Monday, March 03, 2008

You Sold My Birthright For A Pot Of Message

One of my children is sick. Bronchitis or Strep Throat, or both, hard to say without equipment.

My wife and I worry about our children like most people do. We're not in panic over anything, although the consequences of illnesses like this are more severe for people like us than you might know. You see, you all mostly live in the magic world where money appears whether you're sick or not. If my children are sick, my wife and I will likely get sick. And when she is sick I must care for her and our children. And when I am sick, there is no money.

You likely call in sick when you're hung over, and save the remainder of your sickdays for sunny days in July, and go to work when you're ill and firing on three cylinders. Someone else picks up your slack. Or maybe you never call in sick because you're a demon and they have to bestow a check for the money on you at the end of the year. In any case, life does not stop.

You have been told, and you tell me, over and over, that my only problem is that I don't have Health Insurance. I tried to explain that it isn't insurance you have and want me to have. You have joined a club and pay a very expensive retainer and then visit the club when you are a little ill or a lot or more often these days, you go because you are neurotic and what the hell, it's "free." And by the way, that "insurance" is subsidized by making it a tax-free benefit through work. Poor people pay taxes so that the well-to-do can get vouchers for their medical care, a goodly portion of it of no real value unless you're a hypochondriac. Real insurance guards against catastrophe. A bill for a doctor's visit for sore throat is not catastrophe. Cancer would be, for instance. But since you are not allowed to buy insurance against catastrophe in Massachusetts without taking all the other trivial and superfluous things various medical and political lobbies demand be included in any insurance, the cost is so prohibitive that you can't afford it.

You all talk endlessly about "access to healthcare." There are three words in that expression, and I have a problem with two of them. It's not"access," and there is no such thing as "healthcare." You can go right along using the "to" if you like.

I used to have "access" to a doctor. I'd call them and make an appointment and go see them and pay them. But that wasn't good enough for you. You decided I needed "Healthcare," good and hard, and so it was made illegal to live in the state of my birth unless I either paid $1100 a month I don't have for services I not only don't need, but many I would fight to the death to avoid having; or I could pay a fine for every month I didn't pay; or I could be made a pauper and go on welfare.

I am not an automobile. I can't stay healthy by going to the doctor all the time and having my oil changed. You are an imbecile if you think that you're immortal and bulletproof and if you just go to the doctor all the time you'll be healthy. The doctor can do very important and well defined things to help you if you are ill in certain ways. The rest is up to you. All the advice I've ever received from doctors about being "healthy" has either been superfluous or bad.

So now it's mandatory that everybody in Massachusetts have "access to healthcare." You're going to get that "access" good and hard, in my case. But an interesting thing has happened.

As I said, my son is sick. Besides the immediate concern for his happiness and well-being, we have to guard against all of us being sick and me losing my ability to support us through my exertions. The least of my worries if we're all sick is the doctor's bills, although since doctors charge as if everyone has insurance they can be pretty daunting. We called his doctor, who has been seeing him for a decade. And they wouldn't see him. That has never happened before.

Well, they might. They said they'd call us back --sometime-- and let us know if the triage nurse thinks he's sick enough to look at. Otherwise, no. I thought triage nurses were for emergency rooms and M*A*S*H units. Silly me.

There's your access to healthcare. It exists but you can't have it. Money is all taken care of --for the supplier. The consumer is left to be ill or not at other's whims.

I will take my son to a dumpy stripmall ten miles away and sit there for a good long while and have a doctor who has never laid eyes on any of us before, who will no doubt have a very sketchy command of English, take a swab of his throat and see if the boy has strep throat. Perhaps with the illness caught in time, the doctor will save us all. And I will pay that doctor with money. Willing buyer, willing seller. Ever heard of it?

I'm sure they'll get around to passing a law against that in the near future, too. They'll say it's ruining the "access to healthcare" for everybody else.

What a desperado I've become. You'd best not be seen associating with me.


PatHMV said...

Right on. When I was without insurance (while self-employed, of course), I visited an "after-hours" clinic that was aimed at people who couldn't just take off work to go to the doctor, and thus had evening hours and on holidays and the like. Didn't even need an appointment, and I never had to wait more than about 20 or 30 minutes to be seen. Doctor gave me antibiotics when I had a sinus infection, and I paid for his time (expensive) and then I paid for the antibiotics. And they were cheap at the price, compared to the alternative of being sick and maybe dying.

On strep throat, I warned that doctor once that some of my siblings had strep, and so I might have it. The kind doctor, knowing I was footing the bill myself, told me that he could do a test to see if I had strep, but that he was going to give me the same antibiotic whether it was strep or some other bacterial infection, so did I want to pay for the test? I thanked him and declined.

If you lived in the still free state of Louisiana, instead of the People's Republic of Massachussetts, you could do the same thing! Plus, we have many, many fine old cypress trees just itching to be converted into good, old-fashioned furniture.

Hope the cave-child gets well soon!

Larry said...

[Maybe y'all would be interested in an email I wrote just a while ago to my kids and a few other adults close to me.]

I don't know how many of you met Michael--he had had polio as a child and his arms were (whole upper torso was, actually) atrophied.

He had had surgery to relocate some muscles that gave him some use of one hand but he used his feet for many things--including driving a car.

And he could do most things that he wanted to do it seemed like. "Wanting to" seemed more important than his limitations.

I got word this morning that he died in late February of "post-polio" -- the disease apparently renews its attack on victims that live long enough.

He is one of the people I think about when I get to thinking about how bad I have it, or somebody wants to convince me of how bad the world has gotten.

For those of you, like me, that are mildly claustrophobic, "google" for "iron lung" some time. I knew people that lived in them when I was a kid.

I remember the terror (not a hyperbolic use of the term) of the precautions about public swimming pools (polio), ordinary dust and dirt from the street (tuberculosis), "duck and cover" drills (atomic attacks), and I can no longer which were what in what we learned about diphtheria, small pox, and a variety of skin and eye infections that we had to deal with. Chicken pox, measles, and mumps where things that everybody got, some died from.

We don't have it so bad, most of us.

I'll miss Michael and I feel bad that I didn't stay in closer touch, but I'm glad I knew him because I learned what the real limits to my abilities are from him and people like him.

[Michael was the same age as my younger brother--4 years younger than I.]

thud said...

Interesting post...I,m moving between America and England at the moment.In England healthcare isn't an issue as even though a bloated monster our N.H.S. has for me at least worked perfectly.Whilst in america I am at a complete a foreigner its a really confusing mess..believe me.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I'm talking to St. Blaise for the boy.

And for you: thanks a lot. Now I really, really dislike Mitt.

AJ Lynch said...


You may be sick but you ain't losing any grey matter yet! Hang in there buddy - I know exactly what you are saying about our "healthcare"system especially now that they have screwed it up in Massachusetts. The old Soviets should have learned us all we wanted to know about govt "price controls, etc". It just makes stuff scarce!

Can I assume you would not have supported old Gov. Romney had he gotten the prez nomination?

Anwyn said...

Sippican, I'm so sorry. It is horrible what the idea of having somebody else pay has done to our wallets and our doctors ... and our ability to utilize either when somebody is sick.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi everybody. Mitt Romney isn't a bad guy. He simply could not picture a world with someone like me in it. I did not use to be so rare, it seems to me.

My son will be fine, of course. I simply wished to describe a process that is invisible to many. I do not think you should expect to be a stranger to it much longer.