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Another Home, Another Life, Saved by Socialized Health Care

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Last year my wife began to feel very lethargic, to the point where she had to take frequent naps throughout the day. We checked her blood pressure and found it was a little lower than normal, but her pulse was high. She would run out of breath just going up a flight of stairs. We had no idea what was going on.

I finally convinced her to let me take her to the emergency room. Her red blood cell count was about half what it should be; this accounted for the fatigue, the low blood pressure, and the elevated heart rate. What wasn’t so obvious was the root cause, and her case was unusual enough that the doctors were grateful for the challenge. They finally asked if she’d experienced abnormal bleeding during her periods, and indeed she had for several months. It had just never occurred to us that the increased bleeding was enough that her body could not produce enough new blood to compensate, and that the volume of blood in her body had been steadily dropping for some time. She received a transfusion that very night, stayed in the hospital until they could determine that she was okay to go home, and we hoped the matter was done and over with.

It wasn’t. This year her blood count dropped more quickly, at one point losing almost ten percent of her blood volume in two days. We went to the emergency room and she received another transfusion, received a whole battery of diagnostic tests, and on the following day discussed options with the gynecologist. The options were either a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or an intrauterine ablation (an outpatient procedure that effectively cauterizes some areas of the uterus). The soonest we could have the operation was nearly three weeks later.

The following Saturday she was in the emergency room again, and received another transfusion. The next Saturday and the Monday after that she also spent in the emergency room – but did not need a transfusion. Finally on the following Wednesday she received the ablation, and she is now recovering at home.

Could I have afforded four visits to the emergency room, and the three overnight stays that followed? Could I have afforded the surgery? Could I have afforded the dozen or so medications she’d been prescribed during the whole of the ordeal? Would I then have been able to continue to pay the mortgage on our home – a house where we care for our medically-fragile foster children – would we have been able to keep those children?

One might say that a good HMO policy would have covered most of the costs…but are we really sure about that? The HMO industry’s proclivity for denying health care is well known, and even if they did pay for the procedure, would they have paid for all of the four emergency room visits? Or would the deductible have bankrupted us? What’s more, after the transfusion last year, would the HMO have continued to insure my wife’s health? Or would they have dropped her? And considering what we had to do over the previous month, would they drop her now?

That’s the problem with the business model for-profit HMO’s – the business model is great for making money, but often tragic for their customers because the HMO’s make MORE money by NOT providing the health care their customers need. Just last month, the news story broke that health care costs are involved in sixty percent of ALL bankruptcies. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if I hadn’t been covered by socialized health care, we probably would have been included in that statistic.

The socialized health care which saved my wife and my finances is called TriCare. It’s given to military retirees, their spouses, and their children up to age 21 for $460/year. Yes, our health care is subsidized by taxes, but here’s the important thing to remember: it costs LESS taxpayer money to cover someone’s health care than the taxpayer money need to absorb the costs of the bankruptcy of an ENTIRE household. That’s right! The government SAVED taxpayer money by covering our health care costs. Why? Because if my wife weren’t covered and we went bankrupt, our house would be foreclosed and we would have likely had to give up our foster children, who would have then been sent to a hospital and kept there at taxpayer expense until another willing-and-able-and-qualified-and-licensed family could be found to take them, because we’re among the few in the state who CAN care for such children.

We would not eligible for unemployment benefits, so then we would be stuck with going to taxpayer-subsidized Section Eight housing…and the taxes we’re paying to the government every year – whether in payroll taxes or sales taxes – would plummet. And then we would be living below the poverty line once more, with all the negative effects that has on us as a family, particularly our natural children.

Does it seem like I’m blowing things out of proportion? Perhaps. But this story would sound all too familiar to sixty percent of those American households who declared bankruptcy last year…because they lived it.

YES, the government SAVED money by paying for our health care, whereas HMOs save money by DENYING health care, and every family that is bankrupted by the HMO’s efforts to save money costs the taxpayers untold thousands of dollars.

Something to think about, people.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, I would suggest that not only is this article highly speculative, but that it is based largely on false assumptions about private providers.

    My wife has what I believe is exactly the same condition you describe your wife as having, and she has also had it for years, though it may be less severe but also complicated by her thyroid deficiency. Her doctors have prescribed the same procedures and our private insurance has approved the less invasive uterine peel or whatever it is, without batting an eye. Not a problem, not a suggestion that they would ever deny future coverage, just a routine medical procedure which they are confident will SAVE them money because it will prevent visits to the emergency room and later more expensive procedures.

    The cost-consciousness DOES cut both ways, you know. Wanting to give patients the newest, least invasive and most effective treatments in order to prevent future problems is a GOOD aspect of private insurance, not a negative.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Your comparison of TriCare to an HMO is specious on at least two levels.

    Your access to TriCare is not almost free, as you assert. It cost you twenty years of your life, and is only available (as you point out) to retired military lifers, while commercial health insurance is available to almost everyone who has a job, and often is completely without cost to the employee.

    On the second level, you mention only HMOs, which are the more inferior product offered by commercial health insurance companies. During thirty years in the airline industry, at two different carriers, I never had an HMO, I always had PPOs, which allow the patient his choice of doctors, hospitals, etc., and rarely, if ever, deny any medically necessary services ordered by a physician. I never paid a dime for that insurance at either carrier, and neither did any other employee of either company, from the lowliest ramp monkey to the CEO, and we all had the exact same insurance. that standard was nearly universal throughout the industry, and remains so at most US carriers today; my sister’s husband is employed by a domestic carrier, and he has the same insurance I always had, paid by the company. As we all know from news reports about the government’s takeover of GM and Chrysler, the UAW workers all enjoy similar insurance, and even retain it after retirement.

    I still have a PPO as a supplement to my wife’s Medicare (she’s crippled and on SSDI) and as my only insurance, though I also am a service-connected patient at my local VA medical center.

    Now, I DO pay for the PPO (unlike the UAW workers), but it’s still the same fine insurance, with choices and complete coverage. In fact, I spelled out how well it supplements my wife’s Medicare coverage on this thread recently.

    Neither TriCare nor the VA qualify as “socialized medicine.” The VA only treats a little over 5 million vets, who like you with your TriCare paid a lot of dues to be eligible for the care. It’s a long ways from socialized medicine except for the fact that the taxpayers (not the government, it does not produce anything nor earn money, it has no money of its own) foot the bill.

    When presenting an argument, it’s always better to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    First of all, I hope your wife is sufficiently recovered.

    The entire health insurance situation is a huge scam to be sure. Why is it that other insurances (home, auto, life)can make money, but health insurers cannot seem to turn a profit. Or is it because they are wasting their profits on things like trips for their CEOs, accumulation of works of art, or like BCBS here a few years ago, building homes for their directors?

    I feel your pain. We have horrible health insurance. To keep the premiums down, we have an extraordinarily high deductible, so I put off things like mammograms and colonoscopies because we have to pay out of pocket. Supposedly it will save us if we have anything catastrophic happen, but that’s yet to be proven. Our premium money might have been better served in an interest bearing account, but we’ve been led to believe that insurance is the thing to have.

  • Clavos

    Who says the health insurancew companies can’t make a profit, Joanne? Even they don’t.

    In fact, one of the strongest arguments against them is their healthy (pun intended) margins.

  • Bliffle

    The private health insurance idea was a good idea sabotaged by the uncontrollable greed of the insurance companies. They can’t help it. they had their chance and they blew it.

    We need a new model.

  • Clavos

    Too bad all we have to come up with one is Obama and Congress.

    The blind leading the lame.

  • Bliffle

    Seems to me I saw a poll that said 75% of US people want a ‘public option’. Yet, about 100% of congress are against it. Why should a congressman fight for his constituents when he’s got HIS healthcare, and his families, set for life? Why take the chance of irritating his employers, the lobbyists?

  • Clavos

    While it is true that a majority of Americans support a so-called public option for health care (although the number has now slipped to 72%), support for Obama’s plan has dwindled significantly, as I pointed out in my most recent BC article, Obama and the Voters. That support has now dwindled to 44%, according to recent polls.

    A recent CBS News report on the latest CBS/NYT survey shows not only the 72% figure cited above, but also goes on to say,

    The poll reveals, however, the obstacles that remain in the way of the public option and broader reform efforts. Many Americans are concerned that their own health care may be compromised if the government is involved, and while they are generally willing to pay more in taxes for universal coverage, that support drops when dollar amounts are mentioned.

    Few support — and many are unsure about — some other specific policy options that have been proposed, including creating a government insurance pool for purchasing health coverage. By two to one, Americans disapprove of taxing employer health benefits, and many are uncertain about it.

    ***

    President Obama, who receives a 63 percent approval rating overall in this poll, gets a lower approval rating on his handling of health care — but many don’t yet have an opinion. While 44 percent approve, 34 percent disapprove and 22 percent are unsure. Among Democrats, 68 percent approve, but just 13 percent of Republicans do.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Perhaps support for Obama’s plan has dwindled because the people see it as just another big bailout plan, this time directed at the pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies, with little effort to really take care of the needs of the people.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    The discrepancy in the figures for voter support for a “public option” versus their support (or lack thereof) for Obama’s plan specifically supports your point, Dave.

    There is an obvious disconnect there, as there is between voter approval for Obama himself and support for his actions and plans.

  • Politrix

    Clavos,

    Im not sure what your definition of socialized healthcare is but tricare is absolutely socialized!

    1st- In the military Tricare is the ONLY healthcare provider offered. Which monopoly is one of the largest tenants of socialism.

    2nd- What is the biggest complaint of Obama’s socialized healthcare proposal? Taxpayer Burden!!!!!

    So to say that Tricare is not socialized based on that it is funded by tax dollars is a gross conceptual error.

    Since you the taxpayer are paying for me to have tricare, housing, a paycheck, education assistance, childcare, food, COLA, and the list goes on. And I actually provide no product in which to make money off of, only the socialized service of protecting this country and its taxpayers, explain how this isnt socialism?

    because its not capitalism, for if it was there would be COMPETITORS providing other forms of healthcare.

    Which there are none!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Excellent argument.