#insurancepoll : the problem with healthcare

About 8 hours ago Amanda Palmer posted the tweet below to Twitter. I’ve been watching the feed all day, chiming in from time to time, mostly reading, absorbing and thinking about my own experience.


quick twitter poll. 1) COUNTRY?! 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?
@amandapalmer
Amanda Palmer

Twitter exploded. Read the feed for yourself. It’s heart wrenching the stories being told in 140 characters. The visuals of families, their lives decided by where they live and what job they’ve managed to hold on to. Anyone doing okay writes how lucky they are.

I’ve been on several sides of this messed up coin, the seemingly basic human right to be taken care of and healthy that’s oft debated.

My family has been lucky enough to always have insurance, though I know we paid (pay). My dad, the only one who could work, had his job long enough that we didn’t run into too many issues with pre-existing conditions. But he was a mill worker and if our family had been “typical” we probably would have been fine. (the more I grow and learn the more I realize that we were more typical than society would have us think).

My mom had been diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, back in 1963. I was a health risk to her and her condition was supposed to leave me mentally or physically disabled (I’m fine). When I was 2 or 3 she stopped working – I don’t know for sure if it was the benign tumors they had to remove, or just the beginning of a long downward slide that was started with the stress of pregnancy. When I was 5 1/2 she was diagnosed with Kidney failure, a terminal condition. For the next 17 years we fought to pay the rent, the bills, we fought insurance companies & medicare & social security. We fought to keep our heads above water.

We had insurance, and my dad switched jobs, and our insurance got “better”… but we still paid more than $1000 out of pocket every month. Add to that rent & utilities & food for three mouths all out of one paycheck and a small social security stipend. Insurance doesn’t save you when you’re really ill, it just keeps your head above water long enough for you to realize how badly you’re drowning.

In late 2009 I moved to France for a year, sometime just before Christmas I contracted bronchitis nearly bad enough to be hospitalized. I couldn’t lay down, you could hear me trying to breathe in the next room through a closed door. We called an emergency doctor at 2am.. all in all I paid maybe €150 ($250) for the visit(s) and medications. France doesn’t have completely socialized health care, but it’s a far cry better than the privatized nonsense that is healthcare in the states.

The next year I moved to London, not even 2 weeks after the move I managed to break my wrist in an opening tube door (I know, talent). 4 doctor visits, 3 x-rays, and an MRI later I never paid a cent to the NHS. Being American I spent several months terrified that a bill would arrive demanding money until a British friend explained to me that they don’t pay for their health care.

Now I’m in a very lucky situation. The company I work for provides us with what I’ve come to realize is very good insurance. I still have a high deductible, but nearly everything is covered to some extent and I don’t need a referral to see a specialist. I recently had to go in and see a sports medicine doctor, between his visit and the 4 x-rays they took of my knee I only paid $37. I’m really very lucky.

The thing is I shouldn’t be lucky. The situation I’m in should be at the very least normal, if not expensive. People who are much more ill than I have ever been should be able to take care of themselves without worrying about food or rent or bills. This is an industry that shouldn’t be about profits. This is an industry that should be about healing people. Just as the teacher or artist or writer does what they do because they love it so should other industries (not that some don’t). But we can not allow a system that’s focus is profit to take care of us. The inherent corruption in focusing on profits first tears apart the beautiful things of humanity. When we are healthy, when we are comfortable we can do so much more than when we are sick and afraid.