognosis leaves her to enjoy life outside of work, and how tired chemo makes her. That the work is what pays for that chemo, chemo makes work nearly impossible, chemo is impossible without work. It’s an ugly situation, but it’s better than most, and my mother has accepted it and tackled it like a tiny, metastases-motored machine.
Fine. So health insurance doesn’t care if you’re terminally ill and probably shouldn’t be at work in lieu of nice weather and a desire to play handball with your friends. Insurance companies figure that my mother can get COBRA‘d if (otherwise known as when) the cancer finally goes all Floyd Mayweather on her ass. And, okay, sure, her particular insurance company rejected numerous referrals over the course of six months as her bizarre symptoms worsened, even though these referrals were for the exact test that eventually was administered and discovered Stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver.
I get it, there are many cases, they don’t want the system to be abused, in order to keep astronomical costs just one shade shy of laughable they have to send out rejection letters, just like a booze-filled Ivy League university boasting Division I lacrosse. Moreover, they know, just as we now know, that there’s a reason pancreatic cancer is called “the silent killer,” and it’s not ’cause it creeps around in ballet slippers. I can’t allow myself to be so self-righteous as to believe that my mom’s illness is a singular case, and that the insurance company’s irritating bureaucracy has only bitch-slapped us. It’s a faulty system.
But my mom received an $800 bill for one session of chemo the other day in the mail that said her insurance wasn’t going to cover the treatment due to “a lack of information.” And although we were eventually able to straighten this momentary cataclysmic fiasco out (insurance will cover it), the idea of 7 sessions at $800 a pop was enough to lead my mother to quietly say, “I don’t know if I’ll keep going with this if insurance doesn’t cover it.”
My mother didn’t have to make the decision to give up her palliative care in light of the cost, and she’s able to at least receive some form of treatment due to the fact that she has a job that does provide her with insurance options and begonias. But many people in this country don’t have the same privilege. It dawned on me that there are those who make this decision every day. To leave behind families. To leave behind hope. To leave behind hamburgers. To take the shorter prognosis not because they want to embrace death, but because they simply do not have the means to make any other choice. And that frightens me.
Yes, I’m an educated white girl from the suburbs who often complains about being broke. I have no right to bellyache about the fact that there are patients stuck like pebbles in between the cogs of a system whose wheels aren’t turning. The emergency medical care in this country, which is what many under- or un-insured Americans rely on in order to get stitched up or have their sniffles cured, is leagues better than the care available in other parts of the world. Even though our system is backward and taxed, I find it comforting to live in a place where the medical services that are available in case of an emergency can actually save and improve my life. And although I am far too naive and unaware as to open my big fat mouth and say I have a solution, or now I want to be an activist, or even here’s what I think we should do, I can say that I’m upset. And as somebody who is watching a person die with a better healthcare and health insurance situation than most, I can say that it isn’t any easier.
I understand that insurance executives, representatives, and drug pushers all want the same thing as those of us with or without insurance. We all want to provide for ourselves, and our families. Self-preservation, no matter the cost, is what has made so many monolithic industries across the globe thrive. Not all are perfect. But not all leave bills in mailboxes saying that your body is a commodity whose price is too high to pay. I can only hope that by the time my bionic uterus rusts shut or my robot circuit-board-built heart breaks down that the health insurance companies will have figured out what the price is on my head. In the meantime, I’ll start saving my pennies for an unhealthy day.
If any of you actually understand the title of this post and what it references, please email me. I will use my limited funds to buy you a burrito if you’re in the New York City area. I’m not kidding. AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. Also, if you don’t happen to know what Very Emergency pertains to, but you’d like to hang out, my social schedule is cancer-free, and I’m back in the Tri-State for the foreseeable.