I am Obamacare.

Via on Mar 3, 2012

Update: Obamacare fails to collapse. Time to move on, folks. (washingtonpost.com) 7 Million sign-ups, 9.5 million including previously insured have gained coverage.

At 37 years old, I am the healthiest and most fit I have ever been.

I practice yoga 4-5 days per week. I walk a minimum of 10 miles per week, up and down the hardcore hills of San Francisco. I eat a healthy, whole food diet and I drink at least eight glasses of water per day (as I have all of my life). I take my vitamins. I sleep for at least eight hours a night, I receive regular acupuncture treatments and I meditate regularly. As a result of this healthy and mindful lifestyle, I have very minimal stress and anxiety in my life. All told, I lead a very healthy and happy life.

So you perhaps can imagine my absolute shock when I received the letter from Blue Shield of California informing me that I had been rejected for health coverage due to pre-existing conditions. As a self-employed writer, my only option is to purchase a private, individual healthcare plan. This makes me among millions of other small business owners in the United States. Those of you who are accustomed to the comprehensive coverage that a corporate group plan provides (as I had been for the past 15 years), may not be aware of how high the costs are for individual plans, and of how poor their coverages are, even at high premiums. Although the plans were all pretty poor in terms of high premiums, high deductibles and high out-of-pocket costs, after months of researching, I settled for a plan that seemed like the most decent option for my budget. I was willing to pay for the best possible coverage that I could afford. I was not looking for a handout.

As this same company, Blue Shield of California, had insured me four years prior on a similar private plan, I was not at all concerned about being accepted for coverage. That made it all the more shocking when I did receive the rejection letter. For the purposes of full disclosure, I will share with you the relevant aspects of my health history:

When I was 25-years old, my doctor had ordered a diagnostic ultrasound as a result of a kidney infection that I had. During the ultrasound he inadvertently discovered a small cyst on one of my ovaries. Never having had any pain or symptoms of having this cyst, the doctor performed a routine laparoscopy to find out what it was. It turned out to be a small endometrial cyst, and it was at that time that I received the diagnosis of endometriosis, a female reproductive disorder that is shared by an estimated 176 million women the world over1, more than 6 million of those in the U.S.2

The good news was that the doctors had found the cyst before it had further developed into a full-blown and problematic case of endometriosis. The even better news was that this disorder was easily and routinely treated hormonally by being on continuous-dose birth control. Since that day, now over 10 years ago, I have continued to be successfully treated with a very inexpensive, generic form of birth control. In 10 years I have never once had a single symptom or incident associated with my endometriosis. The birth control has, for all intents and purposes, kept the endometriosis at bay.

Blue Shield of California insured me four years ago, knowing that I had endometriosis.

Fast forward 10 years. At the age of 35 I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, specifically hypothyroidism. My doctor advised me that thyroid disorders are extremely common and that 1 in 5 women will be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder in their lifetime. In talking with friends, I discovered that over five of the friends within my own circle also had a thyroid disorder, thus illustrating how common it in fact is. Like my endometriosis, my hypothyroidism is also easily treated with daily hormone therapy, in my case with another very inexpensive, generic drug called levothyroxine (brand name, Synthroid). For the past two years my thyroid disorder has been successfully maintained, without incident, with the daily dose of levothyroxine.

When I received my rejection letter from Blue Shield, it cited these two extremely common and non-serious pre-existing conditions as the reason why I was being denied coverage. I am still to this day flabbergasted by this. The statistics above speak for themselves. My conditions are clearly conditions that are shared by millions of others, so if I am being denied coverage, chances are millions of others are as well.

According to a government study, up to 50% of adults have at least 1 pre-existing condition.3

But what concerned me far more than myself in this scenario was, what of the millions of people who are suffering from far more serious conditions than I, conditions that need much more extensive and expensive treatment? What about the people with diabetes, cancer, HIV, etc., people whose lives depend on getting proper treatment? If these health insurance companies were rejecting me for having two very minor and easily treatable conditions, it breaks my heart to think about what is most likely happening to the millions of people who are in much more dire and critical need of healthcare. I suspect I know what is happening to those people, and chances are you do too, as we see stories on the news regularly: many of them are going bankrupt, they are losing their homes, and in many cases they are losing their lives. This is the sad state of health care in our country.

By Bernard Pollack (Flickr: LA: Highway to Healthcare, Baton Rouge), via Wikimedia Commons

Before I go on to tell you the happy outcome of my personal story, and why I feel that Obama has provided hope for this country, let me share with you some of my past experiences and perspectives. Day after day I watch in dismay as the healthcare debate wages on in this country. So many of our fellow citizens are terrified at the prospect of “Universal Healthcare,” and due to a very successful propaganda machine they have become convinced that it is evil. They are convinced that to have Universal Healthcare means to “God forbid end up like our Canadian neighbors.” First I feel compelled to tell you that I know dozens of Canadians living in the United States and they all continue to express to me their horror at the backwardness of our healthcare system. (All of my European, Latin American and Asian friends express exactly the same.) They have seen and experienced it from both sides, first hand, and when I ask them about the healthcare system in Canada (and other countries), while they admit it is not perfect and there are definitely problems, they tell me they feel it is a far more humane option than the American system; they believe that it is the humane duty of a compassionate society to provide at least basic healthcare for its citizens. On this I could not agree more.

My own views on Universal Healthcare began to form when I was 20 years old and spending my junior year living abroad in Spain. My own experiences of the Spanish healthcare system were nothing but positive and my American friends and I had many in depth and insightful debates with our Spanish friends about the pros and cons of their healthcare system versus ours. Like the Canadian system, the Spanish system is also not perfect, but from the Spanish perspective they viewed us Americans as somewhat barbaric and cruel for not providing the most basic healthcare for our citizens. As I myself continue to be, they too were appalled at the knowledge that American citizens could be bankrupt out of house and home (and in the worst cases out of their lives) at the expense of their healthcare costs. Having lived in and spent a lot of time working and traveling in both Europe and South America, I know many foreigners and I have yet to meet a single one who wishes they had our healthcare system versus theirs.

In fact it dawns on me as poignant to mention that the day I received the rejection letter from Blue Shield, I happened to be on a road trip with a good friend who is a Canadian, and who has lived and worked in the U.S. for 20 years as a healthcare executive. This guy knows the U.S. healthcare system inside and out, having worked for several major healthcare providers himself, and when I told him about my rejection letter he was furious and went on to tell me of all the problems he has seen inside U.S. healthcare and insurance companies. I will admit I am no expert on public policy, nor do I claim to be. But this friend of mine is exactly that, a U.S. healthcare executive and an expert on healthcare policy. So when he speaks on the topic, I know it is with authority. He went on to explain to me all that is wrong with our system and how it is flawed compared to the Canadian system, and the Universal Healthcare systems of virtually every other developed nation on the planet. I will not go down the rabbit hole of those specific details today, I’ll save that for the public policy experts.

My point in saying all of this above is not to say that the only solution is a free, Universal Healthcare system. That is not at all what I’m saying. I’m simply trying to stress that our current system is broken and is in desperate need of fixing, and like anything the real solution is probably somewhere in the middle. But to Obama’s credit, he is trying to fix it, and as I learned personally, I for one believe he is succeeding… little by little.

The day I received my rejection letter, I called my mother in distress, completely uncertain about what possible options I had left. I knew that Obama’s larger healthcare reforms were set to kick in in 2013 and beyond, and that those included provisions for citizens with pre-existing conditions, but that was still a year away. What would I do in the meantime? I was faced with the troubling eventuality that I may have no choice but to live without health coverage. This was a daunting proposition.

Flickr Creative Commons, by Intel Photos

Thankfully I have a mother who loves to research this sort of thing and she immediately began digging. And it is to her that I owe having found California’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which is a new initiative enacted by Obama’s healthcare reform. This plan is specifically designed for people just like me; people who have, for various reasons, had to go without healthcare for the previous six months and who have subsequently been denied for healthcare due to a pre-existing condition. I couldn’t believe that this plan existed. It was exactly the safety-net that is needed for people like me who are now un-insurable due to the broken state of our healthcare system. Not only was I able to get coverage, but because I am now able to be part of a larger pool of insurees, this reduces the overall costs and allows in turn for much better coverage at lower negotiated rates. Afterall, this is exactly what Obama is aiming for with more universal coverage: larger pools of people that can provide greater leverage to negotiate rates with the insurance companies.

For those of you who may read this and falsely assume that I am somehow sucking off the system or taking advantage of a government program, I must be clear that this is not a government welfare program. We the insurees are largely paying for this plan and I will tell you that my monthly premium is $275/month (based on age and zip code) (this, incidentally, is higher than the premium of the plan from which I was rejected), and I still have a sizable deductible and co-insurance on top of that. This is no small amount of money. But as I said above, I was never looking for a handout. I was perfectly willing to pay my fair share for coverage… I was simply looking for someone who was willing to provide me that coverage.

Today I had my annual physical and the first doctor’s visit that I have been able to have in over a year; a year during which I had to run the very scary risk of being without healthcare. Today I am able to get back to complementing my already very healthy lifestyle with a preventive health and wellness routine. Today I owe a huge debt of gratitude to President Obama and all of the legislators who made this possible. And today I have hope for a nation, for millions of other uninsured and sick people who are in the same, and far worse positions than I was in.

So yes, today I am proud to say, “I am Obamacare.”

 To learn more about PCIP plans in your state, click here.

1. Source: http://endometriosis.org/
2. Source: http://www.endometriosisassn.org
3. Source: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/reports/preexisting.htm

~

Update 10/6/2013:

Though I wrote this blog back in the spring of 2012, the content of the story is more relevant than ever in today’s political climate. I wanted to share with you the progression of my health coverage since that time:

I have now been covered by California’s Pre-Existing Condition Plan (PCIP) for well over a year, and I could not be more grateful for the coverage and for the peace of mind that has come with it. I have been able to stay on track with my preventative and maintenance health care routine and my health continues to thrive.

This past July, in preparation for the full roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, my California PCIP plan was rolled over to a federal transition plan, and from July through the present, I have been paying a slightly higher rate of $287—still a much better value and coverage level than the private Blue Shield plan that rejected me.

And as of this October 1st, I have now received the same letter of enrollment that all other uninsured and under-insured have received, advising us of the enrollment period to enter into the open marketplace provided by the Affordable Care Act; here in California it is called https://www.coveredca.com/.

Between now and December 31st, I will be doing all of the necessary research to determine which is the best plan for me, and as of January 1st, I will be thankful to be part of an even larger, and therefore more competitive, marketplace. And at the same time that I am enrolling, so too will another family member who is also self-employed and is currently paying extortionist rates through Cobra.

He too is thankful for the ability to enroll in the healthcare exchange.

For those of us who are self-employed and are responsible for our own healthcare, and even more so for those of us who carry the stigma of a pre-existing condition, we are more fortunate than ever to have the guarantee of coverage in a marketplace that, through sheer volume, will be forced to be more competitive, and humane, than ever before.

Now, let’s get back to work so we can get this show on the road.

About Jeannie Page

Jeannie Page is a reformed .com management professional who has made a dramatic shift in her life, a shift to follow her bliss and to get into alignment in order to be a force for good in the world. Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in Whole Living Magazine, Jeannie is also the founder of The Yoga Diaries and also maintains her own blog The Awakened Life. Jeannie, and details about her current book project, can be found on Facebook here and on Twitter at @jeannienpage. Jeannie's Spanish Facebook page can be found here. Jeannie also previously served as the Spanish Language Editor for Elephant Journal. Click here for the Elephant Journal en Español Facebook page. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jeannie Page es una profesional de gestión reformada quien ha hecho un gran cambio en su vida, un cambio para seguir a su felicidad, para entrar en la alineación y ser una fuerza del bien en el mundo. Ella mantiene un Blog a Despertando a la Vida. Jeannie, y detalles sobre su proyecto de libro actual, se pueden encontrar en Facebook aquí y en Twitter a @JeanniePageES. Jeannie también fue la Editora del Idioma Española para Elephant Journal. Haga clic aquí para la página de Facebook de Elephant Journal en Español.

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Comments

65 Responses to “I am Obamacare.”

  1. Brian Culkin says:

    Although I think your post is admirable — you are so severely misinformed on matters such as contracts, economics, and an old concept people once called 'freedom'

    Barack Obama, like George Bush, is currently killing untold thousands through overt and covert warfare in the Middle East.

    And soon will invade Iran — and you want his same same government who kills without restraint to provide healing and health care for you?

    I get what you say about corporate insurance companies and I in no way support them either so I can be sympathetic to your disgust and mistrust of these monsters — but ObamaCare actually takes the problems of Blue Cross and magnifies them … 10x …. maybe 20x

    What we really need is to get back to local, organic, grass roots, community doctors … not the state run insanity of Obama or any other politician. left or right.

    Again …. putting this on the top page? This article is full of inconsistencies and falsehoods from top to bottom.

  2. Ozz says:

    Jeannie – there are some things I don't think you are considering. In fact, you've seem to have left out of your analysis a couple of the more important factors. For example, Big Pharma and the insurance companies lobbied like hell to get Obamacare passed. That's right – the same insurance industry that denied you coverage worked hand in glove with Obama to get this monster passed. Why do you suppose that is, hmmm? Have you given any thought to this apparent contradiction?

    Here's how this works: these companies are greedy – I mean, really greedy (like, they'd just as soon their clients die if it adds to their bottom line – you have seen the film 'The Corporation' right?) – and they know the best way to make money off of you – i.e. to guarantee long term visible of their revenue stream – is to do so in collusion with the State, which can after all force you to pay taxes, whereas insurance companies do not have police forces and court systems. So when it becomes law, we ALL have to pay – or go to jail. Insurance companies make bank, the government makes bank. Big Pharma makes bank, by exploiting a crisis THEY created. I've been around longer than you and I have seen this game play out over and over and over. Government and industry collude to create a 'crisis,' which is then used rhetorically to advocate for government to "solve" the crisis – but the funny thing is, the industry that's vilified in this process (in our case, the 'nefarious' insurance industry) somehow comes out after the government program is put into place making out like a bandit! Well, that's because they are. But wait – it seems in this happy scenario, everyone wins, right? I mean, insurance companies and Big Pharma, having dumped millions into lobbying for this bill, will make billions. Government gets to administer and control ever more aspects of our lives, which is it's raison d'etre, and you get your health care coverage. Wins all around right?

    OK, so here comes the big question that rarely gets asked (and is shouted down when it is asked, as is likely here) – a question you don't even touch on in your piece, yet which is the key to the whole thing:

    Who pays for it?

    This country is broke. We owe $15T in public debt – but if you actually factor in (as all legit accounting methods do) the unfunded liabilities (primarily Medicare and Social Security), estimates range from a real debt of $80T to $200T – and that's not including Obamacare! We don't have the money for Obamacare, which means the only option is to borrow it and pile on top of existing debt, which means that we're saddling future generations with the obligation not only to repay that debt, but the finance charges on top of it (so banks and foreign central banks that hold US Treasuries will be winners, too).

    This nation (and its citizenry) is addicted to debt, yet we seem to have forgotten what it is: debt is a claim on the future. That is, it's a financial obligation levied on the future.

    This means that all the players who are alive now (or at least of voting age) are the winners – while the losers losers are future generations not even born (or at least not yet of voting age) yet, so they can hardly defend themselves against such a transgenerational assault.

    Seriously, can you explain to me how grabbing for current benefits for ourselves and then forcing our kids and grandkids and so on to pay for those benefits fits into any sort of moral or ethical framework? I just can't see it.

    But wait – it gets worse!

    Remember another salient aspect of debt: INTEREST. So there is a built in assumption in this 'who pays' equation – since debt must be paid back with interest – that the future HAS TO BE bigger than today, economically speaking. Which means this whole scheme demands ever more consumption, ever more economic growth, which means ever more ecological degradation and exploitation of the same folks – the poor and 3rd world – that is already tipping the world into revolution.

    So now Obamacare – and all other such schemes – not only steal from the future, but they do so in a way that bakes into the cake social injustice, economic exploitation, and ecological degradation.

    This is not an opinion, it's a fact that derives quite simply from the reality of debt. So while Obamacare may appear to solve YOUR problem as you explain in great detail above – it does so at a pretty horrific cost, which analysis is absent from this article.

    I hope that clarifies things.

  3. Hi Jeannie,

    I'm trying to figure out my stance on this issue. Could you explain why you had a gap in coverage in the first place? Why did you have to apply anew for coverage? Did you try applying to other plans, and were younalsonrejected there? As a self employed writer myself, I was privately insured for many years, so I partly understand the challenge. Just trying to get the full picture!

    Thanks :)

  4. Ozz says:

    Couple of things left out of this analysis. First, Big Pharma and the insurance industry (yeah, the same one that denied you coverage) lobbied uber hard for this legislation. Have you wondered at the apparent contradiction? That's how it works: an industry and the feds collude to create a 'crisis' and then rake in the bucks after passing legislation which 'solves' the crisis. Seen it happen over and over and over again. I mean, it's the government that gave insurance companies the hold they have over health care in the first place by making it a tex deduction for BUSINESSES but not individuals. That's why it's so expensive for you.

    But who cares right? I mean, the insurance companies will make obscene profits, Big Pharma will make obscene profits, the government gets to administer yet more aspects of our personal lives, and you get your coverage. So it's a win all around right?

    Except all of this leaves out the big question: who pays for it?

    Well, there's $15T in public debt, but that doesn't count off-budget unfunded liabilities, and if we add those in (mostly Soc Sec and Medicare), we find that we as a nation owe between $80T and $200T (depending on whose math you use). In other words, the United Stats is insolvent. We can pay for Obamacare out of taxes (even if we raised rates dramatically) and so we will do what we always do: we'll borrow the money. We'll finance it with debt.

    After all, we're a society that is addicted to debt so to us this seems normal!

    Well, except there are two salient features of debt that you have not considered in the 'benefit analysis' above and which in fact are the core ethical issues:

    1. Debt is – by definition – a claim in future productivity – it is a financial obligation levies on future generations. Given the current level of debt ($80T – $200T) this means that the benefit you want wil need to be paid for by your kids and grandkids. So can you make a good argument as to how demanding that unborn people pay for your health care fits into any moral or ethical framework? I can't.

    2. Debt also includes INTEREST. This means that a debt based economy like ours DEMANDS that the future economy be MUCH BIGGER than today's. So not only are we demanding that future generations pay for our health care – but we're also insisting that they pay for the finance charges – necessarily by consuming more (since that's how growth occurs under our insane economic regime), and perpetuating the cycle of infinite growth on a finite planet, which means continued ecological degradation and continued exploitation of the world's poorest nations to keep our extractive economy growing.

    In other words, Obamacare is just one in a long line of programs that perpetuates ecological calamity and social injustice on a global basis. There is no honest ethical case that can be made for it, or for the other numerous programs already in place that are rapidly impoverishing and oppressing both the global poor in current times, as well as our kids and grandkids in the future who will be put in the position of having to continue to exploit their world to pay back debts WE chose to incur.

    Is this really so hard to understand?

  5. Ozz says:

    Couple of things left out of this analysis. First, Big Pharma and the insurance industry (yeah, the same one that denied you coverage) lobbied uber hard for this legislation. Have you wondered at the apparent contradiction? That's how it works: an industry and the feds collude to create a 'crisis' and then rake in the bucks after passing legislation which 'solves' the crisis. Seen it happen over and over and over again. I mean, it's the government that gave insurance companies the hold they have over health care in the first place by making it a tex deduction for BUSINESSES but not individuals. That's why it's so expensive for you.

    But who cares right? I mean, the insurance companies will make obscene profits, Big Pharma will make obscene profits, the government gets to administer yet more aspects of our personal lives, and you get your coverage. So it's a win all around right?

    Except all of this leaves out the big question: who pays for it?

    cont'd…

  6. Chip says:

    @ Bethany – Jeannie clearly states that she went from working for someone else to becoming self-employed. The ” gap in coverage” was a result from having to switch from a company plan to an individual plan. That’s kind of the whole point of the article… that Blue Cross of California was aware of her previous condition while covering her earlier, before she was turned down for an individual policy. Question: did you bother to read the story before posting? I’m curious, because I don’t know how Jeannie could have been any more clear about her circumstances. I apologize for sounding a bit testy, but it’s starting to become clear to me how there can be so many undecided “Independent” voters in this country.

  7. yogi henry says:

    jeannie, sorry to be harsh…..your article sounds like propaganda to me. So many generalizations and quick conclusions. My wife recently retired from her corporate job and just got accepted from blue cross/ blue shield of illinois with 2 pre-existing conditions and one is the same as yours….she’s been on synthroid for over a decade….her premiums for 5 million dollars of lifetime coverage are about the same as yours…..approx. $250 a month….and she’s 59 years old!!! So perhaps there are other scenarios at work here? If we allowed insurance companies to compete across state lines maybe? How about your bc/bs of california rejecting you knowing that your insurance at pcip was guaranteed by the federal government? see ozz’s comments above. Finally, your endorsement of every other countries healthcare system being better than ours is over the top. Your example about Spain is over 17 years ago! What about now? Every day headlines and stories abound about the fiscal messes in Greece, Spain, Ireland, etc. See Ozz’s comments again please. Nothing is “free”….Yes, there are problems to be solved, yet portraying Obamacare as the universal solution is naive and just plain risky or perhaps wishful thinking. The market place will adjust to conditions and if the government does a horrible job of administering our health care system, a parallel or even worse, a black market for health services will pop up. Have you thought of that? Why is it that foreigners from all over the world come here for their health services? And if you have the disposable income you may even be one of those people that purchase your health care services outside the government mandated system. Only this time it will be on top of the regulatory premiums you will pay regardless if you use their services or not. Who knows? Maybe government run health care will work. I’m happy you got a resolution to your particular need. What’s in the other 50,000 pages of

    legislation? Do you know? Does anybody? That’s a big reason to call you on endorsing the whole Obamacare law based on your example which in my particular case just wasn’t the same negative outcome.

  8. barbarapotter says:

    I just found out I need a knee replacement on my right knee (cannot walk on it now it is shot) and down the road most likely on my left which is damaged but not as bad. The right is urgent at this moment. I was with the corporate insurance since 1997 that my husband had until he retired in 2010 and we went on Cobra. I was self employed all those years and we were always on his plan. My Cobra expires in 3 months from now and I have to get surgery scheduled and all this done before that happens. All this time I never had anything major. Just an ultra sounds and recently a few MRI's. I pay $303.00 per month on Cobra for Blue/Cross Blue Shield of Florida even though we live in California. The corporation is headquartered in Florida. I called them and asked them if I could continue with the same company when the Cobra expires and not have any pre-existing conditions and they said that because I live in California it would have to be from them and because it is a different state I could not get continuous coverage. Strange. Especially because when my doctors here bill my insurance the bills are sent to Blue Cross of California so why is it not the same company? The back of my card says bill your local Blue Cross.

    I do have deductible and co-pay and co-insurance as well. I will not be eligible for Medicare and the other parts of that like my husband has until I turn 65 which is 16 months after my Cobra expires. I looked into that plan you talk about in California which means I will have to be without insurance for six months after it expires. I will also have to be turned down by the insurance company. I am not sure if they will turn me down or hit me with a very large premium that I cannot pay instead so that would leave me out of luck. I live on Social Security now and that would probably be more than I get each month. My head is spinning at the moment. I feel like the car that breaks down after the warranty runs out.

  9. Lonnie L. Jones says:

    We supposedly have "free" and "universal" healthcare in Canada, but after a few recent experiences, it seems anything but free or universal. Yes, the government funds visits to doctors, specialists and covers surgeries, but often specialists and procedures are several hours away, and the cost of gas, meals and lodgings can get expensive if follow-up appointments are necessary.

  10. Carole says:

    Interesting post. The best book I have read for many years is Better – it was lent to me by a neigbour otherwise I would never have thought of it. http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/bett

  11. Jeannie, I would like to begin by saying I admire you and your courage in venturing to speak your truth about this important issue. I think we can all agree that healthcare is an incredibly complex issue, particularly when you consider that we have a documented population of nearly 312 million people.

    Perusing the many comments placed here one thing is abundantly clear: many of the participants failed to take note of the fact that you made it abundantly clear from the outset that you are not a subject on healthcare – rather, you were writing anecdotally, from your own experience.

    In my opinion, the fundamental responsibilities of government are to insure the safety and security of its citizenry along with insuring they have the opportunity to attain an acceptable quality of life. To me there is nothing more important to attaining this goal than insuring access to quality health care and adequate education. End of story. And to say the United States has failed to attain those goals would be a gross understatement.

    As you know, I have lived in Argentina for the last 5+ years. This country of only 39 million people with an annual GDP of less than 400 billion dollars is somehow able to provide free medical care to anyone inside its borders irrespective of national origin, residency status, or status as a tourist who has only been off the plane for thirty seconds. Argentina also provides a free college education to anyone interested.

    And before anyone chimes in, I believe that the quality of medical care here is far superior to that if the USA. The educational system here for doctors should be the envy of the USA and many doctors here have studied abroad at well respected institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins. All the private doctors here are required to serve a certain amount of time in public hospitals so you basically end up getting a private hospital level of care within the public system. The only complaint I have heard here is that it might take an hour or two to be seen at a public hospital. Hell, people wait 10, 12, 14 hours or more in private hospitals with the best insurance available in the USA (I have had to wait upwards of about 12 hours myself, so I know this first hand). There are even people dying in waiting rooms and videos showing hospital staff merely stepping over them.

    Health care, in my opinion is the number one issue plaguing the USA today and quite frankly the lack of an adequate public healthcare system is a national embarassment. (I know I certainly have spent a lot of time the last 5 years trying to explain to Argentines, Brits, French, Canadians and the like why the greatest industrialized nation in the history of the world fails to provide for the health of its citizens.) It is an appalling situation.

    And sure, I am upset at the money spent on foreign policy (i.e. wars, covert and otherwise). And yes, I am sick to death of unfair lobbying practices by the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industries. And sure, I am sickened at the though of national debt hitting the trillions.

    However, with all due respect – however heartfelt the posters here may be – none of that has anything to do with your article. Yours was a passionate piece exploring and sharing your own experiences and horror of having to wade through the failures of our national healthcare policy.

    The disconnect with the subsequent dialogue here is amazing. The fact that we have an aggressive foreign policy including wars, both covert and overt going back a couple of centuries has nothing to do with your inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – none of which would be remotely possible without adequate health. Killing someone with the left hand does not and will not ever justify letting someone wither and die at the denial of the right hand (healthcare).

    The only direct connection between healthcare and our policy of foreign aggression is that our foreign policy bleeds resources that would better be served to insure the quality of life for our own people at home. That is why piss ant little non-industrialized nations like Argentina are able to provide free healthcare and education for all – they are not spending all their money on global imperialism (or what I call killing brown people with oil).

    Adequate healthcare is not about our existing national debt. There is no obligation more vital to successful government moving into the 21st century than safety, security and health. End of story. And were we to cease all entitlements today, close all welfare programs immediately it would not be enough. It would not begin to put a dent into our current economic crisis (which anyone with half a brain should know is a global issue anyway – what happens in Greece with its current national debt crisis might very well destroy the way of life in much of Europe and have catastrophic effect in the USA).

    The problem in the USA is not a lack of money, of funding or even of national debt. We can manipulate debt as all industrialized nations have been doing for decades. The problem is the distribution of the money in the USA. Like it or not, want to accept it or not, economic circumstances demand a return to more equity within taxation and overall distribution of wealth in the USA.

    And we are not talking about something new or radical here. We are talking about returning to systems, mechanisms and standards that were supported by Ronald Reagan himself – meaning we are only wanting to go back to the 80s.

    And all the leading Republican economists going back to many who worked for Reagan are all telling us that tax cuts failed.

    Anyway, thanks for the wonderful and insightful article. And bottom line, you were simply telling your story, your truth, about your own experiences with the horrors of healthcare and how Obama’s new systems may have literally saved your life and have certainly made adquate insurance (healthcare) available to you and to the many thousands, possibly millions of others who find themselves in similar circumstances.

    I really with that the national dialogue could shift from people trying to bicker and to attack anyone bold enough to speak his or her mind……… that it would shift out of that realm and into the land of solutions. For the more we focus on the problem the greater it seems and the more attention we pay to the solution the stronger it becomes.

  12. William E. says:

    I was hesitant to post this after reading the comment from Mr. Warde, as I agree with so many of his points, but, here is my take.

    From reading the comments to this post, it seems that the commenter's want to discuss many different topics.

    Perhaps you want to discus Americas wars of aggression in the middle east. This is a very important topic, and it needs to be discussed, but it's not about health care.

    Maybe you want to talk about how through government run programs, we are bankrupting our country, and putting an undue burden on future generations. This is a crucial issue, but it's not about health care.

    If you want to go over how government is hand in hand with the insurance companies and big pharma, and in the end it is they who benefit, no the people who need it most. We can argue this point, and though it may be closer to the topic of Jeannie's post, it's still not about health care.

    If you want to talk about how other countries are able to provide for their citizens health, where America in the past has not. While that is an interesting topic, AND it is about health care, to my mind it's beside the point.

    Here, to me, is the point, and here is what I would ask you.

    Do you believe that America, as a country should insure that all of it's citizens have a base level of health care coverage that they can rely on, and not be denied access to? If you say yes, you do agree with that, great. If you then say that you don't think Obamacare is the right road to do that, fine. You have a voice, you have a vote, and you are reading this you have access to the Internet, so start a movement to change the health care laws into something better. Our country will be better for your active participation.

    If you instead say that you do not believe that America has any need to insure health care for all of it's citizens, that the government should stay out of it and let the private sector handle it, than that to is your opinion, and if you want that changed, then change it.

    Whatever you want to discuss, argue the point on it's merits, be civil, and stay on the topic that was brought up.

  13. paul says:

    There are so many unsourced and unacknowledged generalizations in the comments it's hard to know where to start, but I'll add my own anyways. I've read that Medicare is 5% bureaucracy, while most insurance companies are 20% or more. So why, if a company could cut a cost in half, would they decline to do so? My best guess is that the real insiders and power brokers have their own interests tied into the success of the current system, supported by a philosophical stance against being controlled from afar. (A system that confuses drug makers and drug/medical innovation, the insurance of health providers and of the sick, and of course the worst confusion: people for money.)
    No country will be able to compete without universal health care/medicare for all, without killing people on a large scale. (Again, what are the expected returns on our wars?) And to just say "debt" obscures all unmetricable things that add to to that "debt" like how a country of sick people paying multiples more than every other country else is going to survive.
    A commenter above claims to be on a different axis altogether. I think the axis should be taken off the "what does it cost" and put on the "yes life does has value" axis. Reforming our prison-drug complex (by rehab and legalization not punishment, aka treating people like they might be adults), we reduce cycles of poverty and abuse, but it takes time, but more to the point it takes money from one industry and puts it in another- from the gatekeepers to healers. (Yes, gatekeepers are essential, I just think they get far too much of the resources). It seems obvious to me that people are more innovative, productive, etc. when they are healthy. Doesn't economic health depend entirely on people's health?
    I think that as conversations get more transparent, a clear and correct direction does come about, so thanks.

  14. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Some of the participants here seem to feel this discussion is getting a bit off track or overheated. For me, this has been an incredibly informative and civil discussion on all sides, from top to bottom. I went ahead and gave a thumbs up to every single post.

    A couple of thoughts…

    Financial collapse will be REALLY bad for the health of the nation's people. What if China and Japan decide they can't afford to buy our debt anymore?

    Why is health care so expensive? Big Pharma in bed with govt is one reason, as Ozz/Brian point out. Another is the govt-sponsored cartelization of the health industry by the AMA so many years ago. The AMA, according to one libertarian analyst, is the most powerful labor union in America, to our detriment. The second most powerful, I suspect, is the Am. Bar Association. Together, and with the help of govt-business collusion, they have sent costs through the ceiling. THAT may be the reason private insurance costs so much and why they have to be so strict about who they will sell coverage to.

  15. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Ok, I’m way out of my league here. But, let’s consider cartelization of medical care by the AMA, and meds themselves by pharmaceutical companies.

    Cartelization means legally limiting entry into a field to the benefit of those already working there, but at the cost of higher prices and lower quality. Ozz and Brian have mentioned meds. Let’s consider workers.

    Cartelization limits the number of doctors that med schools can graduate. Supply and demand. Costs go up; service goes down. Small towns and inner cities are sometimes left with no doctors at all.

    Cartelization limits the procedures that non-doctors can perform. So you have to pay high prices for a doctor even when you shouldn’t actually need one.

  16. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Two examples.

    Mid-wives. A few states still allow them and have not seen higher mortality rates. Imagine two maternity wards. One has ten expensively trained and paid doctors. The other has two doctors and eight relatively cheaply trained and paid midwives. Guess which hospital will offer cheaper service.

    Bone-setters. This is a job that can be done well by relatively cheaply trained and paid technicians. Here in Japan, I see signs for bone-setters all over the place. They don’t seem to be doctors. And I haven’t heard of any particular problems arising from this.

    Do any other possibilities for technicians taking over certain roles occur to the readers of Ele?

    Anyway, financial collapse is bad for most people's health. Very bad. And govt programs inevitably push us towards financial collapse. Why not consider lowering costs by letting the market work? We haven't really done that for about a century. If we had a market in medicine, I bet Jeannie could have found a good insurance policy.

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  24. Daniela says:

    In 2009 the 1st part of Obama care was pushed thru and activated immediately. It was for PECs and banned insurance companies to deny coverage in all states and in all plans. If you remember, your premiums increased and you received a yearly letter explaining the increase was due to the PEC law. The author does not address this.. Has the author received increased premiums and deductibles? Many on blue cross have as many nationwide have too…

  25. kim says:

    I commend you on your lifestyle, and your commitment to good health. That said, I hope you will listen to my opinion, which is based on tons of research. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will prove, for most people, to be UNaffordable, and UNcaring. It is all an ACT. The name is completely misleading. What this program will accomplish is it will eliminate (gut) all medical services for low-income and poor, by eliminating funding for free clinics and state medicaid programs. It will force people to pay that have no money. It will put otherwise law abiding and responsible people in jeapordy , by penalizing them for non compliance. It will strengthen the horrible power of existing insurance monopolies (where only a fraction of members’ premiums collected are actually paid out to doctors or hospitals, and the rest is distributed to those at the top). It will give large corporations an out as far as providing deserved medical benefits (we are already seeing the deliberate reduction of hours in order to keep employees just under full-time). It will financially encumber members with future debt in every case. It will create a stratificaton of the quality of medical services so devastating as to be the worst our nation has ever known, FOR those signed on to the Obamacare program. It has many aspects that are frighteningly hidden among those many pages, that have honest lawyers screaming their heads off. It is just as bad, and even worse, than the existing cruel system we have now. A true single-payer option, and eliminating private medical insurance completely, is the only reasonable way to reform our nation’s medical system. If I may add one more thing… The medications you take are not free of serious side-effects, especially when taken long term. I assume that they are taking into account that they fully expect you to acquire the diseases and conditions associated with taking these drugs. They are likely forecasting such things as relapse, cancer, liver failure etc, when they look at your medical history (that is their job). Right now you are fine, but statistically they know the risks you are taking along with the drugs, though their marriage with big pharma will not permit them to reveal this reason to you. Hold out for a whole new system that is fair for all. Hold out for, and demand, single-payer.

  26. Kathleen says:

    This is a complicated issue, but one that I hope everyone will continue to work on. I am from Canada, and have been a student in your country for the last two years, and am now a working professional. I want to say that I never felt anxiety going to see the doctor in Canada beyond the specific health concern that was prompting my visit. I always felt assured that I would be treated for whatever ailed me, and wouldn’t be out-of-pocket too much, save potential prescriptions. I can’t stress to you enough the amount of anxiety that rises up in me when I visit a doctor in the US. I am always concerned about the cost, or if I will be able to get treatment. Sure, part of this is unfamiliarity with your system, but it’s also due to co-pays and limitations on care. It’s a very strange feeling! And now that I am working, and am paying almost as much tax as I did in Canada, I am flabbergasted as to what my taxes here are paying for? Don’t get me wrong, I feel honored and lucky to be able to study and work here. I’m just commenting on the differences I feel. I do think that in terms of our health, there is so much to be concerned about just to be well, that the added pressure of expense is tremendously sad, especially as there are ways to relieve it. I hope that change comes soon. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  27. James Fraser says:

    I shared your article on FaceBook with my personal comment:

    If you oppose Obamacare…please take the time to read this. I lost my health insurance in 2000 when my employer went bankrupt. No one would insure me due to pre existing conditions, until my health deteriorated to the point that I qualified for SS Disability. When you are approved for Disability, normally you must wait TWO YEARS before you can get Medicare (how does this make sense?), but I was becoming so sick that my Congressional Reprsentative- Mazie Hirono- interceded on my behalf….otherwise I would still be waiting…or DOA…

  28. Aimee says:

    I too am Obmacare. I am a 40 year old woman that was denied insurance at 39 because of an abnormal pap done 4 years ago. The cells were tested and found not to be of the HPV strain but I was still denied. I too a yoga instructor and am in very good health. To say that I was shocked at the news of my denial would be an understatement. My cholesterol level is low as well as my blood pressure, I have had two successful pregnancies and homebirths, I teach and practice yoga, yet I remain uninsured. I was told that I would have to have two clear Pap smears before I could be covered. I’ve had one and now have to wait the given period of time for the next. I have never been on medication or had any other health issue.

    My husband ( with high cholesterol and blood pressure) and two children have insurance, I am waiting for Obama Care, I have no choice.

    You are not alone and I wish you continued health.

  29. Jen says:

    Great article and thank you for the first hand story. It's my hope that people look at those the law has helped and is about to help. I was watching the news and heard that, the first day Affordable Healthcare began, many people began crying in relief when calling in to ask questions and sign up. Healthcare is for everyone. You take care of yourself, as I do, but we all deserve backup healthcare as things happen. Plus, hopefully rates will eventually go down. You pay a lot, it's expensive!

  30. JMK says:

    Very happy for you that you found a plan and have coverage. Clearly addressing pre-existing conditions is a good point of the healthcare debate. Not addressing waste, fraud and the costs of healthcare or even more importantly that wellness should be the focus for more people are the shortcomings. Tangling so much extra in legislation is not transparency. That's why I have issues with the Affordable Care Act as it was passed. Our legislative process is arguably as broken as our healthcare system.

  31. @lyndalippin says:

    In my experience, single payer health care works much better. I didn't mind paying higher taxes when I could go to the doctor for $10, the ER for $10…. My husband needed angioplasty and it cost… $10.

    Now we are back in America where the only ACA solution anyone would accept was still privatized. And now everyone is complaining.

    We are looking for jobs out of the country again…

  32. Roz says:

    Thank you for this. My sisters and one of my brothers-in-law are all self-employed, and they too are Obamacare.

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