End the Healthcare Nightmare

  • I sat and listened as this man, a good man at heart, was blaming the high cost of health care on people who don't do the right things to take care of themselves, and on young people who would "rather buy a new vehicle than buy into their employer's health plan." Then, he says, "They break a leg, and everyone else pays for this."


    Okay. Fair is fair. This happens.


    As I listen, however, I'm thinking of the drug bill I just put on my charge account to pay for my son's medications. My son is in his twenties. I'm thinking, as this man is speaking, "Would you have told my son, at age five, that the reason he had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is that he wasn't living right? That the reason he was the "sick kid" in school was because he didn't take care of his health?

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    I'm thinking of a friend of mine, a young mother who nearly died during child birth. She "survived" to live in a nursing home for the rest of her life, because her heart had stopped during the delivery of her baby and her brain was deprived of oxygen too long. She is no longer able to function mentally, except on a very basic level. Meanwhile, her young husband struggles to raise their son alone and to pay bills. He is responsible for her medical care. This is not about lack of love. This is about this young man having enough money left from his check to take care of his young child and perhaps, someday, rebuild his life.


    Though he will never abandon his wife, the mother of his child, he should be able to have a future with a woman who can be a mother to his child. Is this because someone didn't pay attention to his or her health and then thought "society should pay the bill?"


    I'm thinking of the elderly mother of a friend. The woman had some compression fractures and needed nursing home care for awhile. She had planned ahead and purchased one of the older long-term care policies - the ones with more holes than your grandma's crocheted afghan. None of her costs fit the "terms of coverage" that the plan offered. So, she had paid $30,000 in insurance payments for nothing. She still had to pay the nursing home costs. The worst part is that she blames herself for making a "poor decision." I assured her she didn't. She made the best decision she could have made, at the time. Is this drain on her income, which will no doubt, eventually, put her on Medicaid, her fault? Did she not do "the right thing?"


    Yes, there are young people who have jobs that offer health benefits, and they don't sign on. They think they are immortal. I know that happens, but from my perspective this is not the big issue. The issue is that people who try to do the right thing, but have circumstances hand them huge medical debt they can't recover from, are not unusual. A huge part of the bankruptcies in this country aren't because people "live beyond their means." They are because people are forced into debt by prescription prices or other health costs. They simply can't pay the bill. I will not deny my son the medications he needs, no matter what it does to me financially. Many others are faced with this same dilemma because of the ill health of a child or spouse.


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    As I said, this man I was listening to is a good man. He makes a lot of money, by my standards and those of most of the people I know. He's very big on personal responsibility. He has the attitude that if you do things right, you'll have all the bases covered.


    Well, I'm big on personal responsibility, too. I do my work to the best of my ability - in all of my jobs. I do what I need to do to take care of my health and my son's and not be a burden on society. I happen to have inherited a predisposition toward several types of arthritis. I happened to have passed this on to my son. Are we to blame when we need medication to remain functioning members of society? Tax paying members of society?


    As much as I admire many things about this man, I can't agree with his views on health care. I pray every day - not just for my own situation, but for so many people who are uninsurable because of pre-existing health problems, and people who lose their health care because of lost jobs, and elders who lose a lifetime of savings because their health puts a spouse in a nursing home - I pray we will elect leaders who "get it;" leaders who have the compassion and vision to find a way out of this health care nightmare, so everyone can have the care they need.


    Some states are trying out some brave new options. Let's look seriously at these and other options. Let's listen to each candidate, regardless of party, and let's really hear them. It will take bi-partisan support, so let's elect leaders who are willing to work with "both sides of the aisle."


    Let's press them all for a solution, so that people with health issues can live with dignity and hope. Let's make this nation accountable for taking care of its own.


    For more information about Carol go to www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.

Published On: December 07, 2007