It is with a sad heart I report the status of the healthcare system in America as broken and with no hope in sight. When the Affordable Care Act was passed into law (and survived numerous attempts to repeal or severely limit it), I was excited. Finally! Everyone now has the opportunity to have healthcare coverage. We are finally moving towards universal healthcare like EVERY OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!!!
But I was wrong! I had been misled. It is possible to have health insurance and still not be able to afford to go to the doctor and/or afford testing ordered by your doctor. Sad, but true… With copays to see specialists usually set at $50 per visit, who can afford to go? And when a test is ordered, no one can give a definitive price for it. I know one woman who thought she was being smart by shopping around for a cheaper MRI. She went to a specific facility because they quoted her the best price under her insurance. Guess what? The final price billed to her insurance company and then to her was significantly higher that what she was quoted. Upon questioning the facility, they said there were other charges applicable on top of the simple price for an MRI. Of course, they failed to mention those extras when she was shopping around. There is no system of accountability when this happens. No other business in this country could get away with blatantly irresponsible behavior. There is no governing body responsible for ensuring that patients and health insurance companies are not being bilked by providers. There are serious consequences to this lack of oversight.
I briefly knew a woman I met through my advocacy efforts. We talked during monthly conference calls and on Facebook. This past May, I got the opportunity to meet her in person at the Caterpillar Walk in New York City to raise awareness and funds for fibromyalgia. For a few short months, this free-spirited woman suffered from debilitating nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal problems (on top of her fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues). Because of the ACA, she was able to afford health insurance and was finally diagnosed with clostridium difficile colitis. WebMD defines this as:
bacteria that can cause swelling and irritation of the large intestine, or colon. This inflammation, known as colitis, can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
It is a completely treatable illness. There is no morally acceptable reason for an insurance company to deny treatment coverage – but hers did. She could not afford the inpatient treatment that her doctors recommended without insurance. So she did the only logical thing she could think of – she switched insurance companies. Less than a week after switching health insurance companies and finally being admitted to the hospital for treatment, she died. Allow me to let that sink in… She died from a curable illness. She died in a country that prides itself on being THE BEST in everything (even when it is not). She died where help was only a breath away. She died…
Unfortunately, this story is not unique. It happens all too often.
The United States of America is a wonderful country. It gives its citizens certain unalienable rights. We have the right to free speech. It is one of the things that helps keep a government honest. We are free to voice our support for 1Direction and Bieber Fever. We have the right to trash a TV show we don’t like, to let everyone know how much we love-hate our venerable President. We also have the right to bear arms – to own guns and use them to protect ourselves and our families. However, what many people seem to ignore is that every right comes with its own set of responsibilities and consequences. If you fire a gun, prepare to face the consequences of that action. Ask any police officer what happens when they fire their weapon, the weapon they were trained to use on the job, and they will tell you the hoops they must jump through to show it was appropriate. If a homeowner shoots an intruder, they must prove that they felt their life in danger. If a soldier fires an assault weapon, it must be during an approved situation (during combat and not in a crowded shopping mall). All of these individuals understand that there are acceptable times and places for use of guns. The right to bear arms comes with an inherent responsibility to use them responsibility. If people fail to do so, they must face the consequences. The same can be said for the right to free speech. Just because you are legally allowed to spew hatred and vitriolic diatribes does not mean you are immune to their consequences. When a person tells the world that they hate a certain ethnic group, is it any surprise that certain companies (ones that don’t want to be seen as prejudiced) will refuse to hire him? If an actor rant and raves again the immorality of the television show he is in, can you blame the network for firing him? If a politician singles out women for causing their own rapes, is it any surprise that women in turn use their free speech to denounce him? Knowingly spreading falsehoods about a person or company can leave a person open to legal consequences. If a woman decides to write a blog about her mental and physical help, express her political opinions for all the world to see if they choose to read her words, can she then yell “Foul!” because someone doesn’t like what she has written.
I accept the consequences of my actions. Do you?