no balrogs

Health is but a finite thing

So. It's been almost 18 months since last I posted, and I have no excuses to offer. I do have this, though: Healthcare, in this country, sucks rocks. Not the actual care, mind you, but the way huge corporations get to decide who lives and who dies, and who gets to lose their house because they got cancer and who gets to go forever into debt because they needed a gallbladder removed. Like me, for instance. The husband lost his job recently, and with it, our access to (nearly) affordable health care. Two months later, I needed emergency surgery, and now we owe the hospital, surgeons, radiology department, and doctors about 40K. That's a lot of clams. And there's no way we can pay it back. Not without some serious financing, filling out complicated aid requests, maybe getting help from my parents, and possibly declaring bankruptcy.

And here's the thing: none of it is necessary. Many other countries do healthcare cheaper and better than we do it here. And all of their citizens get access to that healthcare, not just the rich or the well-employed. It's sad that in the United States, which likes to tout itself as the bestest country evar! that so many people have to do without healthcare at all because they can't afford to go to the doctor to get problems checked out, or they have to rely solely on emergency room care -- which they can never pay for either. It's ridiculous.

But at least I'm feeling better gallbladder-wise. So that's good. The individual caretakers I had, the nurses and doctors and especially the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants), were all quite wonderful and made my hospital stay less horrible than it could have been. We truly do have amazing healthcare in that respect, and what surgeons can do with lasers these days is nothing less than amazing. But jeebus on a bus, you'd think we could figure out how to make healthcare available for everyone.
Eat this sun!

Health Pwn'age, continued

So, after sending in an application and our tax forms from last year, we were approved for financial aid for The Husband's infusion. The company that makes the drug will cover everything the insurance doesn't, except for a $100 "co-pay." This is good news. Now we only have to come up with a C-note instead of the $362 per month the insurance company was leaving us with.

Of course, that's still twice as much as we were paying for that one medication before the new contract. Which means we're still in the red. And the financial aid isn't going to cover the first two infusions from before we knew we needed financial aid and asked for it, so we're still liable for those $700 or so. My fun new vocation will be trying to get the Health Center responsible for the infusions to stay off our backs while I patiently explain how the likelihood of blood being removed from a stone and handed over to them in shiny, pristine vessels decreases drastically in relation to the amount of grief I'm given over the amount of blood in those vessels versus what's left in the stone.

We'll see how reasonable they are shortly.
no balrogs

Bombing the Moon

Today, NASA crashed two parts of the sattelite LCROSS into a crater on the Moon. By studying the dust and other material from the explosions, NASA hopes to find out if the Moon has ice water, and might thus be suitable as a way station to the stars. NASA just held a conference about their findings, according to their schedule, but there isn't anything specific out about it yet on the interwebs.

There was some controversy about the planned lunar "bombing", but most naysayings were from those who wondered what aliens would think of such violent behavior in space.


As if our puny Earth bombs could scare them.
no balrogs

Cat Logic

Me: Get out of those lamb bones!

Pounce: What lamb bones? (*nibble, nibble*)

Me: Those lamb bones, the ones you're crunching in your little feline teeth. Get away from them!

Pounce: I don't see any (*gobble*) lamb bones (*snorffle*) anywhere. (*munch*)

Me: Don't make me get the hose.

Pounce: Oh, those lamb bones. (*gallops away with a chunk*) Never saw 'em.

Me, with hose: Pounce!!!!
Eat this sun!

Pwn'd by Pacific Source

To round out the month, I figured I'd post another fun way in which having health care is nearly as bad for the pocketbook as not having it, with one specific example of how our personal medical costs have increased, almost certainly due to the greed of insurance company CEOs and their stockholders and the like. So. The Husband needs a special medication every month for his MS, one given as an infusion by IV. It takes about an hour for the nurse to administer the IV, and then, he has to wait under observation for another hour after it's finished, in case he has any nasty side effects. Fairly straightforward if somewhat lengthy process of medication administration. And two years ago, the treatment was fully covered by the insurance we get through The Husband's employer, Pacific Source. There wasn't even a "medicine co-pay" for the infusion, although we did ask why, as it seemed strange.

Last August, the insurance company unilaterally changed the designation of the treatment, calling it "Outpatient Surgery." They said we owed a $50 co-pay for each infusion, as our portion of the cost. Far higher any medicine co-pays, that charge hurt our budget badly. We called both the insurance company and the treatment facility to complain and to challenge the decision, but to no avail. With no other recourse, and with The Husband needing the medicine, we clenched our teeth and paid the fee. (As a side note, we were not informed of the change in designation until January, when we were sent a bill for all the co-pays for all the months since August at once. As per another post, we had to put the rather large bill on a credit card.)

This August, yet another change was in order. The insurance company raised their rates so high that The Husband's employer had to revise the contract with them. Fortunately, they did not need to lay anyone off, but at the expense of reducing health benefits for all employees. Thus, the contracted coverage for The Husband's medication was revised. Instead of a flat fee co-pay, we now have to pay a "co-insurance," a percentage of the treatment's full price.

The "co-insurance" for this medication each month? $362

Yeah, that's really not going to work so well.

We just finished remortgaging the house so we could live with the health related costs we already have every month, which are already in triple digits. We were going to be "in the black" for the first time since I got laid off. And now this, this unbelievable, boneheaded felgercarb . . . it's just not fair! I mean, I know life isn't fair, believe me I know, but this is not just about fairness, it's about scamming and jamming and criminal acts of greed.

Insurance companies have no one watchdogging them, to make sure they don't raise their rates beyond people's ability to pay, or to keep them from changing the designations of procedures whenever and however they want, to best preserve their bottom lines. What about my bottom line? What about my right to receive the health care I've paid premiums for, without these ridiculous co-pays and co-insurances, rolled up and stacked like so many profit-filled blintzes on the insurer's plate?

I know it's been bad for years, but when exactly did greed replace decency in America's health care market? When did the race for profits replace these companies' legal (never mind ethical and moral) obligations to those who have paid them for coverage?

It's not cool and not couth, and really, really just not fair.
no balrogs

Five Myths About Health Care in the Rest of the World

In this article in the Washington Post, T.R. Reid sheds light on five myths about what health care and health insurance look like in the rest of the industrialized world. The upshot is, not only do other countries do it better, they do it cheaper.

Money quote: "..we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero."

I can only speak for myself and my family, but from where I am, this is especially frightening. Even though The Husband and I are lucky enough to have insurance right now, we spend more money per month on health care than we do on almost anything else in our budget. Part of that is because The Husband has a degenerative disease, and I have several chronic conditions which require regular treatment. But part is also due to the constantly rising costs in every aspect of health care. For example, every month we fill twelve or more prescriptions, and we also have at least one, but sometimes up to three or four office visits, plus The Husband gets one of his medications "infused," which the insurance company treats as outpatient surgery. Each of these meds and visits has a copay ranging from $10 - $50, and the copays go up almost every year. Those are on top of the monthly insurance premiums and the yearly "deductibles" we have to pay before anything is covered, and both premiums and deductibles have increased annually as well. Even with insurance, there have been times I haven't filled prescriptions because we couldn't afford to, and I've often put copays on a credit card (another reason those bills are so high) because we just didn't have the money.

We've been without insurance several times, when the company The Husband worked for didn't offer it or when he was laid off, and the bills we racked up then still make me shudder. They took us years to pay off. And if we hadn't? If we couldn't? I can clearly picture us needing to declare bankruptcy in the future, if The Husband loses his job, for instance, or if our medical costs shoot up out of reach.

There's a Facebook meme going around today which I heartily agree with and which prompted me to write today: "No one should suffer or die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick."

We can do better, can't we?
Eat this sun!

Save These words!

Though by no means the vanmost inveteratist, I am a word geek, and I would be pudified if, in my succisive moments, I did not call attention to such celeberrimous sites as Save The Words. There, linguaphiles are encouraged, nay, entreated to adopt such words into speech and writing as seem to be going out of style, and to use them frequently. To get them back in style, natch. One need not be sceptriferous in word lore, but it wouldn't hurt to have radicarian underpinnings to take part, though the site does require vadiation from its members.

Have fun!
no balrogs

Zombifying Flies and Flesh Eating Plants, oh my!

Like something out of a science fiction movie -- one of those late, great Saturday afternoon monster fests of the 60s -- comes the news of flies that eat the brains of fire ants and plants that can gobble up rats, like yum.

The plant is a newly discovered addition to the "pitcher" family, and all members of that family are carnivores which secrete a sweet nectar to draw animals to their mouths. Then, for most of them, the insects that fall into these pitchers drown in a slurry of acids and enzymes before being slowly digested, Sarlacc style. But this new one, Nepenthes attenboroughii, eats flesh, from such non-insects animals as rats and mice, leaving only the bones behind. Fortunately, these plants are in the Philippines, far away from me.

The flies, on the other hand, are being introduced in Texas to deal with fire ants, which apparently cause a lot of damage to electrical equipment and newborn calves (I know, I don't get the connection either.) Now, the flies are not zombies themselves. Oh, no. They just want to eat fire ant brains! Because brains are tasty! And good for fly larval development! So, these sneaky little zombie-makers, according to the article above, "lay eggs on the fire ants, the eggs hatch into maggots inside the ant, and the maggot eats away at the pest's tiny brain," yummying down Alien style. Meanwhile, the zombified ants wander aimlessly, as if, say, they have no brains, and in about two weeks, tada! Dead ants topple over! New flies crawl out of the carcasses looking for more fire ants to turn into zombies.

So, if you're looking for a cheap and easy way to get rid of fire ants and rats, just import a bunch of zombie-making flies and giant flesh eating plants! Or, you know, call an exterminator.