Thursday, May 5, 2011


I have been working in a call center for just over six months. My job is to accept phone calls from people who have insurance from a relatively prominent insurance company. Having already been a supporter of Universal Health care, I can certainly say my new job has been enlightening. For one thing I will never get an HMO. My hope for the reinvention of this blog is to try to shed some light on the plight of our nation. The only industrialized nation without socialized medicine. Yes, I said  socialized.

Everyday I come home and unload my worst phone call of the day on my poor spouse. And so it begins...

Today, it was a poor young man who had thrown out his knee this Saturday. Today he had an appointment to see an Orthopedic specialist. Hobbling around on crutches. He was calling from his cell while sitting in the lobby of the specialists office. They were refusing to see him because there was no referral in place from his primary care doctor.

You see, when you have an HMO you can't just go see a doctor if you feel sick. You have to see the doctor that is named on your policy. If you see anyone besides your primary care doctor you have to have a referral. It takes up to three days to get a referral.  It can be expedited and then you can get a referral in a speedy 24-48 hours.

So here is the caller. In the lobby. A mere twenty feet away from the doctor who can help him. But he doctor was refusing to see him. Apparently they had some sort of issue with the Prominent Insurance Company for which I work. You see. The primary care doctor had agreed to issue an expedited referral for him, but the referral guy had gotten into a fender bender over his lunch break and therefore would not be back at the office to call us. The specialist, the caller, and I, myself, called them to try to get someone  else to issue the referral. No dice.

The call ended with the caller "disconnecting" while I was calling our internal team that intervenes in cases when immediate care is needed. Once I called them I learned that they do not take my type of call. They only take Medicare calls.

It's red tape. It's jumping through hoops. It's squeezing blood from a rock. But there is something fundamentally wrong with our health care system. From the providers to the insurance companies to the people not seeking care because of all the nonsense and thus getting sicker and sicker.

I'll consider it my job to keep telling these stories until someone hears them.. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

This IS America!

I have made no secret that I am in favor of Universal Healthcare. I have no fear that the country is going to slide into Socialism, or that Obama is going to take away our guns or anything like that. What I do know is that we VOTED these people into office. This is a democracy. We the people... VOTED for our congressmen, and our senators, and our President. He ran his campaign speaking healthcare reform and he was VOTED into office by a huge margin. And the congressmen who VOTED on this bill are the same people that we lowly citizens VOTED into office. And the same congressmen who represent us, we the people... So if the country is indeed headed to Helena, Handbasket then... guess what! We VOTED for us to go there.... We the people, the majority, the democratic majority.

And this member of the majority is quite frankly, thrilled that the bill went through. I can rest a little easier knowing that my daughter will not be denied coverage for her preexisting condition. Now the insurance companies will have to find some other reason to try and deny her coverage. A good deal of the opposition is saying that our taxes are going to go up.

Again with the money.... WHO CARES ABOUT MONEY!!! I guess I can say that since I don't really have any. But ultimately is it right for me to look at my daughter and say "The country you live in does not think your life is worth saving because it would cost too much," To me that is what is being said. Who cares if someone is dying or suffering, as long as our taxes aren't too high. The cheeseburger brigade can gather their torches and pitchforks and rally all they want, because it seems wildly obvious that the majority VOTE has chosen this path for the country. I know my VOTE did. So let's strap up the caravan, do another potty run before we hit the road, polish off our sign reading "Helena, Handbasket or Bust" and let's go. Because at long last, some of us might remain healthy enough to get there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Coffee Party

Last Saturday I attended the first meeting of the local chapter of the Coffee Party. I signed the mailing list paper, so technically I am a newly minted member of the Coffee Party. So what does this mean to me? It means I want to find other Americans who are in my situation, who have been directly affected by the current Healthcare situation and economy. When we went around and introduced ourselves, everyone there seemed very involved. As in watching the news, following the webpages and headlines, collecting soundbites from Glenn Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh, passing them around and rolling eyes. Sure there was definitely an undercurrent of dissatisfaction at our current situation, but as far as I could tell I was the only one there representing a true and tangeable product of the system. I do not disparage any one for where they are, but I do wonder where are the others like me. Where are the people who have been wronged by the healthcare system? Where are the folks who can't find work because they are over qualified or under degreed? Where are they?

Another question that came to mind while I was there and which was raised by others present, is this: Since when is it considered subversive to engage in civil discussion? Why can't we ask questions and expect those questions to be answered in a civil and logical manner, rather than an emotional free for all that usually accompanies certain buzz words. Words like Universalized Healthcare, for example. What's the big deal? Why is it such a gasp-inducer to use this phrase? But it's SOCIALISM!! some would say. To paraphrase the woman at the meeting who harkened from Poland, "Unless someone has actually lived under socialism, they have no business calling anything by that name,"

To the best of my understanding, universal healthcare means nothing more or less than a tax supported system which everyone pays into and gets to take part in. How is that different from, say, the postal system or the highway system for that matter? If I am missing something, then by all means enlighten me. Please. I am angry, yes, but I am here for the conversation. I want to know what you think.

So lets do coffee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

On Being Poor

There is a difference, I have always believed, between struggling paycheck to paycheck, and being poor. Truly poor; worried about meals poor, Le Miz poor. Luckily, (or Blessedly depending on your mindset) I have never been in this category. Oh, we are skating perilously close to the edge these days but we still have a place to live, and thanks to the American taxpayers we still have food to eat. Once we were technically homeless for about a day, after an accepted job offer turned sour and we were road tripping back from New York City to Lexington, KY, without a thought of what we were going to do once we got back. The sunsets in Pennsylvania are truly breathtaking, and we discovered a cute little town called Fairmont, West Virginia where we bought a tire and ate breakfast. Imagine that wierd town that Ewan McGregor visited in "Big Fish" except with shoes and more teenagers working at the Seveneleven.

In my twenties, my peers and I would compare prices of outfits and relish in whoever had found the better deal.

"Cute top!"
"Thanks, Goodwill for five bucks."
"No way, that's awesome!"

We claimed Bohemian status and flaunted our 'artsy' abilities to develope our own personal style with nothing more than some second hand clothes and a big heap of imagination.

These days things are different. During the time that I have been in school and had children, I have made use of some of the programs for which I have become eligible. It started out with occasional visits to the local food bank and has since progressed to WIC and a generous food stamp grocery card. I personally feel very little shame at making use of these programs. They are in place for a reason, and my household has two very active reasons, ages one and three. And God-willing, this is a temporary season.

But upon entering this season, I have noticed a very distinct and markedly different manner of treatment towards me by those who have first hand knowledge of our state. I'll be standing in line at the grocery store, watching the cashier smiling and bantering with the person in front of me. Nothing major, just the weather or the price of peas, or whatever. Then I step forward, pay for the shampoo and hand lotion the normal way. They greet me with a smile and start to ring up my items. When I start to ring up the Juicy Juice apple juice, Cheerios, milk and eggs, I lean forward and say "These are going to be on WIC," And that's when it happens. The reactional shift has ranged from a glazed over, nearly hostile gaze without another word until the end of the transaction, to challenges on what items I have chosen. "You can't get this brand," one woman said of the jar of peanut butter I had chosen.

"Oh," I said "I've gotten it before. Have they changed it?" I said trying my best to sound sincere and apologetic.

"I'm not trying to make trouble," she said still sounding rather challenging, "I'm just telling you what I know,"
Turns out she was wrong. I did have the right brand. But I simpered and apologized none-the-less. For some reason I don't like being challenged, even when I'm right. But that's an issue for another blog.

Another time, after I missed an appointment for WIC (they are every six months and totally out of our routine!), I asked the lady if they ever gave reminder calls or sent out cards or anything like that. You know, like the doctor's offices do. She replied by snapping "We have over a thousand women that come through this office! Do you think we have the time for that?"

The next time I missed an appointment, I recieved a card in the mail after the fact saying "You missed your appointment. If you do not reschedule within 10 days you will be removed from the program!" So of course I wondered, if they can send me a mean note when I miss the appointment, why can't they send me a nice note to remind me of the appointment? Hm. The message seems to be that I am poor and don't deserve the edicts of social niceties. I don't deserve to be looked in the eye or spoken to with respect. When visiting the food stamp office, the case workers rush through their words, avoid eye contact and walk three or four steps ahead when walking down the hall to their office, at such a pace that forces me to nearly trot to keep up.

The last letter we received regarding our children's medical coverage had a short disclaimer that said something along the lines of "If you have any questions in this matter, contact the office within ten days of this post," Oddly enough the post date was already ten days past the day we recieved the letter.

Being poor has opened my eyes to several aspects of our society, not the least of which is that the system is BROKEN. I hear people talk about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Get a job, any job. When Judge Pirro is faced with a defendant claiming that no one will hire them, she reaces under he desk and thumps down a giant tome of a three ring binder with the word "JOBS" emblazoned accross the front. To which the audience applauds loudly. Surely, this ner-do-well just isn't trying hard enough.

But the truth is this. Even if one is willing to take any job, below ones abilities and education, they won't hire you. You are over qualified. One is told, we can't hire you, it would cost us too much. Work places just won't hire those with years of experience or specialized knowledge, because they would much rather wait for the next applicant who is willing to take much more for much less. The bootstraps are systematically being snipped.

So what can be done? Well, lots of things. One of which is when we see someone using a food stamp card, don't judge. If you see someone wearing an old t-shirt and five dollar sunglasses, don't judge. If you see someone filling out a WIC voucher ahead of you in line at the grocery, don't roll your eyes, sigh loudly and move your cart to a different lane. Everyone deserves a modicum of dignity regardless of their place in life, because we are human beings and we all have to live on this tiny ball of a planet together and somehow figure out how to get along.

And that's really it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Tooth

Today my husband made an appointment to have a tooth extracted. He broke his tooth over two years ago, biting down on something while eating, and he has lived with an exposed nerve ever since. It happened on the last day of work.

Since then we have been waiting to find a job and subsequently coverage to have anything done about it. He has had jaw pain, headaches, and difficulty eating. Other than waiting for a job or waiting for enough money to pay out of pocket he has had no other options.

Of course the commentary is obvious.

If he had continuous care he would not have had to live with pain and discomfort for over two years. How could he have continuous care? Hm. If only there was some way that Americans could have health care that was not connected to their ability to pay, or their job status. What possible solution could we come up with that might ensure basic healthcare to all Americans? Wow. It's a pickle.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where to Start.

Two years ago the company that my husband worked for went out of business. Prior to that I never thought much about the 'health care debate'. I just figured we would always be in a place to afford insurance, or at the very least be healthy enough not to need it. We switched our children to the state health care available but my husband and I did not qualify.

Since then we have just been coasting, so to speak. We live day to day knowing that any illness, calamity, or accident would take us off the map. We don't have any way to comprehend the financial ramifications might since we are both in school seeking degrees and have no savings to speak of.

The healthcare issue came flying to the forefront of our lives in July of '08 when my daughter was hospitalized with complications arising from E. Coli. (not to mention, the state of our nations food supply, but I'll save that for another blog). We had taken her to our regular pediatrician when she was running a fever and boycotting food. The short version is that we told them both on the phone, in person and each of the five times we took her in, that our whole family had been exposed to recalled beef (thank you, Nebraska Beef! Folks, don't buy beef from them). Each time, they took her temperature, listened to her with a stethascope and sent us on our merry way, assuring us that it was nothing more than a stomach bug. I kept wondering why they were not givng her a blood test to at least rule out the possibility of E.Coli. Finally, we saught a second opinion and took her to the E.R.

We told the E.R. doctors the same story. The first thing they did was draw blood to check her electrolytes. Turns out her kidneys were in failure. We later found out that her pancreas and liver were also shutting down. Another 24 hours and it would have been too late.

Upon reflection we realized that several months earlier, we had taken her in with similar symptoms. That time she received enough tests to take up three pages in her medical records, including blood tests, a urinalysis and a stool test. That time it did turn out to be merely a stomach bug. What was the difference? That time we still had insurance.

When this situation occured our whole view point shifted regarding our nations medical system. I questioned why my daughter recieved substandard care. I have developed several theories.

Theory #1: The clinic would receive a higher kickback if they did not perform a blood test.

Theory #2: The coverage did not cover blood tests or needle sticks. (This theory has since been dissproven as we looked into the coverage,)

Theory #3: The clinic genuinely thought my daughter had a stomach bug.

I also wondered why we were not even offered the option of paying out of pocket for any testing that might have been needed.

What this blog is setting out to do is really as of yet undefined. My hope is to clarify our situation, and most importantly put a face on the state of our health care system. I represent one of many. In starting this project I also hope to come accross other blogs, articles and sources which further humanizes the health care crisis.

So who else is out there, America?