Hate Obamacare? Then please read this

In summer 2008, I was on a bus in downtown Salt Lake City. A few rows ahead, a guy pitched off the seat and slammed to the floor. He was having some kind of seizure. There were only a few people aboard; we alerted the driver and waited with the man until an ambulance arrived.

I went on my way, but was curious about the bus passenger. He looked scruffy and I wondered what his medical problems were and whether he had insurance. Fortunately for him, if he did not have insurance, at least our society provided him a bit of emergency care.

About a year later, I had a similar experience, this time as the patient. I got a fun ambulance ride and a whirlwind of attention from medical people, then a torrent of bills. My employer provides a decent insurance plan, so a lot of the expense was soaked up. But even so, I’ll be looking more carefully for stray dimes and pennies.

My ambulance bill was $1,404. The hospital charged $5,103. The radiologist who read a brain scan and filed a one-page report billed me $458. That’s almost $7,000 for an incident that ultimately was very minor. I was back to work the next day and the test results all came back normal over the next week.

Some of the detail charges were interesting. How about $189.90 in ambulance mileage? They collect $31.65 per mile, in my case, six miles. Use of the ambulance and the paramedic on board staffing, $900. Five bucks for a handful of baby aspirin. Another $90 for oxygen. And the final insult, $12 for “stretcher decontamination.” I’d been jogging, so getting my sweat off the stretcher added to our health care cost crisis.

A hundred years ago, a seizure sufferer would have been watched, then sent on his or her way once consciousness and a steady gait returned. Because of today’s miraculous technology, much more is possible. It’s great to rule out serious conditions and to identify and treat them if they are detected. But the miracles are expensive. I lost count of the number of people involved in my little corner of emergency care that day. Most carried tubes, clips, sheets, needles, drugs, machines. All had excellent training.

Someone had to pay for all of that, starting with me. I’m one of the lucky with insurance. Still, too much of the payments into the system are going to for-profit, nearly monopolized insurance conglomerates, and troops of doctors who have four-car mansions above Skyline Drive.

If you agree with the town-hall protesters that our existing system is sufficient and the Obama proposals are a threat to civilization, I offer two more examples of why Big Insurance should not be allowed to win this year’s health care battle:

“Death panels?” Froma Harrop will tell you about death panels. The columnist describes how a huge insurance company played keepaway with desperately needed coverage for potentially life-saving cancer treatment for her husband. She still wonders whether the delays by the “expense conscious” insurer actually ensured his death.

An old friend of mine from my Idaho news reporting days, Randy Stapilus, should be a textbook example for use by right-wing opponents of Obamacare. He fits the part of the independent American worker every way you could imagine. He’s big-brain smart, thoughtful, hard-working, dedicated, resourceful. He’s contributed to society non-stop for his entire adult life. He created and runs a business. He’s the ideal individual who can fend for himself and is no drain on any government program.

But, hold on. Randy found that insuring himself and his wife as a small business owner eventually became cost-prohibitive. Premiums went up, up and up. So, they had to drop their coverage. Then, a life-threatening illness pretty much turned his world on its head last year. Without insurance, he became another casualty of the fabulous health care system we have.

Please don’t tell me health care reform should not be passed this year. If people such as Randy Stapilus and Froma Harrop’s husband are thrown under the bus of Big Insurance’s profit machine, no one is safe. This cannot continue.

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26 Responses to Hate Obamacare? Then please read this

  1. Travis says:

    It’s not that health care reform shouldn’t be passed. It’s just that nothing on the table (well, maybe one, Tom Coburn’s proposal) is what we need. All of them will make it worse.

  2. Catherine Burt says:

    Would you like another irony?
    When I worked in health care a few years ago, (testing out a theory that I’d like to be a nurse when I grow up. I opted not to grow up.), I cared for many people (mainly elderly) in nursing homes. Medicaid and medicare paid me to bring them meds, feed, shower, and give them other daily care – I loved the work… but I didn’t have health coverage for myself. Couldn’t get it through my employer because I was kept less than fulltime… couldn’t afford it privately because of the meager wages CNAs are paid.

    My own health problems at that time put me in huge debt that I will be paying for, for a long time. Talk about being able to look at the water you’re not allowed to drink. Health care is a huge problem in this country. Anyone who says they are happy with the current situation is living in an ivory tower.

  3. laytonian says:

    Thanks, Mark

    I’ve told my family’s story many times (how our UNinsured 22-year-old daughter went into kidney failure, for unknown reasons) and after months of dialysis, had a kidney transplant. Our daughter worked full-time as a restaurant chef, but the job offered no insurance coverage. She wanted coverage, but it just wasn’t available.

    Our initial horror of the situation was compounded by the fact that we knew we’d have to sell our home to pay the bills.

    THAT’S when we found out that Medicare covered end-stage renal failure AND kidney transplants.

    We kissed the ground that day, and no longer regretted the payments that we’d been making into medicare nearly all of our working lives.

    But what if our daughter had needed a heart, a lung, a liver…or other organ? What if she’d had cancer?

    We were lucky. She “only” needed a kidney, and the system (that we’d paid in to) was there for her.

    BUT….if this isn’t an example of a whacked-out medical system, I don’t know what is.

    Today, the newspaper featured a “cute” story about a brother-sister kidney transplant.

    But there was NO mention of how it was paid for. Why not?

    WHY have these stories about something that happens thousands of times a year, and leave out the details that might wake up some people?

    In fact, I’ll bet you that the people involved in that story are ANTI health-care reform.

    Any takers?

  4. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Laytonian, the donor’s and recipient’s father is a doctor, according to the story. He must have pretty good insurance?

    I loved the story and the sacrifice made by that young woman. But now your comment has returned me to normal cynicism mode ;)

  5. laytonian says:

    Mark, I’m not cynical about the donor and recipient.

    Not at all. I’ve been in a near-identical situation. My family came out going “huh?” Why is kidney disease covered yet other uninsured folks end up begging to save their child’s, life because they are unlucky enough to have a different disease.

    The doctor-father’s insurance shouldn’t come into play here, unless it’s really special and covers a 30-year-old adult son who is not a dependent and is employed.
    The donor is 20, and while she’s likely covered by her father’s insurance, donors do not incur any costs in the transplant.
    So….it’d be up to the son’s health insurance (through his teaching job?) and/or Medicare.

    I just see these (wonderful) stories as opportunities lost, because it’s a chance to bring up these issues to the very people who’d never read a story *about* health care reform.

  6. laytonian says:

    Here’s how AFRAID the Republicans are: they’re even putting doctored photos on the front of the Arizona Republican Party’s magazine!

    Pants on fire, Republicans!
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/32476259#32476259

  7. Pingback: Ridenbaugh Press/Northwest » The high cost of stayin’ alive

  8. stumblefall says:

    Why are the insurance companies allowing the ambulance to bill so much? As insurance holders we need to start holding their feet to the fire. Government shouldn’t be involved at all…they are already complicit in the scam.

  9. flatlander100 says:

    I was thinking along the same lines, MS, when I read the SE story about a week ago about the woman who had housed Raptor players who now needed medical care, and so the team was helping her raise money to pay for it.

    If she lived in England or Canada or Australia or France or Germany or Spain or the Netherlands or Sweden or Norway or Switzerland or anywhere else in the industrial western world, she would not have had to do that. Nor would any of the people we read about in the SE periodically who have to depend upon neighbors holding bake sales and spaghetti supers and talent shows and opening donation funds at banks because a friend or a friendr’s child needs expensive care and has no insurance to pay for it. Only in America does you or a wife or parent or child or getting the medical care without losing your home, and ending up bankrupted and in poverty depend as it so often does upon whether they can raise enough by begging for it. [Half the personal bankruptcies in the US are medical bankruptcies, and half of those people had medical insurance. ]

    Only in America….

    It hasn’t passed my notice either that the loudest wailers and peddlers of lies about the proposed national health care plans — the Palins, the Limpaws, the Gingriches, the Hannitys and their ilk — are all wealthy and will NEVER have to worry about whether they or their children can afford to see a doctor when they need to or get the operation necessary to save their lives.

  10. stumblefall says:

    –>Flatlander: Sometimes I can’t even believe I am hearing these posts in America. Let me translate what I just heard you say:

    “Only in America does you or a wife or parent or child or getting the medical care without losing your home, and ending up bankrupted and in poverty depend as it so often does upon yourself, instead of your neighbors, who have the money forcibly removed from them in Europe to pay for these sorts of things, but don’t in America”. Who do you THINK pays for socialized health care? How can you possibly justify stealing money from your neighbors for yourself? Why shouldn’t you have a bake sale or a spaghetti supper? Why shouldn’t you beg for it? It’s not yours! It belongs to your neighbors, and if they decide to help you out, they’ll be blessed for it! But you would rather they were FORCED to help you out? Only in America? Darn right, only in America. Only in America are we still free, but because of sentiments like yours, that put emotion over principle, pretty soon it won’t be anywhere.

  11. laytonian says:

    flatlander:

    Get real. A spaghetti dinner or a bake sale, to pay for medical costs? How much does that raise? $500? And that’s if there’s only one a month.

    How much do you think you’d REALLY collect, if EVERYONE was out on the street begging, holding bake sales or spaghetti dinners? Ten bucks?

    Where were you, when the government wanted to pay for roads and to send a man to the moon?
    Those things aren’t in the constitution, either.

    “….government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

    FOR the people, BY the people, flatlander.

    The people are speaking.

    Aren’t you the guy who said he’d sacrifice his family, rather than give in to (some wacky right-wing hate thing)…..but never mentioned putting his own life on the line for his family.

    I **have** put my life on the line for my child. I guess my daughter is lucky she’s mine, and not yours.

  12. Flatlander100 says:

    Laytonian:

    IN case you hadn’t noticed, as apparently you did not, I was commenting on the absurdity that in this, the wealthiest nation in the western world, people are having to resort to such measures as the charity of neighbors, bake sales, garage sales to raise money for medical care. Of course it’s inadequate, and laughably so. That was the point.

  13. Charles Trentelman says:

    my son had a very similar experience, Mark — a minor problem led to an ambulance ride that was billed at a cool $1,000 — he got it dismissed by pleading poverty (that english degree came to some good after all) but I wondered, — we fund those ambulances with tax money, why the hell do they cost so much?

    If I worked at a newspaper…..

  14. sandman says:

    Ambulances bill because they have to to survive. Unlike the fire department which is funded and over-funded for decades, EMS probably gets about 1/3 of its budget from tax/governmental funding and the rest is made up with patient billings. And you’d want it this way – think of it as a user fee. If they didn’t bill, your taxes would go up and then you’d be crying that you never use the ambulance and therefore should not have to pay for it.

  15. leftofutah says:

    Once again, I agree with Flatlander100 and, of course, CT.

    What tends to drive me nuts is the bare-faced hypocricy. It reminds me of Lee Atwater and his post-cancer conversion from GOP attack-dog and slime merchant to a contrite, humbled man; apologizing to all those he had slurred during his tenure with Reagan and Bush.1.

    I guess just as there are no athiests in foxholes, likewise, there are no Conservatives in emergency rooms.

  16. laytonian says:

    flatlander: mea culpa.

    I was remembering a PAST post by stumblefall…..who DOES advocate that kind of begging, got so steamed again, that I lost my mind when I used your name.

    Here’s what stumblefall said in that past thread ” If one of them was sick and wasn’t covered, I would beg for the money. From my family, then from my Church, then from the citizens in my community. I would never, ever steal from any of them to save a life. But nobody even knows what it’s like to throw themselves on the mercy of charitable donors, or to feel the warmth in their heart from helping someone desperately in need….”

    Again, my apologies. Confusing you with the other poster is shameful on my part.

  17. Charles Trentelman says:

    sandman — actually, considering the benefits to society and the easing of concerns for people hurt in accidents, I’d be perfectly fine with my taxes going up a bit to pay for free ambulance rides for everyone who needs one.

  18. flatlander100 says:

    Laydonian:

    De nada. Been there. Done that. Post a lot, it happens.

  19. stumblefall says:

    –> laytonian: Thanks for coming around to attributing the words to me. I stand by them. As you apparently failed to notice, I clarified in a later statement that when I mentioned my family I was including myself. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that they would forcibly take the money at the point of a gun from their neighbors in order to save a life. Of course, the people that think that way don’t usually own guns, and people that think like me usually do, so the socialists have to rely on the government to do their dirty work for them.

  20. stumblefall says:

    –>laytonian: Are you seriously telling me that you are against public roads and the government’s venture into space? I can’t believe it! I didn’t think we had anything in common. You’re right, they aren’t constitutional and we shouldn’t have done them. By the way, I wasn’t born when we went into space or when Eisenhower created the national highway system. But I am on the record as opposing NASA’s shameful government monopoly of the space program, and working towards a user-based funding of the road system. Guess it’s not just me!

  21. Michelle Savage says:

    It is so sad that people fear change so much. That people have given up on our president so quickly. Remember people that he has only been in office 8 months and he was left with decades of waste in spending and a health care system that is pathetic to put it mildly. Be realistic and give it some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and America can’t be fixed overnight. But I believe in the very depths of my soul that it can indeed be fixed. But we all need to work together and fix what needs fixing.

    Those of you who don’t think health care reform is needed have never had to lie on your bed suffering from excruciating chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea (all signs of heart attack in someone my age) wondering if you should go to the emergency room or wait and see if it passes, hoping that you don’t die, because you know you have a congenital heart problem but you can’t afford the visit. You have never had a friend help you put your hip back together after dislocating it because it is Sunday, the sliding fee scale clinic is closed, and you can’t go to the ER because you have no insurance. This isn’t being dramatic. I have experienced both. My husband and I have both worked for small businesses until recently. He was laid off in January because they could no longer afford to pay him. His new job offers health insurance, but the cost is huge. We are doing everything we can think of to be able to budget for it. We even gave up TV (which i’m sure horrifies most people) . I would give up the internet if it were not necessary for my work. We have given up a lot of things but still aren’t quite there.
    The problem I see here is that certain politicians are being contrary just to be contrary. They are not helping with solutions, they are making more problems with the false information they feed the ignorant and uninformed. They use scare tactics to frighten people away from supporting our president’s efforts to actually help the people of the United States. Not all of the ideas are perfect, but that is why he is asking the American people for their input. He sincerely wants this reform to be the best it can be for US not big business.
    Change is frightening people, all change is, but seriously, it has to be done. We can either help it along or drag our feet. But something must change so that children get their immunizations, elderly get the attention they need and people who are trying to keep in shape to prevent more healthcare costs can have their hip fixed by a qualified physician. Also so people don’t have to eat unhealthy 10 cents per package noodles for years to pay for their one visit to the Dr. Don’t tell me that Obama wants to let our elderly die of neglect because you saw it on some terrifying commercial. What you saw is propaganda and shame on the politicians who would promote such lies! Read and be informed and try to have an open mind. Those commercials prey on your ignorance. It is not about liberal this or conservative that, it is about working together as Americans to have a better future for our children and our children’s children. What has been done in the past doesn’t work. We need to try something new. There is no avoiding it.

  22. willbike says:

    Flatlander likes to prove his point by sacrificing himself in hypothetical situations that are never going to happen. How bold!

  23. laytonian says:

    stumblefall: You CANNOT attempt to play “constitution doesn’t say so” via-a-vis healthcare, when highways NASA, the EPA, or other programs that you may benefit from, are ALSO not in the constitution.

    You also say ” I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that they would forcibly take the money at the point of a gun from their neighbors in order to save a life”.

    Honey, it happens every day. Home invasion robberies, selling drugs, multiple bank robberies, thefts — whey else do you think people are committing crimes-for-money?

    No one’s stupid enough (even in your fantasies) to point a gun at a neighbor who’d recognize them…..but there are plenty of areas in Utah where that’s happening outside one’s neighborhood.

    Does it have anything to do with health care? As much as any other family financial situation.

    You are you, until “it” happens to you. Then it’ll be spaghetti and car wash time…….lined up against the thousands of other people trying to do the same thing.

  24. willbikie says:

    Sorry flatlander I was trying to quote STUMBLEFALL there.

    Stumblefall likes to prove his point by sacrificing himself in hypothetical situations that are never going to happen. How bold!

  25. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Flatlander, ripped by mistake twice in the same thread. And apologized to twice as well. Scoreboard for you.

  26. michael says:

    Just wanted to say I have medicaid because I am poor and I am fully covered for everything. I go every six weeks to have several pre-cancerous growths frozen off my face. I have acid reflux disease and other things. I only pay $3.00 for ev ery visit to the doctor or dentist and only $3.00 for every prescription. And have very, very expensive prescritions. I pay no premiums. Only a month ago they canceled dental because it wasn’t budgeted but it will come back it always does. I lack nothing for medical care. The poor are very well taken care of. I won;t be in this condition for long though.

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