Forgive me for getting political. Here at the Stiletto Gang, we try hard to write entertaining and informative posts about a variety of topics. For instance, this week, my choice for a topic was between “Spanx” and “health care.” As you’ll see, I’ve chosen the latter and I apologize, in advance, for ticking anyone off, something I apparently have gotten very good at lately.
It seems that you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing the words “health care” or “health care reform.” Never has a topic, in my lifetime anyway, engendered such passion and heated debate and I was born a year before the Civil Rights Act was passed. I don’t remember this kind of inflammatory discussion when brave men and women were shipped across the sea to liberate a little country called Iraq. But hold the insurance companies’ collective feet to the fire, or offer health care to a child, or someone with a “pre-existing condition” and we get threats and potential violence against our lawmakers.
Is the health care bill perfect? Not by a long shot. But neither was the Constitution. That’s why we’ve got amendments, people.
Some other things that weren’t perfect? Medicare, the Social Security Administration, the Works Progress Administration, the ERA…need I continue?
A few friends were over the other night, including a friend who has muscular dystrophy. He recounted that because of the arcane system under which we are all laboring (and getting sick), he cannot get treatment because he has the dreaded pre-existing condition. Yes, he’s had MD since he was eighteen. Did it exist before that? No. He already had it when he became an adult, though, and when he went on his own insurance. So he can’t be treated with certain drugs that could possibly minimize the discomfort that he feels from his illness. The insurance company won’t let him. He hasn’t quite figured out how to get around this Catch-22 and he’s forty-five years old living with a chronic disease that he’ll be living with for the rest of his life.
Then you’ve got me. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma, a deadly diagnosis at best. There was one surgeon with whom we consulted who would even attempt to remove the tumor from my groin. He felt that the operation would be successful, unlike the other surgeons we consulted. He felt that he could cure me. The only catch? The hospital where he performed my surgery didn’t take my insurance. The cost? Upwards of six figures.
Fortunately, I come from a family with the means to help me pay for what turned out to be a life-saving surgery. The operation was successful. Not a day goes by, however, that I don’t think about the mother, sister, aunt, or daughter who has to make the decision either to not have the surgery or go with the surgeon with the shaky hands who isn’t confident that he or she can get the tumor out never mind have the patient survive the surgery. I met that surgeon, incidentally, and he didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Can you imagine having to make that choice?
The Iraq war will cost the American taxpayers close to three trillion dollars by the time we finally get out. I haven’t heard a peep about how much the war is costing the average “Joe and Jane,” but I hear about how we’re going to be paying for someone else’s health care for as long as we live and into future generations. Guess what? We’re paying for it now. Just because we’re not currently insuring the uninsured, we’re still paying when they have an x-ray, or go to the emergency room, or have a strep test at a clinic. We pay every single time.
By the world’s standards, I’m a pretty rich person, even if by the standards of this country I fall solidly into the middle class. It is because I’m a pretty rich person that I am here today. I have the means to pay for the best health care money can buy and I’m not even one of the “Cadillac plan” holders. Without health insurance, and the ability to pay for the difference between what my insurance would cover and what my doctor would accept to take out a five centimeter lump from my groin, I would be dead.
That’s not putting too fine a point on it. That’s the truth. And I can’t bear to think of anyone saying to one of the most sought-after cancer surgeons in the world that they’ll have to pass on the surgery that could save their life because they can’t afford it. I can’t even think about what it would be like to sit around and wait to die, because that would have been my fate. I would not be writing this post—and possibly ticking you off—if I hadn’t had health care. I wouldn’t be here.
Back in 2000, I watched a debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, both of whom were vying for the Democratic nomination. I had always been a Bradley fan and hoped that he would win the nomination, an outcome that was not to be. I remember one of the moderators asking him why we should strive for universal health care in this country. Why, the moderator asked, should we insure the uninsured?
His answer? “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
The plan isn’t perfect. Politics prevail, and not in a good way. As a nation, if we focused on the saying “because it’s the right thing to do”—and made our decisions based on it—as opposed to which side of the aisle someone sits, we’d all be better for it.
I promise to write about Spanx next week.