Amy wants me to write about health care

Amy of Sharp Little Pencil, who, like me, grew up in Broome County, NY, writes:

So Roger, do a piece on health care if you haven’t already, please. My post cited numerous reasons why Americans DON’T want it (as George Harrison would sing, “I, Me, Mine,” also the fear struck in their hearts. Could not believe how many FOX talking points turned up on my blog!! Let me hear about it soon! Love your blog and you, Rog. Peace, Amy

Here’s the problem, Amy. I don’t know how to speak of it in any better terms than others have. The fact that catastrophic illness and injury has contributed to most personal bankruptcies. The fact that preventative care will lower costs over time and provide a healthier population to boot. The fact that a larger pool of consumers, historically, has lowered the costs of goods and services. But these anyone can tout.

For me, though, it’s always been about that same Harrison song you quote. And I have told the story before, back in 2009, but I’ll tell it again.

Two days before I was going to graduate school, for the first time, in 1979, that disastrous foray into the School of Public Administration at UAlbany, I was at a friend’s house and somehow got an infection under my toenail. You have NO idea how much this hurt. We are talking root canal level of pain, and I’ve had root canal.

I had no health insurance, for I had, I would have gone to a doctor. Or probably the emergency room, because, now that I think of it, I didn’t HAVE a doctor, because I didn’t have insurance, so I didn’t see the point of having a doctor. But I WOULD have insurance in a couple days. So I hobbled through college registration, feeling worse by the minute; if I had had a walker or wheelchair, or pain medication stronger than Tylenol, or whiskey, I would have used it. Only then did I go to the college infirmary.

By this point, the infection was going up my leg; if it had reached my heart, I almost certainly would have DIED, at the age of 26. And that would be a REALLY embarrassing thing to put in an obit; “died of a toe infection.” As it was, I spent the next six days – the first six days of the semester – in bed.

So NOT having insurance altered my behavior that might well have been fatal. I’m sure that if this is true of me, it’s true of millions of others who go untreated for illnesses and injuries until it’s a crisis. Yeah, I think health care is a right, not a privilege. Yeah, my own narrative has colored my outlook about this, but is that not usually the case?

I’ve been painfully aware of every MINUTE I’ve been uninsured since, from November 1988, when I left FantaCo, to March 1989, when I got covered by Blue Cross; from April to September 1990, after I left Blue Cross, before I went to library school; and from May to October 1992, the period between library school and my current job. I was always aware that any accident or sustained illness would do me in financially. You KNOW stress is a contributing factor to poor health, and I was stressed a lot in those uninsured periods.

I don’t understand the opposition to the new healthcare law using terms like “freedom.” Being uninsured is more like a prison.

Oh, and I love you too, Amy. Gotta love someone who knows and loves pirogi!

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4 thoughts on “Amy wants me to write about health care

  1. The resistance to the health care bill was something that baffled me too when we visited the US. Our host recently found out that he has developed a chronic illness, but despite paying insurance all these years the cost has begun to rise because he is ill. That sounds more like a Christmas Club than an insurance policy to me.

    But what really had me scratching my head is the way that health care providers are given a blank cheque. As I understand it, insurance is generally funded by your employer (for tax reasons) and the cost paid to the providers by the insurance company.

    But because it is an individual that is being treated and medical confidentiality, there is no-one who can question the cost, at least not the person signing the cheque. The result must be high-cost care, let alone the admin overheads.

    And as for the charge that universal health care is somehow socialist, words fail me. Surely it owes more to common humanity than political ideology!

  2. I sometimes think just the fear of something “different” is what makes people oppose things. That, and an awful lot of party politics. I relate to your feeling of counting moments of being uninsured, though in my case, it wasn’t me, but my 20yo son, who had decided college was no longer the thing he wanted to do right now. Before changes in the law, he was out of luck from an insurance standpoint, as the types of jobs he was landing didn’t provide any coverage and he certainly couldn’t afford any sort of individual policy. I was terrified every minute of that span of time.

  3. I remember the devastating affect of my father’s illness (Cancer) in 1957. He recovered and so did our family, but the universal health care system established by Lester B. Pearson will never be taken for granted by anyone who remembers what it was like before 1966.

  4. “So NOT having insurance altered my behavior that might well have been fatal.”

    Yup, happens to my neighbors in the South End of Albany all the time. Not their fault that they have no insurance. But last year when The Wife caught Breast Cancer (from a dirty toilet seat, I think) she took our expensive health insurance to Albany Med and was treated like a queen all the way.

    So now with Obamaromneycare everyone is required to BUY health insurance but obviously not everyone can PAY for health insurance. Somehow arrangements for paying for insurance will have to be worked out or else there will be mass arrests in my neighborhood for failure to pay. Then my neighbors can be sent to prison and receive free health care.

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