Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Single Issue in This Election - Health Care!

The most important post, I personally have ever written.  The single most important issue facing us on November 6th, 2012 as we walk into the voting booth, Health Care.   

The gist of this story was written by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, in a two part series he write about his Harvard College roommate.  Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.   I highly recommend reading both articles in their entirety!   

Kristof flew back home to attend his 30 year high school reunion, and his friend and former roommate, Scott Androes, was not in attendance.  

Yet for all his innate prudence, Scott now, at age 52, is suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer, in part because he didn’t have health insurance. President Obama’s health care reform came just a bit too late to help Scott, but it will protect others like him — unless Mitt Romney repeals it.  

If you favor gutting “Obamacare,” please listen to Scott’s story. He is willing to recount his embarrassing tale in part so that readers can learn from it.
Kristof then turns over much of his column to his friend Scott:

It all started in December 2003 when I quit my job as a pension consultant in a fit of midlife crisis. For the next year I did little besides read books I’d always wanted to read and play poker in the local card rooms.
I didn’t buy health insurance because I knew it would be really expensive in the individual policy market, because many of the people in this market are high risk. I would have bought insurance if there had been any kind of fair-risk pooling. In 2005 I started working seasonally for H&R Block doing tax returns.
As seasonal work it of course doesn’t provide health benefits, but then lots of full-time jobs don’t either. I knew I was taking a big risk without insurance, but I was foolish.
In 2011 I began having greater difficulty peeing. I didn’t go see the doctor because that would have been several hundred dollars out of pocket — just enough disincentive to get me to make a bad decision.
Early this year, I began seeing blood in my urine, and then I got scared. I Googled “blood in urine” and turned up several possible explanations. I remember sitting at my computer and thinking, “Well, I can afford the cost of an infection, but cancer would probably bust my bank and take everything in my I.R.A. So I’m just going to bet on this being an infection.”
I was extremely busy at work since it was peak tax season, so I figured I’d go after April 15. Then I developed a 102-degree fever and went to one of those urgent care clinics in a strip mall. (I didn’t have a regular physician and hadn’t been getting annual physicals.)
The doctor there gave me a diagnosis of prostate infection and prescribed antibiotics. That seemed to help, but by April 15 it seemed to be getting worse again. On May 3 I saw a urologist, and he drew blood for tests, but the results weren’t back yet that weekend when my health degenerated rapidly.
A friend took me to the Swedish Medical Center Emergency Room near my home. Doctors ran blood labs immediately. A normal P.S.A. test for prostate cancer is below 4, and mine was 1,100. They also did a CT scan, which turned up possible signs of cancerous bone lesions. Prostate cancer likes to spread to bones. 
I also had a blood disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is sometimes brought on by prostate cancer. It basically causes you to destroy your own blood cells, and it’s abbreviated as D.I.C. Medical students joke that it stands for “death is close.”
Kristof goes to great pains to let everyone know that both he & Scott know that Scott made a mistake.   Its important to have health insurance and it is even MORE IMPORTANT to make sure and go to the doctor regularly(That means you).  Whatever the right thing to do is, Scott did not do it and now must live with(or die because of ) the consequences.   While this is a sad story, the true story is just beginning.  As our theme here at Cog Dis is , but wait there's more.  

While Obamacare is not perfect it is the best thing that has happened to health insurance in our lifetime.   Back to Kristof::
Already, Obamacare is slowly reducing the number of people without health insurance, as young adults can now stay on their parents’ plans. But the Census Bureau reported last month that 48.6 million Americans are still uninsured — a travesty in a wealthy country. The Urban Institute calculated in 2008 that some 27,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 65 die prematurely each year because they don’t have health insurance. Another estimate is even higher.

You want to put a face on those numbers? Look at Scott’s picture. One American like him dies every 20 minutes for lack of health insurance.

 Back to Scott: 

I submitted an application to the hospital for charity care and was approved. The bill is already north of $550,000. Based on the low income on my tax return they knocked it down to $1,339. Swedish Medical Center has treated me better than I ever deserved.
Some doctor bills are not covered by the charity application, and I expect to spend all of my I.R.A. assets before I’m done. Some doctors have been generously treating me without sending bills, and I am humbled by their ethic of service to the patient.
Some things I have to pay for, like $1,700 for the Lupron hormone therapy and $1,400 for an ambulance trip. It’s an arbitrary and haphazard system, and I’m just lucky to live in a city with a highly competent and generous hospital like Swedish.

When I make mistakes, my wife and friends forgive me. We need a health care system that is equally forgiving.

That means getting all Americans insured, and then emphasizing preventive care like cancer screenings. Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have sought to create universal health insurance, and Obama finally saw it achieved in his first term. It will gradually come into effect, with 2014 the pivotal year — if Romney does not repeal it.

In some ways, of course, America’s health care system is superb. It is masterly in pioneering new techniques, and its top-level care for those with insurance is unrivaled. Sometimes even those without insurance, like Scott, get superb care as charity cases, and I salute the doctors at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle for their professionalism and compassion toward my old friend.

But it would have made more sense to provide Scott with insurance and regular physicals. Catching the cancer early might have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in radiation and chemo expenses — and maybe a life as well.

Back to Scott:   Nevermind we can not, because he recently slipped into a coma and passed away!  

Now back to Kristof for "the rest of the story" :

  I was taken aback by how many readers were savagely unsympathetic.

 “Your friend made a foolish choice, and actions have consequences,” one reader said in a Twitter message.

 Not sure why I’m to feel guilty about your friend’s problem,” Terry from Oregon wrote on my blog. “I take care of myself and mine, and I am not responsible for anyone else.”

Bruce wrote that many people in hospitals are there because of their own poor choices: “Smoking, obesity, drugs, alcohol, noncompliance with medical advice. Extreme age and debility, patients so sick, old, demented, weak, that if families had to pay one-tenth the cost of keeping the poor souls alive, they would instantly see that it was money wasted.”

Keeping Human beings alive and on this earth a little longer is "money wasted"?   My first thought was I hope these people get cancer the same way that Scott did and die the same horrible death.   Then I realized that is not who I am and I can not stoop to their horrible level!  

Kristof has more bad news for us:

 That harsh view is gaining ground, particularly on the right. Pew Research Center polling has found that the proportion of Republicans who agree that “it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” has slipped from 58 percent in 2007 to just 40 percent today.

Kristof, like all great columnists offers up some solutions: The first is that we live in a civilized society!

First, a civilized society compensates for the human propensity to screw up. That’s why we have single-payer firefighters and police officers. That’s why we require seat belts. When someone who has been speeding gets in a car accident, the 911 operator doesn’t sneer: “You were irresponsible, so figure out your own way to the hospital” — and hang up. 

To err is human, but so is to forgive. Living in a community means being interconnected in myriad ways — including by empathy. To feel undiminished by the deaths of those around us isn’t heroic Ayn Rand individualism. It’s sociopathic. Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but of civilization.
 And secondly if you think that letting people like Scott die saves us money, you do not know much about economics: 
 My second argument is that if you object to Obamacare because you don’t want to pay Scott’s medical bills, you’re a sucker. You’re already paying those bills. Because Scott wasn’t insured and didn’t get basic preventive care, he accumulated $550,000 in bills at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, which treated him as a charity case. We’re all paying for that.
This is such an important issue, that I had to use most of Kristof's column.  While I can never hope to write as well as he does, there is one thing that I do have to offer that (I pray) Kristof never does understand.  I have lived what Scott did. 

I am Scott, with insurance!  

 I was busy.  I had the blood in the urine.  I almost put it off.  I went to the Doctor.  I had cancer(albeit a different kind than Scott).   I had health insurance(my wife is a state worker).  I was able to get my tumor and the cancer removed by some of the best Doctors in the world at UW- Madison! I was able to get the cancer removed from my body(2 1/2 years + clean now and counting).  I was able to go through rehab and physical therapy.  I am able to continue to get my quarterly and now bi annual scans and tests to make sure the cancer has NOT returned.   I am now able to work and blog and play with my kids and coach their sports and be a husband and a neighbor and a friend and a father and a son and a brother, all because I had insurance!   

We have had a coffee can health care system in America for far too long!  

 It is immoral to allow Americans to die for lack of health care and disgusting for people to revel in it.

When a politician tells you that they want to "repeal Obamacare" and do not have a specific plan in place to replace it(free market solutions are NOT solutions), then they are telling you that they are NOT serious about actually governing this great country or representing you as an American. 

Keep in mind that these politicians who are telling you that they need to repeal, are rich upper class individuals and families who have Cadillac health insurance themselves that they have no interest in getting rid of.   These are also people who have never looked in the eye of someone close to them like Scott who is dieing prematurely because of their decision! 

Now you have!     Maybe Scott was supposed to die so others could live.   Maybe Nicholas Kristof has told a touching enough story that someone will think twice before they attend a "lets get rid of Obamacare"rally.   Maybe a politician will read this story and try and IMPROVE Obamacare not end it.    Just Maybe.

In the meantime, I pray that none of you ever have to go through what Scott and Nicholas went through in your lives!  I also pray that the people who write to Kristof and the people who think the same as them, take a good long look in the mirror!    

Please vote November 6th!     


  1. The direct result of high deductible plans and HSAs is that invividuals will not go to the doctor when they should because every healthcare expense is out-of-pocket. They will be treated later than they would have otherwise, that treatment will invariably be exponentially more expensive, and our nation's healthcare costs will rise even further. This is a no brainer.

    1. Exactly. I too wont go to doctor cuz my deductible is 6k! Many "affordable" policies have 10k deducts!

  2. Its foolish to argue that we need reform in our health care system. But I have heard first hand from 3 business owners, one with employees numbering in the hundreds that Obamacare will drastically change the way they do business. Similar to those reports we all have heard of business owners warning their employees of the consequences of another term.
    You want more jobs, and want healthcare on the backs of the job providers? In an Obama recovery? Your clueless. We can only hope for a president who doesn't despise the freedom of choice that we still have, as well as the economic system that got us here.

  3. Employers shouldnt carry the weight of healthcare.cradle to grave care- medicare for all.not "free"...we all pay

  4. 1. NO I absolutely do not want healthcare on the backs of businesses. I want a single payer health care system like the rest of the civilized world. However until we get there, Obamacare is the best thing we have had in our lifetime. It is a watered down slightly better system than we have now that covers millions more than before and it took tremendous courage and conviction to pass, so what does that say about passing anything that actually needs to be done.

    2. Please define "freedom of choice that we still have" for me. Would also like to know what you mean by "here" in the phrase economic system that got us here.

    1. the new system is on the backs of business. $10,000 per employee if an approved insurance plan is not offered, which of course would cost more than that. Do you understand what that will do to the cost of goods and services? To the unemployment rate?
      We are still free to choose between health care or food on the table. Under Obamacare we are not. Whether you think its a good choice or not, its still a choice.
      "Here", we still have more opportunity for an individual to succeed than most other countries. We are still the model for democracy. But the left is effectively chipping away at that.

    2. I understand now what it costs us all, do you?

      Although I am not sure you understand that if your choice is food on the table or health care you have no choice???

      We also really do not have that upward mobility that we used to have.

      Also not sure how demscracy has been chipped away at by the dems!

    3. Costs us all? Are we talking dollars or risk? Tell me, do you think it will be cheaper, or less people will die when it is in effect?
      Do you fear that the government will then decide who lives and who dies using a formula to estimate cost versus benefit of saving your life?
      And what happens when all these people lose their full time jobs in favor of part time, because $10,000 per employee would bankrupt their company in this economy. And are required by the government to buy their own insurance?

      Staying on topic, this law makes upward mobility harder in favor of fairness.

      Socialism seems to be democrats goal, not democracy.

    4. IMBAR,

      You lost any shred of respect that I may have had for you as a person when you came up with this shit:

      We are still free to choose between health care or food on the table.

      What you're saying is we have a choice on the method of our death under the current system. Then you go whining about your inferred death panels. We have that already you greedy little sniveling bastard. But it's not bureaucrats making the decisions now, but greedy CEOs. Where's the win in that? Sorry, Grandma, you gotta die because I want a new yacht. Real nice argument you got there. Idiot.

      But you are right on one thing. Obama won't make you choose how to die, since it will allow people to have their health care and food at the same time.

    5. "even if it bankrupts this country, Dammit"
      Just had to finish that last paragraph for you.
      If and when it does recess the economy even worse, will it be Bush's fault?

    6. But it won't, so that's a moot argument.

  5. Its foolish to argue that we need reform in our health care system.

    Yes, because hundreds of millions without any health care and hundreds of millions more unable to afford to use their healthcare is such a viable thing. After all, only the rich have a right to health and life, right?

    Sometimes, one gets comments that are too stupid to mock.

    1. By saying that I concede that our system is flawed, so if it makes you feel better to revel in that, write on.
      But you seem to want to ignore that the new system is equally as flawed.

    2. Here's what's funny! My boyfriend works in manufacturing. Last week they had an employee meeting on the changes to their health insurance BECAUSE of Obamacare. All the changes were positive. My boyfriend came home elated at all the great stuff that they now had. Even his most conservative of coworkers are elated about it.

    3. I stand corrected, if it benefits you how can it be bad.

    4. It benefits everyone, which is why you are opposed to it. Some people just aren't worthy, amirite?

    5. Well, I feel much better now that I have your guarantee it won't tank the economy and ruin the quality of health care that we have now. And yes, Meg, it would decrease my out of pocket expenses as well. But like the old saying goes, there's no such thing as free lunch.
      You might be right. The way things look these days this may be a moot argument anyway. In Fact, the republicans may get their chance to reform health care without any input from democrats just like the they did without input from republicans.
      Jeff, would you agree that would be "chipping away at democracy"?

    6. The Republicans did have an input on the healthcare reform. That is why it's only partially as good as it should be.

      As for if the Republicans have free rein, all we have to do is look at Wisconsin. Schools falling apart, poisoned water wells, higher taxes, people dying from neglect. Yes, absolutely brilliant thought there. Stop listening to Faux News and squawk radio and wake up to reality, cupcake.

    7. Ahh yes, It's too bad we can't be more like Illinois or California. Because your perceived problems we face here are far worse than theirs.
      Schools falling apart, higher taxes....thanks for the laugh. I'm assuming that is more of your sattire.

      The final vote tally for the Senate version of President Obama's health care reform legislation in the House was 219-212, with 34 Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition. Seems odd if the republicans did influence it in any way.

    8. Again, you'd be surprised by what you would learn if you would only move on beyond Faux Newz and squawk radio. But then again, you're probably scared to find out that your own skewed reality is not true.

      Are you saying that the final form of the Affordable Healthcare Act is the same as the original? That the Republicans did not have any parts of it cut out or modified? Either your a fool or a liar. Which one?

  6. I bar, usually I don't jump in the fray attacking you, but now your just being dishonest. Starting with the fact that obamare, Is based almost exactly on romneycare and the individual mandate is a brainchild of the heritage foundation and fully supported by mitt and tommy at one point. Add the fact that it took 14 months to pass and republicAns helped write much of it including chick grassley and Susan Collins who after getting parts written specifically for them, proceeded to vote against it.

    It's funny because like here in wi the repubs stack the deck then pretend they have a mandate and want to take 100 % control and completely dismiss anything the dems have to say. That then leads to massive lawsuits costing the taxpayers millions showing what we all knew to begin with. That the repubs only bills are usually unconstitutional.

    It's hard to work with the dems when your being controlled by Alec.

  7. We all make choices. All choices have consequences. The difference between an adult and a juvenile is that the adult accepts the responsibility, and the costs, of his choices while the juvenile seeks to transfer the blame, and the costs, to someone else. If anyone has no health insurance because he chose to not pay for it, and he undergoes healthcare services for which he is not required to pay, then it is, as Ayn Rand was fond to ask, at whose expense? And what is the moral justification for it?

  8. do you really think choosing between eating during themonth and health care is a choice?