Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hitting The Medical Grand Slam

Two moons and a fortnight ago, I was informed that I have cancer. In the past decade I have had lung disease (pneumonia and pleursy), necessitating a thoricotmy , followed by diabetes, followed by heart disease (quadruple bypass) , and now cancer. Intermixed with all this has been two blown discs in the neck, two blown discs in the low back, coupled with a torn rotator cup, and two carpal tunnel surgeries. I have medical experience.

I bring this up to justify my opinion on health care and costs in particular. I am a major consumer. (It is my understanding that Blue Cross/Blue Shield has taken out a hit on me.) In my last round of medical hijinx, I gave the exact same history at least four different times to four different people over the course of two weeks. Each one of these medical practitioners had his or her time consumed with me relaying the same information over and over. I finally started carrying a typed sheet around with me but that didn't help much since they each had to have their own peculiar form. I've seen estimates that say that one-third of our health care dollar is consumed with such paperwork. I find that number low. Most of my time and most of the medical time thus far consumed on my cancer has had more to do with insurance than medicine and most of the medicine being has more to do with insurance than with healing (or at least that is the way it seems to me).

I will not complain, too much, about the quality of care I have received during these varied miseries, though I did have have one very unhappy experience with a hospital and its funding cuts to the nursing staff. I paid them off in bits and pieces and came very close to delivering my payment in pennies. (If I had known for sure it would hassle the hospital boss, I would have. But that's another story.) But overall my health care has been excellent. What has not been excellent is the cost. Even with fairly good insurance, I am going broke between high copays for everything and higher copays for medicine.

Between a third and a quarter of my monthly salary is going to various copays and hidden costs and I supposedly have "good" insurance. What is also galling is that none of these expenses are tax deductible. Once upon a time, back when medical costs were much lower, medical expenses were fully deductible. Nowadays, you have to hit some high magic number of total income as a threshold before any of it is deductible.

Right now, I am also in the process of going deaf but I can't afford the thousands of dollars needed for a hearing aid so I'm struggling by trying to work but feeling I'm losing the battle. I hope, sometime in the near future, to finally finish all the VA paperwork so, I hope, I might can get a hearing aid. We'll see.

Anyway, I'll be away from the blog for a few days, so ya'all keep 'em honest while I'm gone and keep on pushing for single payer health insurance.

Update: see billy pilgrim's comment below for a quick take on the Canadian system.


billy pilgrim said...

very sorry to hear about your latest diagnosis. i'll light an extra stick of incense for you tonight.

our government health care doesn't cover some stuff. i have a private plan through my employer that fills in most of the cracks left open by my government sponsored health care which by the way, isn't really free.

every province has different rules. in our province there is a monthly fee of about $35 for the medical coverage. the fee is covered for low income people. my employer pays the fee for me but it's classified as a taxable benefit so i pay tax on it.

Bob said...

Thanks for the incense and thanks for the comprehensive comment.