Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare reform - the dirty tricks have to stop.

Before the old readers(if any are even left) get giddy, this isn't a come back. This is just the only place I can think of to park this particular topic as I'm going through a nightmare at the moment. And before I start, let's not bring doctors and nurses into this. The amount of respect I have for them cannot be summarized in words.

Healthcare reform's one of the most spoken words at the moment and how appropriate is it that I'm going through a torrid time while both sides are busy throwing arguments for and against reform. Past readers know I'm quite apolitical and in my current state, I'm really developing a resentment for the under-handed tactics employed by the Republicans. I've seen the underhanded tactics employed during the Prop 8 vote in Cali, when hordes of ads ran on my TV telling me my child would be taught about gay marriage etc. But even that didn't really get my goat but the recent protests in town hall meetings have. Before we dive into it, let me give you an insight into my own healthcare experience. (Yes, it could have been much worse, but bad is still bad. )

I had a sprained ankle back in Jan/Feb 2008 and had to go to an urgent care center (which thankfully my PPO with United HealthCare supported). X-rays taken, co-pays paid, grade-1, possibly a grade-2 sprain (dodged a bullet because I thought it was either ligament damage at the least or a break). Time rolls by and I had moved from the old place in Southern Cal to the Bay Area at the start of 2009. All is forgotten about this incident until March 2009 when I get a collection notice for $300 from the place I went to. Quite stunned, I called them back as to why I'm being handed a collection notice when I'd paid my co-pay at the time. The answer was quite a bizarre one. The health care center had sent all the docs to United HealthCare but UHC didn't get back to them. Ergo, they decided to bill me instead. Quite miffed, I called UHC (at this point, I was no longer with them) and after two days of 2+ hours on the phone multiple times, I was still no closer to an answer. After involving some high level help, I came to find out that UHC didn't accept the claim because they thought I was in an automobile accident and so, didn't want to pay the health care center. Umm.. What. the. F**k? So, there's sod all proof and so they decide to do nothing and let the claim sit on their desk? I called up the healthcare center, told them I ain't paying them as there's absolutely nothing I've done wrong here and the fault was with UHC. The healthcare center, while agreeing with me, mentioned that they needed someone to pay and if I could pay it and deal with UHC. I'm pretty sure if that option was taken up, that would definitely have been "Good night sweet prince" for my money.

After much high-level pressure from me and those helping me, UHC finally decided to pay out the money to the center. This essentially IS the problem with healthcare in this country. Organizations that are in it purely for profit. This isn't about campground stories of how insurance companies not willing to pay money because they can't care less about people but this is about my own experience. Why would I even remotely care whether such cut-throat entities would cease to exist or be forced to make changes to the way they operate? Why would I NOT want them forced to cut down their profits and act in a morally and ethically right way when they are faced against someone who doesn't care about profit (i.e the Government)? The mindless comparisons to the NHS is simply wrong and ignorant. The NHS while not being a smooth system is still a very good catch-net. Those unable to afford healthcare in this country would throw roses at such a system were it to be implemented and yet, those same folk who would benefit from it mindlessly protest it and/or talk it down. (Looking right at you Mr. Kenneth Gladney)

The main entities opposed to healthcare reforms don't have the best interests of the people in mind. It's all well and good to go and shout "socialists" or "commies" when someone speaks about the current healthcare reform but how many of these protestors even know about the current healthcare and its issues? There have been instances of Senior citizens and even one or two Veterans protesting and asking the government to stay out of their healthcare. Bizarre, considering the government IS their healthcare provider. (Go read up Medicare and VA). This mentality has definitely got to stop. The insurance companies are a joke and I definitely don't see why everyday people are blindly jumping to the defense of these organizations who care only about making a buck.

And on the other side, those pushing the healthcare reform are equally as bad. This isn't an issue that should be done overnight or in a week. Yes, the amount of money involved is huge but not properly explaining what the reform is meant to do is suicide. Worse still is a half-baked reform that doesn't do any good to the people. And I still don't get why no politician ever bothers with things like this. Maybe this is why I'm so disillusioned by politics. So, on to the much-maligned NHS.. yes, it takes time for someone to get a complex procedure done, but unlike here in the US, they don't have to pawn their lives away for a critical health condition. They don't go untreated and yes, those bleating the old "death panel" lines (O hi, Mrs Palin) are lying their heads off. I've got friends in the UK who have nothing but praise for the NHS because more often than not, everyday medical issues get solved without fuss. There is no insurance company sitting in the middle trying to deny a claim for the flimsiest of reasons. (I still wish I could have taken UHC to task) And yet, the opponents to healthcare reform will have you believe that this system is so flawed and wrong and is essentially a death sentence for your loved ones. Remember that those at the heart of the storm are happily enjoying government sponsored healthcare. I really wish these opponents of healthcare reform go through the pain and the tears of dealing with the issues the rest of us have to contend with.

I'm not here to suggest what is right or what is wrong. I'm merely speaking of my experience. Before you protest something or reject something, take the time to know what it is that you are going against. Consider the large scale impact of what would be were such a reform to fail. Consider how your own life would be affected were this to fail. Listen to facts and not some politician who is far removed from reality and the daily struggles of the everyday human. The petty comments of "death panels" or the even more ugly "they won't pay for my surgery but they will pay for abortions" type ads should be rightly ignored, but sadly, they won't be.


I wish things change, but we don't always get what we want in life. I also wish this article is coherent because (no, not an excuse) I'm writing this in quite a lot of pain thanks to back spasms. Thanks current healthcare for giving me the confidence to wait as long as possible before going to get it checked. And one last parting salvo. Just because the NHS is free, it doesn't mean the level of care is poor. The people working for the NHS are absolutely stellar. There are a couple of folks from the UK I really know who will vouch for these excellent folk.

And before I leave, a pretty neat website I stumbled upon : http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/08/not-all-socialist-countries-are-alike.html

Read the comments to. Quite eye opening.

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