Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Soapbox #1, Now with 50% More Bitching

The other day on Facebook, I broke my own rule about keeping it light and fun and frivolous. Ironic, isn't it, after the FaceBible post I made only a few weeks ago?

Honestly, I didn't mean to do it. If I hadn't been in such a harried and hopeless state, I never would have posted something so inflammatory, nor the subsequent responses to the replies it generated.

What was this heinous thing I posted, you may ask? Some of you know, but for those who don't, I posted my frustration over the fact that we will be without insurance for the next six weeks. Some of you also don't know that Husband lost his job twice in less than a year. This has made our insurance situation pretty tenuous and very high maintenance. Up to this point, we have managed to stay insured. Now however, there is just nothing we can do.

After we reached the maximum period for Cobra coverage, we obtained really crappy and really expensive healthcare with the staffing company through which Husband had recently acquired his new position. We were able to to do this because his new employer requires a 90 day contract period for all new employees, which is negotiated through the staffing company. Once that term expired and Husband was hired as a permanent employee, that option was no longer available to us. Unfortunately, we will not be eligible for the new insurance until after the first full month of employment. Since the permanent hire took place in the middle of a month, this means a period of six weeks without benefits.

No problem, we thought. We'll simply purchase private insurance for that short period of time. It would cost us, but it would be worth the peace of mind, since a serious illness or injury could be potentially ruinous to our long term finances without it. Unfortunately, every carrier we applied to turned us down because of my stroke history. To insure just the boys for a 6 week period was ridiculously and prohibitively expensive. And since Husband is now gainfully employed, we do not qualifty for any sort of assitance.

So if something happens in the next six weeks, we're on our own. This is a scary thing to face when you  have experienced a life threatening medical event and when you have adolescent children who do all manner of foolish things in the name of bravado and machismo.

As I said, I posted this on my FB page. And though I should have known better and not been shocked by the responses, I didn't and I was.

I don't have any right to healthcare it seems, nor do my children. It's a privilege that only people who aren't loafers and deadbeats should have. This despite the fact that both my husband and I have worked hard for many years to be productive members of society, to live within our means, and to plan for the future, so we wouldn't have to one day be a burden on anybody, much less society. Of course, it was a much more complicated discussion, but that was the gist of it: other people pay for theirs, why should you get some for free?

I won't hurt, I really try not to take stuff like that personally, but at the moment, I'm sorely lacking in objectivity. Yet another reason I should have kept my mouth, fingers...shut. But...I wasn't asking for free. I was asking for access at a reasonable cost. Right now I can't even pay for it because nobody will make their product available to us. It's beyond frustrating.

I don't understand this dog eat dog mentality. This whole...every man for himself thing. People want to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that living in a civilized society affords them, but they do not want to accept any of the responsibilities. Indeed, it seems that the very idea of social responsibility is both foreign and abhorent to many of my peers and it also seems that anybody who finds themselves in a position of needing assistance is a mooch, a ne'er do well, a bum or a lazy booze swilling bastard.

Funny...I never considered myself any of those things.

I wanted to write about it. But then I realized...I already had, several times, albeit from a slightly rosier perspective. We had only suffered one job loss at that time. Still the point was a salient one, and I decided I couldn't say it any better now than I did then (Ever feel that some of your finest material has already been written?).

So I'm recycling it. Because it still holds true. It's still a grave issue facing our country. And it still makes me angry and sad that some folks think it's perfectly okay that others are going without  medicine and treatment in a country that is one of the wealthiest in the world. We put people in jail for not getting their pets medical treatment. How is it any less criminal for people?? It baffles me, truly. As does the lack of compassion and social conscience.

Soapbox #1

I've been saying it for years...

We DESPERATELY, DESPERATELY need a system of universal health care in this country. I've been saying it because I lived it when Husband was consulting and I'm living it now that Husband has lost his job. When Husband was an independant contractor, we were responsible for our own healthcare needs. The cost to insure our family of four was in excess of $900 each month.

Just let that figure sink in a for a few minutes.

Nine. Hundred. Dollars.

Since we had small children and only one income, we quickly came to the realization that we really had no choice but for him to stop consulting and take a salaried position with good benefits. That was ten years ago. For ten years we have watched our premiums and copays rise, while the number of covered services and providers became smaller and smaller. Still, I felt fortunate that we had insurance at all.

When the news of his termination came, there was some pretty serious panic in those first grim hours. But we've crunched the numbers, done the math, and gone over the budget with a fine toothed comb.
It's going to be very, very tight, but we can sustain for a while, assuming no disasters strike. The kids will not go hungry, the mortgage will not go unpaid, we will not have to cook our meals on a hot plate by candlelight.

So my focus has shifted from feeding my kids, to insuring them.

Well what about COBRA?

That's what you're thinking right? COBRA is the answer, that's what it's there for!

Well guess what...the RIGHT to insurance doesn't do a damned bit of good if we can't pay the premiums. Would you like to take a wild guess as to the dollar amount of our COBRA premiums?

One THOUSAND. Sixty Seven. Dollars.

With no money coming in, we are supposed to magically produce $1,067.00 each month to insure our children. That's an impossible number. BUT...if we don't pay it? One debilitating illness, one serious injury, one little disaster could absolutely devastate us. Ruin us. Bankrupt us and leave us fighting the rest of our lives to regain our financial footing and restore our credit. We have planned well, laid a little aside, carefully tended our modest nest egg. But it could all disappear in a puff of smoke if one of us gets sick.

Addendum: One of us did. Shortly after this was written I suffered three mini-strokes. One MRI alone cost $5,000; I needed three, plus a myriad of other tests and procedures, as welll as monthly visits to the neurologist to monitor my condition. Not long after that, I had an accident resulting in a serious injury to my eye. The bill for the eye specialist alone, whom I saw for all of 5 minutes, was over $12,000. If we hadn't had the COBRA coverage, we would now be saddled with over $50,000 in medical bills.

It has happened and is happening to people all over America. People are losing their homes and filing bankruptcy because of unexpected and insurmountable medical expenses.

It's a very complicated problem with many causes.

First; the cost of procedures and medications have risen beyond what most people can afford to pay out of pocket if they need to. Second; lifetime caps on insurance are met relatively quickly when a calamitous and prolonged illness such as cancer strikes. Third; affording insurance as an individual is almost impossible, unless one has a substantial amount of disposable income, in which case, they probably can do without it anyway. Fourth; insurance companies, not doctors, are in control of what procedures are considered "necessary" and therefore, a covered service.

There's a lot more to it than that, of course. As I said, it's an extremely complicated problem that is going to take some time to fix.

What I know is this: If we had a system of Universal health care in place in this country, I would not be facing this problem right now, and neither would the countless other Americans in the same boat. Now, the ARRA is helping us a little bit. That brings our premium down to around $400. (We were not eligible for ARRA assistance on the second job loss) But assuming that someone is completely without resources, even that amount is completely out of reach.

The maximum payout for unemployment benefits is $330/week BEFORE taxes, which is laughable, really. That's $1320 a month. That happens to be almost the exact dollar amount of our mortgage payment, and we live in a very modest home. So let's assume we have no other resources. How exactly are we supposed to pay for water, electricity, groceries, car payment (we have only one, most people have two), car insurance, gas, orthodontist...and still pay out $400 a month for health insurance? It just doesn't add up.

As I said, we do have some resources, but regardless it's going to be a challenge to pay our bills on our limited and finite means. For us, that means I will have to streamline our food budget and cut out some small luxuries; a relatively simple matter, all things considered.

Perhaps I will have to buy store brand orange juice instead of Tropicana, or the 10 for $10 Ravioli instead of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Maybe we will have to stop renting movies for a month or two. Maybe unlimited texting will have to be limited. Maybe I will have to start going to the library more often, insteading of patronizing Barnes & Noble and indulging in a four dollar coffee while I browse. The lawn service is already gone as is pest control (That one really hurts. Have you seen the size of cockroaches in Georgia?).

But for some people, it could very well be a choice between one necessity and another. For some people, it really is a matter of either/or. Either buy food...or take a sick child to the doctor. Realistically, it could come down to that for us if this goes on long enough.

People, we are the wealthiest developed nation in the Western Hemisphere. This is not an issue our populace should be facing. Nor should sick people be denied the latest and most effective treatments because they are too costly. Did you know that some cancer drugs cost in excess of $1,000 PER DOSE? That's what happens when you combine Capitalism and health care. That's what happens when we let the insurance companies and the drug companies take control and use our misfortunes to line their pockets.

Some of you might argue that letting the government take control is just trading one set of problems for another.

That may be true. But at least, with a universal system of health care in place, everyone will have access to basic medical care and medications that they need. Mothers won't have to debate about taking a feverish child to the doctor, or sacrifice their own health for that of their family.

We Americans like to point fingers when crisis looms. Politicians did it. Big Business did it. Greedy doctors did it.

But the real truth is much uglier.

Americans have done this to themselves with their sense of entitlement. We have resisted a government subsidized health care plan because we want only the best, we want to choose it for ourselves, we want it right now, and we want it regardless of cost. We don't want to share our sparkling, tastefully decorated clinics with the poor unwashed masses. We want to think ourselves worthy of more and better options.

And now, the cost of that proletariat thinking is becoming very clear. We are paying for our short sightedness with shrinking benefits, higher premiums, and perfunctory care from health care practitioners who are working under almost intolerable conditions and who are taking their orders from actuaries and administrators.

Soon, only the very wealthy will be able to afford any health care at all. And then we'll be back to the way things were at the dawn of the Industrial Age, when disease spread rampantly and even minor illnesses resulted in death. Mortality rates will skyrocket and the number of babies who make it past their first birthday will plummet.

Does that sound melodramatic? Well, perhaps it is. But not terribly so. Things are deteriorating quickly in this country. Those of you ensconced in comfortable jobs with good benefits are too blind to see it; purposely, perhaps. It's not fun to think about. But it's there. And it's getting worse every day. It's time to make some sacrifices. It's time to think about the many, rather than the few.

Establishing a system of universal Healthcare does not mean we are allowing Socialism to gain a foothold in our country. It just means we are creating a system of checks and balances, prohibiting abuses and maintaining a standard of care that is available to everybody, regardless of economic status.

For the life of me, I can't understand why people oppose this ideal.

Actually, I do. One word: privilege. We have grown complacent and myopic in an era of wealth and privilege. But that era is at an end, and this problem is going to grow into a plague that infects us all.

You could be next. Your family could be next. You think it won't and I hope it's not, but the reality is that it can happen to anybody these days. My husband had a degree, 25 years of experience, a spotless employment history, numerous awards and accolades and ten years of tenure at the company. Still, he was let go when the bottom line was at issue. Is it going to take a crisis like that to open your eyes?

I really hope not. It's a really crappy place to be, because I know it could be and can be, much, much worse. Living with that fear is incredibly wearing, and I've only been doing it for a week. I can't imagine doing it my whole life. Nobody should have to live with that hanging over their head every day; especially when there is a solution.

Support healthcare reform. Stop opposing universal health care. Vote. We have a voice and we can change things for everyone.


  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger print girl ink said…

    omg you have NO IDEA how much i can identify with this. 100% agree agree AGREE!!!!!

  • At 8:01 PM, Blogger ShortyMom said…

    We have been without health insurance for the last three months. After 5 years of driving a truck over the road, he found a job that allowed him to be home. We couldn't afford supplemental insurance and don't qualify for the state or federal coverage on the kids, so we have held our breath and snuck through the last 3 months. Our new insurance starts March 1st and we received the new cards in the mail today. I almost breathed a sigh of relief. Almost.

    Words cannot describe how upset I was when my daughter's friends mother bragged about how wonderful our state health insurance was for her girls, that her youngest was about to be fitted for braces, all expenses paid. Meanwhile, I am paying for those braces through my tax dollars, have three kids who need braces and cannot afford to pay out of pocket for them. Who makes the decision that my kids should do without because we are below the poverty level but make a few hundred dollars to much to receive the state insurance? Who would like the pleasure of explaining to my kids that you can't have braces and they can because the state will pay for theirs and not yours?? Aren't we supposed to be teaching these kids that all people are supposed to be equal?

  • At 9:59 PM, Blogger Never That Easy said…

    I'm sorry, but not surprised, that your FB post went badly. I am on assistance, and (though the people who are my true friends know it) I keep it to myself. If I dare complain that my state plan (in Massachusetts, there's mandated insurance for all) is fighting with me about covering something that my doctor considers important, then I would have to listen to a diatribe about how I feel I am 'owed' this (which I kind of do: I happen to think our government owes it to all of us), and how difficult decisions have to be made because of budget cuts (which you don't have to tell me because I am among a population that feels cuts pretty quickly), and how it can't be that bad because there was just a report on the news about how MassHealth pays for crackheads to get to their methadone treatments (misinformation & the media, le sigh).

    I'm really sorry, though, and can't tell you how much I agree about how unfairly the current system is set up (and how disappointed I am at the change we were supposed to be able to believe in.)

    Also, COBRA is outrageous & nearly impossible to afford for everyone I've ever known who actually needed it, myself included.

  • At 10:02 PM, Blogger Margaret said…

    We can't teach people that everyone is equal because it's pretty obvious to any idiot that it's not true. HOWEVER, we can try to make sure that people get health care so that they can survive illness without going bankrupt. I completely support your post, 1000%. My husband has cancer and the prices are astronomical. $7000+ each time he has chemo. $5000 for ONE shot that he gets the day after each chemo. The various scans range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands. Should we just write him off because he's too "expensive" to society? He's only a construction worker after all. Where do we draw the line on who is worthy of health and life? A slippery slope.

  • At 12:28 AM, Blogger jess said…

    Yup. What you said. In the same boat here, and the things I hear people say... Yeah, I'm with you.

  • At 2:19 AM, Blogger Fi said…

    My sympathies are with you and your family. It makes me realise how lucky Australians are because we have a national health service regardless of employment status or income.
    Perhaps the American government could learn a few lessons from our health system because what you guys have to endure is unbelievable and scary.
    My thoughts are with you - stay safe and healthy


  • At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't have an answer to how I feel about this topic, because my feelings vary from one day to the next.

    My son receives Medicaid. He has braces, and I am very thankful for them! I am so thankful medicaid pays 100% for them. However, his reason is medical. Not cosmetic. If it were cosmetic, I wouldn't allow it..

    My husband and I receive medicaid (for 2 more months due to extensive medical bills I encured last year).

    So I am thankful we qualify for this. Yet, it sickens me when I see people in the orthodontist office who drive CADDILACS with medicaid. They were name brand clothing, have cell phones, and are talking about eating out for dinner that night! I see people in the medicaid office talking about how they better qualify again because they will just get pregnant if they don't! I hear people talk about buying drugs and cigarettes and how they better get their food stamps so they can eat.

    It sickens me. They do not deserve the services they get!! They have NEVER worked, many times the ones in DSS are there because they are a product of being raised by welfare.

    Yet, I'm on medicaid. I do sacrifice. I often decide between paying a bill and buying groceries. Electric bill or gas for the car this month. I don't smoke. I don't eat out. I don't have texting at all. I don't know what it's like to get a $4 coffee and browse a book store. I can't afford it.

    Your mortgage is almost as much as my monthly budget alone. I would feel blessed to even have a mortgage payment, but refuse to go in debt.

    I garden in the spring to survive the winter.

    Yet, I do not feel I am OWED anything from this government. We could get food stamps, but I don't. I choose not to, as of yet.

    In this country people walk around thinking they are owed something. I was raised that you work for what you get or do without. If you don't work, you surely shouldn't eat.

    I am torn. Because when I read your opinion, I can see your point of view.

    Your family has provided for itself for years and years and something out of your control has the potential to ruin you for years to come. That is very scary. That is very sad and sickening.

    I would much rather you get medicaid than the crack heads who get it. I would rather you get medicaid than the people I KNOW in my family who go to the drug clinics to get their fix. They can't work because they stay high... and the government pays the bill for them to get high... hoping one day they can stop... yet they don't.

    Do you know how many years my cousin has been going to a meth clinic? He works to pay his "fee" to get his next dose. Yet, he can't pay his medical bills, his daughters, or put food on the table. Who does that for him? Yep, the government. Heck, they even pay all but $8 of his rent!! However he spends 300 bucks a week at a meth clinic! What is wrong with that picture????

    If you work for your family you should get help when you are low... but if you don't work and spend wisely and pay your own way, you shouldn't get shit.

    That's my confusing 2 cents.

  • At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Gurukarm (@karma_musings) said…

    The anonymous commenter brings up a point that is bigger, I think, than "crackheads getting services" and people on welfare driving Caddies (wow - shades of Ronsld Reagan, there...) That is, poor administration of resources under the present system. Shouldn't a case worker or someone know if an applicant is paying for a high-end car, or spending their limited resources on meals out and expensive clothes? Well, no, I'm betting it works just like applying got college financial aid - "How much do you make? OK, here's how much you're eligible for." No discussion of what you're spending that income on, no looking at your other obligations... The other side of the same voin, I think.

    If we had universal health care, there wouldn't have to be discussions of who's driving what, who's eating where or wearing what - it would just be "everybody gets treated the same".

    And, BA, you're not old enough to remember the Red scare mentality of the 50s, 60s, and on - but I do think that lingering craziness is driving our "everyone for him/herself" thinking to a greater degree than many realize.

    And finally, again back to the commenter's points - it is most interesting to me that it so often seems to be the people who could benefit the most from a change in the system who most vociferously defend the health care for profit regime... Dear Anonymous, your tax dollars and all of ours are paying for a whole lot of stuff that a) we may not individually agree with, and b) are lining the pockets of a lot of corporate bigwigs, military private contractors, etc etc - at least health care actually *helps* individuals.

    OK, sorry BA for co-opting your space here!

  • At 1:28 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    I feel like I always say the same things... I agree with so much of what you write. But I really really do.
    I would cream my shorts if we could get socialized health care. I think it is a basic human right to be able to see a doctor when you need to and not have to risk bankruptcy for medical bills. It's so sad and pathetic that people in our country ~ our American brothers and sisters ~ have to live like that... with the fear of getting sick and what'll happen to their finances and potentially their life! I'm ashamed to be an American sometimes because it seems like we should be able to get it right. I dont' understand why we haven't.

    I read what your other FB friends wrote and was appalled at some of the comments. Which is why I commented even after you'd moved on ~ I wanted you to not feel alone there. The insinuations... ugh. So ridiculous. Anyway, again, I am crossing my fingers and sending healthy vibes for these 6 weeks of torture. :( I really hope everything goes well and noone gets sick. I'd pray if I believed in a god to pray to. ;)

    I appreciate your standing up for us ~ for all of us ~ and our right to health care. I am standing right beside you... er... well, a few states away. :) :)

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger merinz said…

    I have great difficulty understanding your medical system.

    I live in a country with 'social medical care'. ie the govt runs hospitals and medical care is available to all. We pay around $35-$45 to see a doctor, subscriptions from the pharmacy are heavily subsidised, and hospital car is free.

    But sided by side we also have private health care for those who choose to have health insurance. Private hospitals where we can either pay for our operation or be referred there if we have insurance. The good thing about that system is that there is little or no waiting list. On the public health care you can be faced with a long wait sometimes for an operation. Especially for something like a hip operation, knee replacement etc.

    I dont know if your health care system is better or worse than yours.

    But - about ten yours ago our daughter who was living and working in America at the time, had a major health problem. She had insurance through her work. She was treated promptly by your doctors and specialists, was given the life saving operation she needed immediately, and made a full recovery. We were impressed by the speed of the insurance company in organising her treatment and also the competency of the medical people involved.

  • At 6:17 PM, Blogger Putz said…

    yes this is a stupid remark, but i kind of thought that obamas health care bill took care of people like you><><>if not then he lied to us<><><>i am for health care universally <><><>hillary clinton was, carter and clinton, bill were, and now i am confused<><><>please write me back><><push my icon barlow putz and honestly tell me what you thinK???

  • At 9:38 AM, Blogger Shelley said…

    We have been without health insurance for probably a year now. My husband and I were both unemployed at one point. We both had the "good" fortune to be working for companies that opened an office in India and didn't need our office any more (me), or companies that were non-profit, and in October of 2009, lost their major source of funding and had to let 10 of their 13 employees go (husband.)

    Since we were both laid off through no fault of our own, we both were able to collect unemployment, which helped. But it's always amused me (and not in a good way), that I was paying $200 a month to insure our whole family with my previous job that moved to India. Sure, when I was laid off I could get Cobra. For $1380 a month! Yes, we had just lost half our income, so let me pull that $1380 right out of my ass.

    I now have a job as a help-desk analyst, which is a contract-to-hire position. I'm hoping to be hired very, very soon, so we can have insurance again. The cost of private insurance is ridiculous, not to mention no one will touch us because my husband has MS.

    We've been lucky not to have any disasters, and we've been paying for my husband's office visits and prescriptions out-of-pocket. Yes, we've been very lucky that no one has been sick or injured. But sometimes you feel like you're just living right on the edge, don't you? It's been over a year for us...hopefully it will be over soon.

  • At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It seems to me that with regards to the 'crackheads' commentator, that the poster is more focused on the worry that someone, somewhere might get something they do not 'deserve' than the availability of health care for her own family.

    I've noticed that before in discussions between Americans about health care (I'm Canadian), that even those who would most benefit from universal health care, would way rather suffer themselves than deal with the idea that someone 'undeserving' is getting the same treatment they are.

    Very strange mindset to me.

    You know, there is a saying that you judge a society not by how it treats its most prominent citizens but by how it treats its least important citizens.

    Honestly, I think the first thing people need to get is that there will always be people who eat when they don't work, and that life can be bloody unfair. Once that has been understood to be a fact, then what?

    Does it make it somehow fairer or more progressive if Jane-Doe-who-works-but-is-poor doesn't get a cookie because Jane-Doe-loser, does?


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