Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Why I'm Upset About What's Going on With Health Care in Washington

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's get a couple of things straight right off the bat: I'm a political independent and a fiscal conservative. I believe people who are not here illegally and people who refuse to work for a living shouldn't get government handouts. (Private help for those folks is fine. That's not what I'm talking about.) But what about those hard working people who can't seem to get above water? (Please read John Scalzi's Being Poor for reference.)

Let's take some of the families in my neighborhood. One parent is working the overnight shift, stocking shelves at a discount store. Hey, it pays a bit more than the day shift, and the other parent can now lawns or be a barista during the day, which means the children won't be left alone. Neither job has health insurance, though one parent has bought into a catastrophic care plan. One parent used to have a really good job - until it went overseas. The other parent had a decent job - until their employer laid off 25% of their staff and rewarded their CEO a few million dollars for cutting costs. Both parents have college degrees and are actively looking for better jobs.

One of their two children has asthma. (The other is healthy.) A maintenance inhaler is over $100 a month. Let's not talk about the rescue inhaler (two - one for school and one for home. Well, three, because you really need that emergency backup) and the nebulizer and meds for that. Well visits? Ha. You only go to the doctor if there's a problem or you need a new prescription for the kid, because an office visit starts at $75. The catastrophic health care will kick in should mom find a lump in her breast. Let's hope it covers everything.

Sometimes they face a choice between food and meds. The kid wins, even if it means beans for a week. If dad needs antibiotics? Hell, he'll just keep fighting the bug and hope he doesn't land in the hospital. And when the kid has to go to the emergency room? Let's hope the catastrophic plan covers it.

This family has a house - that they're barely able to stay in because one of them thought to get that mortgage insurance no one ever buys that covers job loss - and they pay taxes. Their small savings is dwindling by the day. They don't want to take money from the government.

Their child has a severe asthma attack at school and the school nurse calls an ambulance. A couple of weeks later, mom finds a lump in one of her breasts.

This family is going to lose everything.

They stand a good chance of ending up on public support, and how much is THAT going to cost us?

Yes, it's going to cost money to insure people like this, and to pay for mammograms, wellness checkups, and meds. This family would have purchased insurance if it hadn't cost them $1,000 or more a month and if the insurer wouldn't have excluded the child with asthma. Think about it. What costs less? A couple hundred in maintenance meds every month or a visit to the ER every month or two? An annual mammogram and PAP smear for mom with surgery and possibly a short course of chemo or radiation for that breast issue that was discovered early (or even better, extra imaging that shows it's only a cyst), or surgery and treatment for advanced cancer? So much for mom working full time.

A quarter of a century ago insurers discovered that it cost less in the long run to pay for wellness care and regular screening for certain diseases than it did to wait until it was too late. I'm sure it cost them some money during the transition as people flocked to get checked out. But what has it saved in the long run?

People who lose their insurance over pre-existing conditions may find it difficult to secure future employment. And what does that mean? Oh, we'll probably end up  paying for their medical care, for their food stamps, their welfare checks, and so on. If these folks want to work and pay their share of taxes, shouldn't we make it easy for them to choose work over public assistance?

We're going to pay for it one way or another, make no mistake about that. What would you rather do? If it was you, and you had decent insurance benefits and weren't worried about losing your coverage over whatever they arbitrarily defined as a pre-existing condition, wouldn't YOU get your wellness exams and take your meds (if you need them) rather than end up very ill and unable to support your family?

That's what we're facing now.

I'm just one blogger in a dark corner of the Internet, but please, call on Congress to make common sense health care reforms. It's like those ads used to say: "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."

Which would YOU choose?

Tags: Life Politics

Filed under: Life   Politics         


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