Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My daughter's tragedy: U.S. health care in a nutshell.


Now it's a bit more personal. My daughter's partner has suffered a health care catastrophe that threatens to leave them in poverty for the rest of their lives. And it's not necessarily his illness that will do the damage; it's our greed-driven, heartless, for-profit shell-game of a health care 'system'.

Like millions of Americans, my daughter's boyfriend lost his job this year. His unemployment was a direct result of the banksters' rape of the economy, which is a whole 'nuther story. And of course, with his job went his health insurance. He was offered temporary COBRA coverage, for a thousand dollars a month. For a healthy 30 year old with zero income and a mortgage to pay, that's a sick joke. So, like millions of Americans—but unlike anyone in Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan...—he was forced to go without health insurance. Affluent wingnuts and corporate conservatives like to claim that people like my prospective son in law are making a "choice", that they're refusing to carry health insurance so they can buy a big screen TV. That's bullshit. The working poor fail to carry health insurance because they simply cannot afford it. Period.

One night last week my daughter watched in horror as her partner started having a seizure in their living room. The seizures didn't stop until he was intubated, paralyzed and anesthetized at the hospital. The prolonged seizures caused his muscles to break down, leaking so much protein into his blood stream that his kidneys failed the next day. A CT scan revealed a brain tumor, which was the cause of his seizures. He's awake, walking and talking now. He's getting dialysis every day. If he's lucky, his kidneys will recover, and he'll undergo an MRI scan followed by a biopsy in a few weeks. If he's very, very lucky, the tumor will be benign and he'll have surgery to remove it next month. If he's unlucky and it's a physician I know all too well what's in store for him down the road.

The quality of the care my daughter's partner has received has been excellent. But no matter how 'lucky' he is, his life has been ruined by the health care 'system'. Upon discharge he will be presented with a bill for somewhere north of $150,000. Every pill, every dialysis treatment, just adds to the mountain of debt. (By the time his treatment is complete, it's likely to total somewhere close to a half a million dollars.) The hospital is talking about 'financial assistance', meaning a discount on the bill. That should knock it down from $150,000 to a mere $120,000.

Will that be cash, check or charge?

My daughter's partner will be utterly, completely, permanently uninsurable due to his medical history.


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