Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Price of Life

An odd thing happened to me recently during Breast Cancer Awareness Week. My entire place of business was dressed in pink, and I hate pink. I was in the process of saying so when my phone rang. A beloved cousin was calling to tell me she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. With an early diagnosis, however, her prognosis is excellent. That would have been enough of a coincidence; however, an hour later, I got a call from another woman who said exactly the same thing. One hour, two women whose lives had been saved by awareness and early diagnosis. I vowed never to complain about pink again.

Then yesterday at a beauty salon, I chatted with a woman who had just had her toe nails painted pink, with the signature pink ribbon on each big toe. A breast cancer survivor herself, she is big into talking up the value of mammograms with every woman she meets. Having become the (hopefully temporary) guardian of a cat, I then went to the store and bought cat litter for the first time in several months. On the handle of the plastic container was a pink sticker with the ubiquitous ribbon and the message, “We support breast cancer research.”

Here’s a public awareness campaign that works, and thousands of women are alive because of it. The survival rate for those diagnosed early with breast cancer exceeds 96%.

Clearly, mammograms save lives; however, 13 million women in the U.S. aged 40 or over have never had one. For most, it’s a matter of cost. The $600-a-month insurance plan I had last year doesn’t cover them; the $800-a-month plan I was forced to buy this year does, but with a hefty “co-pay.” For many women in America, the cost of routine health maintenance, including mammograms, is simply out of reach.

This is an excellent example of why this country so desperately needs affordable health care, not just expensive emergency care for poor and middle-income families. Optimum health care requires much more than just emergency crisis management. It requires consistent access to health and wellness services—services too many Americans can’t afford.

The status quo is intolerable. Americans have waited forty years for a viable national plan for health services, while the insurance industry and its allies have stalled for time. The wait is over. Now is the time for comprehensive health care reform.


Six said...

I am really surprised at your opinions expressed in your blog seeing here that you are a business owner. Nearly all business owners I have ever met (and I meet a lot in my line of work) who shoulder the burden of meeting a payroll each week, and seeking out the best benefits available for thier employees - who most refer to as thier family - share different sentiments to yours about the best avenues for our country. I applaud you for being a business-owner... our country's wealth and economic power is directly attributable to our small businessmen and businesswomen who labor tremendous hours in thier entrepreneurship.

I do take issue (as I often do), with your claim about a mamogram being a financial burden - within about 2 minutes of searching on the web, I found 7, yes 7, non-profit and for-profit, organizations that through thier charitable works offer either heavily discounted or free Mamograms. However, I believe strongly that private individuals who can afford healthcare services, should. High deductable plans are WONDERFUL! I do think people should be forced to make a choice between thier purchase of a brand new Prius on 100% financing or buying health insurance for themselves. There are a substantial number of people who by all accounts CAN afford insurance, but don't - whether it is poor money management, apathy or voluntary ignorance, they just don't!

It is important to note that this Public Awareness campaign that you applaud for working so well is not rooted in a government mandate, regulation or program. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was essentially started by a PRIVATE FOR PROFIT (how evil!) PHARMACEUTICAL company. Even worse, the little pink ribbon is a hallark tradition started by the folks at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation who are a bi-product and founded by a.... FOR PROFIT COSMETIC company (for shame)!!! The drive for awareness is further driven by other private (non-government) organizations and private individuals who make thier OWN decision to participate. This is not a triumpf of the Federal Government... rather the Private Sector.

Additionally you cite the US very high survival rate of Breast Cancer... it's actually the highest in the world. While only 3% in the US will succum to Breast Cancer it is actually closer to 20% who are diagnosed will succum in our counterparts over in Britian - what is that, something like 6+ times higher? Brittian not-so-ironically has their own government run healtchare... the NHS mandating, regulating and distrubuting care for all.

If we left the fight against cancer to the Federal Government, we would have about the same succes as the 'War on Drugs'... which has wasted billions upon billions yet produced no meaningful results outside of giving us the honor of the highest prison inmate population per capita as well as a greatest actual number of inmates - greater than all of European combined.

Breast cancer IS a cause worthy supporting - by everyone. However lets be cafeful here and not draw a line from Breast Cancer awareness success to government mandates on healthcare.

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Six,

Sorry to disillusion you, but I'm not a business owner. The "place of business" I was referring to is a public school. However, I share your respect for small business, without which we'd have none of the great advantages we have as a nation.

Despite some nonprofit options, the fact remains that low- or no-cost mammograms are simply not available to most women in most places--not to mention funds for regular checkups and other diagnostic procedures that should be routine.

Six said...

Most women should NOT recieve low or no-cost mammograms... because most women are either able to afford the procedure out of pocket and/or are able to afford health-insurance. The women who legitimately cannot afford it either out of pocket or a health insurance plan -well that is where we have a number of options such as charity from either profit or non-profit organizations. And then of course there is Medicare/Medicaid - which just as a test I went through the 100 or so questionairre and completed as an unemployed minimum wage earner in the services field and found 22 different federally funded programs that I would theoretically be eligible for that included in addition to Food Stamps and other food-provided programs, health insurance that in fact covered mammograms.

Don't you think it would be better to try and fix something that is at the very least partially, at best mostly working right now - certainly working much better than anywhere else in the world rather than turn over the entire reigns to the same group of idiots who run such epic failures as the post office, and the war on drugs? I am not contending that what we have now is the best we can do, and not in need of reform, but I cannot recall anything the government has taken over that they manage to run better than the private industry equivalent.

Citizen Jane said...

So . . . Americans should rely on charity when they can't afford health care--or, as is the case now, run up the expense of the entire operation by going to emergency rooms when they're in critical condition?

And we don't have the best health care system in the world. What ever gave you that idea?

The theme of the Republicans since this whole debate began has been wait! no! not yet! hold on! we need time--we need YEARS--to read everything.

If you think the Republicans have been bargaining and putting forth their own initiatives in good faith, then you've been watching Fox and reading the WSJ--and not much else.

Citizen Jane said...

No, Six, I don't think the health care system can be "fixed." Too many aspects about it are completely wrong headed and dysfunctional. This is one area where we pretty much need to start over.

I need to get back to work, but if you're interested, there was a really good discussion on NPR this morning on why the whole system in the U.S.A. is so problematic. One issue they discussed at some length is the difference between health insurance and other kinds of insurance. When insurance companies insure against fire, death, or theft, they have every reason to believe that they'll never have to pay off. When they insure health, they KNOW it will invariably cost them money eventually. So they set about trying to minimize their costs--which, of course, means minimizing services. Our whole approach to paying for health care in this country has just, as they say, "sort've growed." It needs to be planned next time.