Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Affordable Health Care: One Year Old Today

My husband recently had knee surgery. (My role as caregiver is part of the reason I haven’t been posting much recently.) He’s mending nicely now, and it looks like that knee might be good for another half million miles or so.

The whole episode might have ended tragically, however. A few days after surgery, the patient woke me up at 2 a.m. It seemed like he was urgently trying to tell me something, but he couldn’t speak. He just kept starting sentences that led nowhere, like “I, . . . uh . . . feeling . . . .” Then he’d start again, without ever telling me what was wrong. Figuring that driving him to a hospital would be faster than calling an ambulance, I got him into the car and off we went. He wasn’t thrilled about going, but I was in no mood to negotiate.

Nurses at the hospital couldn’t get a blood pressure reading at first, but when they did, my husband’s blood pressure was a very dangerous 240/180. Drugs brought it down quickly, and he seems to have suffered no ill effects from the incident. His doctors have two schools of thought on what caused the episode, including the possibility of a small blood clot caused by the surgery that went to the brain. Happily, in any case, he did not suffer a stroke.

We have excellent insurance—partly because I have made quality health care a priority throughout my working life. At various times, I considered the possibilities of opening a small business or doing free-lance writing and consulting work. However, the need to feel secure about health care kept me working for large employers who could offer quality insurance plans. Those decisions might have been responsible for saving my husband’s life the night his blood pressure went through the roof.

People without insurance hesitate to go to a hospital. They know that even a short visit or a minor problem can break their budget for the month, or for the year. A longer stay or a serious illness can mean bankruptcy. So they wait to be sure something is wrong. By the time they are convinced they have no choice but to get to a doctor or hospital, they may be very ill—or dying.

Had we waited to see if my husband’s head cleared the other night, he might have been among the 45,000 known deaths that result every year from our antiquated, inadequate, and often cruel health care system.

The good news is that one year ago today, things started getting better. By the time the Affordable Health Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, no one in America will have to risk death or disability out of fear of getting help when they need it.


Idna said...

CJ, I'm truly sorry to hear all the medical issues you and your husband have gone through recently. Hopefully his "mending" continues to a full recovery soon.

But I must object to your Pollyanna-esque belief in Obamacare. Would that it worked as well as you propose ... AND save money to boot!

But in the real world, we have already seen many detrimental things happen because of this ill-conceived law.

I will just focus on one issue that shows how faulty it is. The Obamacare waivers. Why is it necessary to give certain entities (unions, certain companies, some cities, 4 states) WAIVERS from such a fabulous health program? To date, there have been 1040 such waivers given. (You can see a l-o-n-g list on the HHS website.)

Turns out, lots of those getting waivers are the very groups (unions ... SEIU, teachers' unions, $ donators to Obama, etc.) who lobbied for the passage of Obamacare. Now that it has passed and people "see what's in it," to quote Nancy Pelosi, they want out.

The waivers aren’t meant to protect victims from unintended consequences of Obamacare; they are meant to exempt them from the very intentional increased costs of health insurance that the law causes.

The administration has decided that most people will face increased health insurance premiums, but special friends will not.

If Obamacare is such a great law, why does the White House keep protecting its best friends from it?

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Idna,

The complexity of the Affordable Care Act is entirely the result of the Republicans' determination from the beginning to defeat anything suggested by a Democratic president. A simple one-payer system based on any of the models available in other industrialized countries would have been much easier to implement. But no--Obama had to compromise. (I am among those progressives who sometimes get tired of his pretending that the other side is bargaining in good faith when they're obviously not.)

As it happens, during the several years it will take to fully implement the act, there are numerous ways in which states and employers already cover some individuals. The exemptions in the act are simply to ensure that we don't recreate the wheel when it's not necessary. If states, unions, or employers already offer adequate, affordable health care (as, for example, in my case), there's no need to mess with success.

Our main concern as a nation right now is, and should be, with the millions who still remain without any health care coverage at all.