Just in time for today's health care summit, I wanted to relay the story of my friends Steve and Tracy. They are a brilliant couple with extensive backgrounds in IT-related jobs, and would be well worth to have on most companies' payrolls. Steve has had debilitating back pain for several years (at the ripe old age of 35), and it had degenerated to the point that he could not work, and required spinal fusion surgery. Sad and unfair enough, but nothing compared to their treatement by our health care system.
See, Steve's condition left him basically uninsurable either through his former job or Tracy's. They don't have kids, so BadgerCare Plus or any similar subsidiary doesn't help them, and Medicaid won't cover an "optional" surgery like spinal fusion, despite the fact that Steve's back was keeping him from leading any sort of decent lifestyle or contributing any significant amount of work. So, in order to allow Steve to live anythng resembling a normal life, they checked the Internet listings and decided to go ahead with the spinal fusion surgery...in one of the only places they could remotely get it- Malaysia.
The trip required almost full-day plane trips in Steve's debilitated condition, but they finally got halfway around the globe in absurd conditions, and were able to have the surgery, which has greatly relieved Steve's back pain. However, all of the reclining positions exacerbated blood issues Steve had from the compressed pain, and led to blood clots in his leg and groin, which knocked him back another week in Malaysia. A few weeks after the surgery, Steve's leg is still swollen from the clots, and he struggles to walk around as a result.
They took one more all-day trip back to the States, and are presently back in Verona, but Steve is still far from OK, due to the clots and recovery time. They took him to a doctor this week to draw blood, and he promptly passed out from the bodily stress. Tracy estimates the total out-of-pocket for this ordeal at nearly $55,000, and they are not finished yet. I went over to their place to drop off some supplies for one of their friends, and noticed a "for sale" sign outside of the home, and I don't think they were planning to relocate out of town. I'm not going to ask them if it's related to the medical bills, but it's not like they're loaded with money, and you can't help but believe it's related.
Now think about this in terms of our current health care situation. There is an estimated eight health care lobbyists for every member of Congress at an estimated 2009 price tag of $1.2 billion. That's $1.2 billion that could have gone toward medical breakthroughs, expanded coverage, or lower premiums for consumers. Explain to me how guaranteeing Well Point's board of directors their 8-figure salaries over covering our people is something remotely productive for our economy?
How has our health care system helped Steve and Tracy? How has pricing them out of the market and preventing them from getting the coverage and treatment they deserve helped our economy in any way? Isn't it better to have people healed and working instead of being 1. infirmed at home and/or 2. indebted due to the foreign travels they've had to make to.
The health care companies and the insurance whores in Congress get to get paid at the expense of people like Steve and Tracy every day. I'm getting very close to stepping up, and making the execs and other scumbags find out just how good their medical coverage really is. Making them feel the pain may be the only way they do anything to lessen ours, and get our economy off the disastrous track that our country's unregulated health insurance leads to.
I'd like to go into things further, but it sickens me too much. RECONCILE THIS BILL NOW, single-payer health care as soon as possible, and cut the costs for all other groups of real people in the process (heck, it'll also cut your property taxes at the local level. Government worker medical care and low-income Medicaid comes from somewhere, doesn't it?). This is real life with real problems, and I' very tempted to make anyone who tries to lie about the way things really are have to get some health care of their own.