Sick of the Health Care Consequences

Our insurance changed on October 1.I don’t want to be one of the people who has to select (and figure out how to pay for) the insurance of a couple hundred pastors and their dependents, so I am not judging their decision. However, after the conference call in late September, Les and I were quite confused as to how it all works: limited number of doctor visits, high deductible that gets mostly paid through some other service, copays and no-pays and no-ways. We had no idea how it would play out.

But in typical Carol fashion, my body has decided to be the test case so we can figure it all out. Six weeks in and I have already met the huge family deductible thanks to the scans I’ve had. I think I might be halfway through the doctor visits we are allowed. I am not sure how any of it works after that. Les is being gracious enough to handle all the paperwork, but it does make me nervous. How much will it all end up costing us out of pocket by the time this is done and I’ve got a diagnosis? I haven’t a clue, and that frightens me. It’s not like I have huge piles of cash lying around waiting to be spent on health care.

But at least I have insurance. The census bureau says almost 50 million Americans have no health insurance at all. How do they do it? The bills I am seeing are staggering. The insurance companies get plump reductions in the price (about 50% for the mega bill I got yesterday), but if you’re an individual with no insurance, you don’t get those deductions; you have to pay the whole whopping mess.

And it doesn’t end with struggling to pay medical bills. A study in 2008, even before the current foreclosure crisis exploded, found that 49% of foreclosures were brought on by health issues: the medical problem itself, the job lost due to the medical problem or needing to care for someone who is ill, and the unmanageable medical bills. I can only imagine this is getting worse as fewer people have employer-sponsored health care and more homes are worth less than the original purchase price. And it doesn’t take a study (although they exist) to recognize that people dealing with unpaid bills and/or foreclosure have higher stress levels and so get sick more often, or skip doctor visits and medications.

I know people have all sorts of problems with the government’s mandatory health care bill, but something needs to be done. Why can’t we find a way to reign in the health care costs and provide decent insurance for all Americans? I know it will take something Congress has ignored (probably since most of them are lawyers by trade): tort reform. As long as doctors fear frivolous lawsuits, they will order more tests to ensure they aren’t missing anything. My Ob/Gyn got out of the obstetrics business because she wanted to work part-time and enjoy her own kids, but she couldn’t afford to do that and pay the malpractice insurance. Apparently, obs are supposed to be miracle workers who produce a perfect baby in perfect birth conditions every time. Oh, if only life were that magical.

While most hospitals offer charity help with bills, if you have a decent income, but one that is used up on other bills like a mortgage, there is no help available. I can’t even tell you of a charity that you can give to that helps people struggling to pay medical bills. All I can suggest is that you be sensitive to the health care needs of those around you and look for ways to help with a gift toward bills if they are uninsured. (Please, this is not a plea for a gift to me; we’re fine! Both of us are working, and as I said, we have insurance.) Let’s do our best not to judge why others are short of cash until we really know their situation. And maybe you need to reconsider the national health care bill. A flawed bill may just be better than no bill at all.


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