Sunday, October 24, 2010

Health Insurance Wrestling

On August 3rd this year my wife took me to Fisherman's Hospital in Marathon to have some wax in my ear removed. The offending item, lovingly recorded here, got wedged after I spent some time underwater snorkeling at Looe Key, near my home. After a few hours hanging around my ear was flushed by a kind nurse, I paid my hundred dollar copay and went on my way.I work for the city of Key West, a government union job that I took in 2004 fully expecting hard times ahead, times that have become considerably harder than I ever expected, and as a result despite the right wing attacks on this last bastion of living wage employment I am most grateful to have a job with health insurance. Then the paperwork wars started.
I paid a hundred, the insurance paid 154 dollars after a 28 dollar discount and then the mofo's at Fisherman's sent another bill for 495.73. This is the curse of unregulated private health insurance. there is no accounting there is no estimate there is no accountability. Send the money or we go to collections. These days my wife and I couldn't care less about our credit rating. like millions of Americans our only revolt is to tell the bastards to take their credit rating cage and wrap someone else around it, we've been obedient and trapped in it for too long.
I am boring and annoying when it comes to the issue of health insurance. My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and is uninsurable if she loses her job (Republicans please note: the system does need to be changed) but thanks to her government job teaching she can pay the co-pays on thousands of dollars of drugs monthly that have side effects but keep her mobile and employed. Embril, Methotrexate, Prednisone etc etc ends up costing thousands each month. Over all this is the constant demands for paperwork to "confirm" she still has arthritis. Threats to cut off her expensive medicine land on our doorstep from time to time. Complexity is sown in our path just to test our mettle. Believe me, if she could throw off the arthritis she would. So when we got a demand for $500 more I sent the above letter to the insurers and the hospital administration which I believe was engaged in illegal double billing. The Republican candidate for Governor in Florida headed a corporation fined 1.7 billion dollars for just such illegal practices so if he gets elected we can imagine what's to come for we the people of Florida...
No one I know believes me when I say single payer health care would be beneficial to us as a nation, would be better for us as patients and would eliminate the gross profiteering by companies that exploit our current non system. Fair enough I say, then lets reform the current system. Republicans made every effort to block reform while not to putting forward better proposals of their own, and I lost faith in the Obama Administration when they yielded to the corporate interests in this fiasco.The sad thing is I wrote the above angry letter and have received word the bill is paid and I owe 11 dollars which I will mail out tomorrow. How many uninformed semi-literate, fearful Americans would have stood up to these health care "providers" and faced off this bill? Not many, and I know this because there are numerous instances in my life where I have done this and my doctors and dentists have told me I am the only patient they have that will do this. They express the wish more people would. So go on, tell me the system doesn't need to be changed. Would you take your car to the shop and pay whatever the mechanic demanded, even months after service was rendered, with no accounting, no estimate. no recourse? I know single payer won't happen in my lifetime but I know this system such as it is has to change. With Republicans determined to wreck what little reform we have in place, I see no bright future for a country with no safety net, no private sector employment to speak off and burgeoning national debt. Oh and a massive, embarrassing and continuing wars in countries we can't even locate on a map. All those shredded bodies get single payer, government funded health care for life when they come from a war that has no meaning, no purpose and no end. We could fund everyone with the treasure we waste in war. But we won't by God. And then they wonder why I'm bitter. My wife's calling, her arthritis is bad today and she can't open a jar, so I'll go and do it for her, then I'll help her inject herself with her weekly dose of thousand dollar Embril.
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And here's a funny coincidence: in today's Solares Hill weekly in Key West we read of a long time resident and all round good guy who has a treatable form of cancer of the jaw (I think) and he lost his job which had benefits, his COBRA has run out and he can't get treated because the charming Sylvester center in Miami demands insurance or cash. They give a 30% discount for cash but the bill is going to be $250,000. So they are holding a bake sale for him. Good luck with that.
Interestingly he applied for private insurance after his COBRA benefits ran out and they quoted him (before he got the cancer) a rate of $32,000 a year. It would have been a bargain had he known he was going to get cancer. Though of course as we all know insurance companies deny service anyway because they make up crap and claim non disclosure on your application.
Ain't the private sector great? Not slimy at all.