Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Health Insurance

I am going to the dentist today. Oh joy.

As a punishment for brushing regularly but not seeing him for over a year, I now have to undergo a torture called "deep cleaning." It means that there will be lots of scraping and blood and swelling. All this, in the name of health. Personally, I think it's his way of teaching me a lesson.

I'm just grateful I have dental insurance. A crown that would normally cost almost $2,000 will cost me only $300.

Of more importance is the fact that I suspect I have gallstones. I trained to be an EMT many years ago, and grew up with a famous scientist who agrees with my diagnosis.

I don't dare to declare to my doctor because I'm trying to find a better insurance company as quickly as possible before I have to undergo surgery for it (which I'll undoubtedly have to go through).

The state of American health care being what it is, you can have no health problems if you want good insurance. If you DO have health problems, you can still have insurance but it won't cover those health problems.

So, I'm saying nothing, and treating myself with homeopathic remedies in the hopes that I can hold off declaring it until I get a better insurance policy that doesn't have a $2,500 surgical deductible.

...and they say we don't need nationalized health care.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

It should be free or part-paid for by the government.

I find the situation in the US so bizarre, how can basic care be so costly, why is their profit in medecine when there should be none!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm sure everyone here has seen SICKO but if you've not, watch pleaase!

United We Lay said...

One of the big dangers of my job is exposure to illness since our students can't afford health care and usually don't have insurance. TB and MRSA were both issues last yeat, as well as a particularly awful case of the flu. SICKO well illustrates the problems with the system. One of the reasons we have considered leaving the country is that we are afraid of going bankrupt if one of us gets sick.

Ed Abbey said...

My wife practiced medicine in England for several years where they have nationalized healthcare. Here in America, you go to the doctor, get the diagnoses and get surgery almost immediately. In England, you go to the doctor, get diagnoses, sit around for many months waiting your turn while in extensive pain as people with colds, flus and other everyday over-the-counter fixable illnesses clog up the system because it is "free". Give me our cash gets you priority system anyday over nationalized healthcare. If we want to reduce the costs, we need to put in tort reforms and figure our how to reduce malpractice insurance costs. For my wife to practice here in Iowa, malpractice insurance premiums run over one hundred thousand dollars per year! Now figure what she has to charge to pay for that and make a living and you will get some idea why our medical system is so expensive.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

UWL: the idea that peope can't afford to get sick was a strong them in SICKO and is still a shocking thing to grasp.

Ed: the trouble is, money buys you privilege which is no good as a system of working. Also, the health service in the UK, far from perfect, works well and any treatment I've needed has been speedy and efficient.

Money should not be part of medecine.

M@ said...

I had to pay $1,100 for my last crown w/ a 50% copay. Jesus Christ.

daveawayfromhome said...

"why is their profit in medecine when there should be none!"

Damn straight! I've had serious reservations about the morality of profit in healthcare for quite a while. How ethical is it to become wealthy from the sickness and misery of others? Sounds like taking advantage of someone's misfortune to me.

"Give me our cash gets you priority system anyday over nationalized healthcare"

This is a fine sentiment, assuming that you have cash laying about. For those of us without such reserves, it's not so good.

As for tort reform, however noble the intentions of its supporters (and since doctors and insurance companies seem most in favor of it, I'm not very willing to grant much nobleness), the true results usually seem to be only a lesser consequence for the wrongdoers, with little or no reduction in lawsuits.
A better response would be to have doctors police their own ranks better, give judges more power to toss out frivolous lawsuits before they eat up too much expensive lawyer-time, and maybe convince those being sued that settling out-of-court isnt (in the long term) the cheapest solution to being sued.

Fred said...

I'm totally against nationalized health care. I lived in the U.K. and was enrolled in the National Health Service (NHS). I would challenge anyone who believes in that model to move overseas, then come back a few years later with their assessment.

In fact, many companies in the U.K. now offer what they call "private cover" so that people can see doctors within a reasonable amount of time and receive quality health care. It's designed to circumvent the NHS.

Large government programs are usually doomed because of the inevitable bureaucratic costs that rise with no accountability. That's not what we need.

I accept the fact that our system is broken and needs work. It is simply unacceptable to have so many people without insurance. We need malpractice reform and we need tax-effective strategies that allow people to afford enrollment in a medical/dental network, including those who are unemployed.

I wish the next president the best of luck on this issue. It needs to be solved.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

M: Jesus Christ indeed!

Dave: we agree on many things so I'm going to start linking to you so I don't miss your words.

Fred: I still live here and I challenge your words, it's a better system in the UK than the US, not only because it's free but because poverty is not punished, treatment is not based on wealth and that alone, in this time of profit in everything (even Christ) is a blessing.

Paul Nichols said...

Hi, Saur. I left a comment on your July 1 post. Then I read this post. Who are the charlatans, after all? Circuit riding preachers--or doctors or pharmaceutical companies or insurance companies? Or all of the above?

Ed Abbey said...

Daniel - The healthcare in the UK is most certainly NOT FREE! I've seen what you pay for taxes over there.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Us Europeans have no problem with hign taxes to pay for good services, better than then money effecting the status of your care.

Ed Abbey said...

And that my friend, is why we dumped the tea in the harbor and fought a war.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Indeed and now look at you!

Only joking...


Ed Abbey said...

When it comes down to it, the way our respective systems work now, you either pay for it with high taxes taken out of every check or you pay exorbent fees as needed. Either way, you pay. So for me it comes down to quality and the U.S. has the best bar none. That is because we allow doctors and hospitals to profit and have incentive.

Ed Abbey said...

Sorry about that. I couldn't resist poking a bit of fun.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Er no, taxes aren't high in the UK certainly not so that people miss on healthcare.

Bad maths there Ed I'm afraid because poorer people pay less tax but get the same service, rather than poorer people in the US not being able to helathcare at all.

Ed Abbey said...

40% in the UK versus 25% in the US for equivalent wages isn't a big difference? Google it up, our tax brackets have about 15% difference in them. That's a lot of difference.

Ed Abbey said...

The poorest people in America have nationalized health care. It's called Medicaid and Medicare. The issue are those in the middle who can't afford it.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Not when you take aboard quality of life, levels of wages and what you get for your taxes.

Also, most people don't pay the 40% rate, most are on 22%.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I would argue that many people not in the middle and those below the middle, the above the poverty line but working 8 jobs to make ends meet are also greatly effected.
Sorry, you'll never be able to convice that paying for healthcare is a good idea.

It should be free.

Ed Abbey said...

I'm not trying to convince you. I'm trying to point out the flaws in your logic. Namely... nothing is free... and certainly not a nationalized healthcare system.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

It's freer than $1,100 for a crown!

Anonymous said...

Ed: The poorest people in America have nationalized health care. It's called Medicaid and Medicare. The issue are those in the middle who can't afford it.

I was thinking this and glad you said it, Ed

Dave:Sounds like taking advantage of someone's misfortune to me.

Aren't auto mechanics doing the same thing? Or even any repair person, really?

Not that people are cars.... But failing health is not that much different than a broken piece of machinery.

Or are we suggesting that the US actually values human life?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

But Medicare is on its arse money wise and looks after the old, which is great but a given in Europe.

And Medicaid's eligibility criteria are famous for their robustness and Kafka-esque levels of intrigue.

daveawayfromhome said...

"Or are we suggesting that the US actually values human life?"

There's not much in U.S. policy to suggest that human life is of much concern in any terms except that of lip service.

* * *

Has the fear of (and victory over) communism so fucked up the psyche of the American conservative that they fail to recognise the mutual advantages of collective service, including taxes? The problem is not taxes, it's the waste of taxes.
Our water systems, our highway systems, rural electrification, the Tennessee Valley Authority and its like; all these things were the result of taxes, and of the wealthy sharing, disproportionally, the cost. And let's face it, whatever the cost, the wealthy, most often, recieve a disproportionate amount back from such expenditures.
Let's take health care: Will a healthy populace, especially the poorer ones who do most of the work that leads to the wealth of the rich in the first place, be more able to be productive than the current, more sickly, workforce? If the answer is "yes", then wont that greater productivity lead to greater riches? (because any working person knows that greater productivity rarely leads to more money for the worker, though his boss might get a fat bonus.)

Saur♥Kraut said...

I step away for a while, and see what happens - all hell breaks loose! ;o)

Seriously, a great discussion here.

Here is a little of what I'm thinking:

1. Yes, you pay for healthcare, no matter what. In the UK (and other similar countries) they undoubtedly do pay, so a 'free' system isn't really free.

However, I went to college in Sweden for a while. I saw their national health care. I was lucky to be hospitalized for FREE. Yeah, FREE.

I realize that if I'd been living there permanently, I'd be paying taxes and it wouldn't have been free, but I am constantly amazed by that. It would've cost a FORTUNE here.

2. BECAUSE national healthcare is, by definition, nationalized ... there is the possibility for

A) Graft
B) Poor Care
C) Reasonable prices with reasonable services.

We see A and B in our Veteran's healthcare system right now, but IMHO it's because we ALLOW it. If we involve the entire population in healthcare, there will be a lot less that we'll be willing to allow.

3. We won't know till we try. I know that this will be met by all kinds of howls from my fellow conservatives, because we know how hard it is to RESCIND something like that. I suggest a compromise: National health INSURANCE for the time being, which will be given a lifespan of, say, 4 years and will be automatically rescinded if Congress doesn't vote overwhelmingly to let it continue.

4. Everyone agrees the system is broken. And we'll keep agreeing and doing nothing until our hands are forced in this matter. Republicans hate the idea because major campaign monies are generated from these big insurance and medical supply / pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and hospitals. In fact, healthcare generates WADS of money.

Big Business views national healthcare with the same enthusiasm that sensible men view unprotected sex with Pamela Anderson.

There are, frankly, times that pure capitalism doesn't work. It is never in a business's best interest to be charitable: They always must view the bottom line.

That's why we have national charity programs like food stamps, WIC, Section 8 housing, etc. Big Business doesn't do those things because they're not profitable. They want to go where the profits are... healthcare, for instance. But should they be entitled to make a buck at our expense?

After all, it is commonly believed that there are many cures which could be 'discovered' if it wasn't in Big Business's best interest to have sick people abounding.

For instance, which is more in Big Business's best interest? A cure for cancer valued at $10,000 or ongoing cancer treatments valued at MUCH, much more?

daveawayfromhome said...

"2. BECAUSE national healthcare is, by definition, nationalized ... there is the possibility for

A) Graft
B) Poor Care"

As opposed to the free market, which is soooo honest.

One of the great advantages of Nationalized Healthcare would be its transparency (assuming it's not run by anyone from the Bush Administration(s). Try to find out what's going on within a private company. The FOIA should take care of that problem (assuming that Democrats start funding it again).

The simple truth is that while there is no better system in the world for making money than capitalism, the point of Health Care is not supposed to be to create wealth, it's supposed to be to create wellness. The insurance industry is nothing more than a privately-run, for-profit system of skimming money out of the middle of the health-care chain.
Should any of the candidates plans which involves mandatory involvement in health insurance come to pass, it will be nothing more than a privatized tax plan with a remora of profit attatched to it.

Ed Abbey said...

Another blogger sent me an excellent link on my blog post of the same subject. It is about the architect of the Canadian nationalized heathcare system who now thinks something more along the way the U.S. does things is the better way to go.

Read it here.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Dave: I like your point regarding the effects of the Communist monster hiding under the bed still effecting the US phyche on anything that seems remotely socialist.

Ed: you can link to whatever you fancy, you'll never convince anyone used to and raised in a public helath care system to ever go back, we'd rather leave America to further push the gap between rich and poor while we look on.

daveawayfromhome said...

I have no doubt that there is a better way than the European system, but the American one it aint. I'm reasonably sure that any improvement in the system will require the removal of our for-profit insurance layer, since I can see no function of that portion of the system other than to skim cash from the process.
They will tell you that they administer the cash cushion and hold down costs, but the government can do the former without siphoning off any of the money for their own enrichment, and I dont see much evidence of the latter being in any way true.

One thing I find amusing about this whole healthcare debate is that the Republicans, who are usually so viscious about bureaucracy when it is in the government sector, dont seem to mind it in the private, even though, by their own theories, there ought to be far less of it there (and anyone who has ever dealt with an insurance company can tell you that there is not).

CrazyCath said...

Wow what an interesting debate. For the heck of joining in, I'm with Saurkraut, daveawayfromhome and Daniel Hoffman in that I have been brought up with the nationalised system. Whilst I complain and moan about the waiting lists etc, if I lived somewhere like America I would be either bankrupt (on the streets - my kids too) or dead.

No the NHS is not perfect. Yes it is paid for through taxes. What do your taxes go on? At least some of my taxes look after my health. And there are charges within the system too, which depends on income and is means tested. There are injustices, there are imbalances in places. There are those who are in the twilight of not earning quite enough to afford comfortably but earning too much to get all totally free, and I have often been there. But I have never had care or treatment refused on the grounds of inability to pay for it.

We have private care here too for those who DO have the money to queue jump should they wish. Or choose their hospital or surgeon or have a private room. But if you can't afford this, you will still get treatment and a competent practitioner and a bed, maybe in a bay of 6, but still an inpatient bed.

The waiting lists are the down side and is not about money (unless you count employment of staff) but about not enough staff. The main bone of contention here is those who come to the country and then receive free healthcare without contributing in the slightest to the system, and then going home after treatment without charge. This is being clamped down on more but frankly, I would hate to refuse medical treatment to ANYONE who needed it. To refuse it on the basis of nationality is as bad as refusing it on the basis of being unable to pay for it.

To possibly have a system where they would want your credit card number before your medical history is a scary thing to me. Just mho.

Deb said...

I hope the procedure goes as well as it possibly can for you.

Bee Repartee said...


I see the usual lively debate going on here. ;)

Congrats on your new job!! That's wonderful.

As for your health issue...OUCH. I take dandelion root proactively for this reason of no health insurance.

I've got a couple of the usual strikes against me. Doesn't Real Age's Dr Oz say female, fat, forty, and fair? I think I shall add 'family' to that one, too.

Anyway, here is to good health and yay for a good job!

United We Lay said...

I have a single friend in Lodon who needs a Green Card and you need health care - sounds like a match made in heaven.