Thursday, June 8, 2006

The Death Spiral

This book scares the living shit outta me. It is no joke. All I can say is thank goodness we have insurance. The bad news is that Madhubby will have to continue working for his soulless corporation until they pry his cold, dead fingers from his mouse so that we can continue to be insured.

The book introduces a frightening concept called the death spiral. The authors of the book predict that once a person has a catastrophic event leading to the loss of medical coverage, whether it be a job loss or divorce, that person enters a death spiral and continued absence of medical coverage hastens their descent towards death. It is a very grim prognosis but it goes something like this:

Helen is a happily married to Bob for twenty-five years. During their entire marriage, Heln is covered by Bob's employer's medical insurance. Then, Bob divorces Helen and she is no longer covered by the group medical insurance and she cannot afford to purchase her own policy. Shortly after the divorce, Helen finds a lump in her breast and goes to her regular doctor. Except her doctor won't see her now until she pays his fee upfront. She pays his fee and he refers her to an oncologist who also won't see her unless she pays his fee beforehand, since she has no insurance. The oncologist recommends surgery, which Helen can't afford because she's spent all her money seeing her regular doctor and the oncologist. Helen's breast cancer advances and she dies within two years.

Like I said, pretty grim. Millions of Americans are uninsured and there are lots of Helens out there who never get the care they need and who are, at this very minute, making a rapid descent through the death spiral. The irony of it all is that hospitals are obligated to care for the terminally ill. So, uninsured people like Helen can die in a hospital even though the hospital previously refused them treatment. This system seems woefully flawed for a country that considers itself one of the most developed in the world.

If our government can subsizide multiple wars on foreign soil that cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, then one would think they could divert a few billion dollars towards health care reform. The president's position is that the people of Iraq should have the freedom of choice. Do Americans deserve less? Shouldn't we have the freedom to see any doctor or go to any hospital we would like regardless of whether we are insured. This administration, that campaigns so fiercely for freedom on behalf of the Iraqis, has no opinion.

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