In many instances, the issues that are most important to us are the ones that are deeply personal. So, I thought I would pull back the curtain on why health care reform is the one that seems to hit closest to home for me. In many ways, the term health care reform is a bad moniker. The level of health care is often top-notch. It is when insurance gets involved that we have issues.
This is one of those areas where issue framing rears its ugly head. If we called it “insurance reform” then suddenly I think everyone would be on board. Everyone has an insurance nightmare they can tell. When you call it health care reform it sounds like you are dissing doctors and nurses. Few people are on board with that.
In March of 2019 I began feeling bad. I had a what seemed like a cold and I know my foot started to hurt. I decided to take a day off of work. I was running a fever, so I went to one of those Minute clinics to get some medicine to tackle my cold. It wasn’t a cold. My body was fighting off a major infection in my foot. It had swelled and was starting to turn pink. They had me go to the emergency room.
I stayed in the hospital for six days as they cut my foot open to drain it and also spent the time trying to regulate my blood sugar. The intervening 18 months has been spent dealing with an endocrinologist for my diabetes, podiatrist for my foot, and a couple of ER visits for dehydration and dizziness.
Fortunately, I was able to transition off insulin about a year ago. Unfortunately, the medication they moved me too helps trigger that dehydration I mentioned earlier. I meet with one doctor every three months. I meet with the other one about twice a month. They’ve added me to numerous antibiotics to combat infections. That’s on top of the four medications they already have me taking regularly.
So, I’m obviously keenly interested in preexisting conditions, the price of pharmaceuticals, and the hoops that insurance make you jump through. I remember hearing about how cheap insulin was. I wonder where this cheap insulin was at, because I didn’t see it. What I’ve seen is that technology is such that living with a chronic illness is not a death sentence or even that much of an inconvenience. I have a monitor in my arm I switch out every two weeks that I can use my phone to check my blood sugar. When I did have insulin, I used a patch that gradually released it throughout the day. These inventions have made life so much easier. Dealing with the insurance and cost end of this deal is something else.
The hospital visit costs 70,000 dollars before insurance. Now, imagine if I had no insurance. Millions of Americans are literally living paycheck to paycheck. They couldn’t even afford one percent of that in one month. Recently, my podiatrist ordered bandages for my foot. I have a bone spur that causes a wound on the bottom of the foot to continually open. Mind you, we are talking bandages and gauze. Sure, some of this is nice stuff, but the cost before insurance ended up being just over 1200 dollars. Insurance is only paying for 700 dollars of it.
I get to have surgery next week to remove the bone spur. I just got a call on the phone that reported that I will be paying for more than 1000 dollars for that procedure. That’s outpatient surgery. Goodness knows how much it would have costed without insurance. In other words, I’m about to meet my deductible two years in a row.
The world of insurance is not that much better. In order to insure my family where I work, I might pay upwards of 1000 a month. That’s roughly 20 percent of my paycheck after taxes. My wife’s corporate plan is better, but there are still gaps. Obviously, that is also dependent on both of us keeping our jobs. Both of us have preexisting conditions. If the ACA were to be declared unconstitutional and we were to lose our jobs we might also lose our coverage.
So, imagine my situation. I had a wound on my foot that got infected with a Staph infection. It’s not like I got hit by a bus or sawed off my arm in a freak chain saw accident. This is everyday life and that one event had a trickle effect on my health. Without insurance we’d likely be bankrupt or would have surrendered all of our retirement savings. How many Americans find themselves in that exact same situation today?
Imagine how silly it is with insurance. You have to go to the right hospital and only use certain doctors who can only do certain procedures or they will charge double or triple. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to the hospital you wanted to go to? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see the doctor you wanted to? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a procedure done that they recommended? Wouldn’t it be great if health care providers made the decision on what was best for your health instead of a pencil pusher that got a degree in 19th century Russian literature? In many instances, these issues can seem abstract when we hear them debated on television. When you actually live it, it means so much more.