Monday, August 31, 2009

Random Observations From A Random Health Care Town Hall In One Little Corner Of The Country.

As I approached the entrance to the engagement with my Congressman I thought I pretty much knew what to expect. People like this guy:

I asked if I could take his picture and engage in a little civil sparring. I took note of how he instantly snapped into the "look how cool I look standing next to this sign" pose and how it contrasted with the pictures I took of pro-healthcare demonstrators who invariably would shut their eyes at the moment the shutter opened or hold a flag in front of the sign with their message. I have another picture of a woman decked out in revolutionary war garb perfectly positioned under a "don't tread on me" flag next to the street entrance.

Someone has schooled these guys in how to pose for the camera.

I asked Mr. Cool why healthcare rationing by Aetna was better than health care rationing by the government.

"Because with government health rationing you don't have a choice"

I pointed out that we were at a meeting with our elected representative who was about to hear from people who were upset at his actions and ready to hold him accountable, and that if I was upset with the actions of the insurance company my employer uses, their executives would never hold such a meeting and if they did would tell me to go screw.

"But you don't have to use your employers insurance company. You can buy a policy from another. Granted, it may be expensive....."

"So we can agree that cost is a problem with the way things are"


"How do we fix that?"

"Make more money"

He was the most rational person on their side I could find my friends. Far more common were people like this:

Look how cranky that dude looks. And old. And how white. This town hall meeting was in a city with a Latino population of 64% and out of about 1,000 people there, that kid in the background was one of 8 Latinos I saw. Two of them were reporters.

The good news: The cranky old white demographic is not a majority of this country. The majority of white people are pleasant and/or young.

The bad news: The old cranky asses are LOUD! And man they are full of hate. I heard it all afternoon long. They'll vent their hate within earshot of me because I'm white as bleach myself. They hate black people, who are evidently on the verge of crippling our economy by pushing through reparations for slavery. Under the radar of all major news organizations apparently, but not of the nephew of one of the cranky asses, whose hard work uncovered the scheme "on some fact check site." They hate the Native Americans because their casinos make them rich. The descendants of the ones who survived the genocide that is. Some of them. And they really hate the illegal aliens who have the nerve to come here and take a job someone offers them cleaning toilets or picking lettuce or some other occupation the cranky-ass evidently would love to get into.

You know what cranky-ass? You hate the undocumented worker so much? Make a statement. Go clean a public toilet so the undocumented worker has no work to do.

I was starting to miss Mr. Cool.

When the time came for questions from those in attendance, our Congressman asked people who were for the health care reform legislation being considered in the House to form one line, and people against it to form another. I counted. There were 4 more people on the anti side, but they easily....easily....made 80% of the noise. The first person to speak from the anti side was a little old lady who said that she had both Tricare for life and Medicare "and I don't want you messing with either" whereupon the antis in the room broke out in applause in support of two giant government run healthcare programs.

Oh how I missed Mr. Cool and the fact that while he held a position that was very fucked up, at least had the advantage of being able to be supported by logic.

That's how the rest of the night went. Logic was nowhere to be found on their side, but Hitler was. One questioner and at least two protest signs mentioned Hitler.

To my friends on the other side of this issue I will say this. Please.....please.....please mention Hitler a lot. Seriously. It's a lot easier for me when you destroy your own credibility than when I do it for you. To everyone screaming shit about Hitler, a big, heartfelt, thank you.

And to the people there tonight screaming everything else, you have taught me a lesson. There were 4 fewer people in our line than yours. We are far too quiet. Lesson learned.

Help me make some noise my friends.


Annapolitan said...

My mom has both Medicare and Tricare for life. She hasn't paid a hospital or doctor's bill in years. YEARS. And she had major cancer surgery last summer, several ER visits and two other hospitalizations since then (fortunately they were "just" for complications related to her surgery and not for a return of the cancer.) She was a patient at a world-renowned healthcare institution that treats patients from all over the world, and she didn't have to jump through hoops or get special permission from her insurance company to go there. She pays $3 for all her prescriptions. There is no formulary list her doctor has to choose from when he writes her a prescription. She was recently on a course of injectable antibiotics and the bill for 10 days' worth of cefotaxime came to almost $1600. That was just for the drugs. She would have had to go to the doctor's office to get the once-daily shots or the ER (when the doctor's office was closed on the weekends) but because her daughter (me) knows how to give shots, we saved Medicare and Tricare several hundred dollars for the administration of said antibiotic. (You're welcome, taxpayers.)

I am self-employed and have been UNDERemployed for the past year. My self-purchased monthly health insurance premium is going up to $525 this month. In 1998, I paid about $150/month. Every year my insurance company sends me a new contract and I'm sure in all that documentation they're whittling away what is covered. I don't really want to find out how little is covered now because it probably won't be enough if I do get sick. I worry every day about getting cancer or having a heart attack and losing my health insurance coverage, even though I am having an increasingly difficult time paying the premiums for it. I mean, I could stop paying that premium and be sure that I would have to file for bankruptcy if I were to have a major health crisis, or I could keep paying that big premium every month and still worry that I would have to file for bankruptcy if I have a major health crisis and my health insurance doesn't cover enough of my medical bills. In fact, one of the reasons I haven't changed to another health insurance company is because I've been covered for 11 years by this one and I figure they'd have a more difficult time claiming I had a pre-existing condition in an attempt to recise me if I were to have an expensive illness.

Just writing this out makes me realize how much time I spend worrying. It makes me wish I had what other citizens in developed countries have: guaranteed healthcare without the worry of financial ruin. I want what they have. I want what my mom has. And I'm angry that this kind of security is being bargained away by the politicians I helped elect.

Anonymous said...

I watched a video from one of these town hall meetings where a woman who had a chronic disease (can't remember what... MS maybe?) talked about her fear of losing her health coverage, losing her house because of medical bills... and she was SHOUTED DOWN AND JEERED by these morons. Because of course when you develop a chronic illness that may cripple you, it's all your fault and you should bear the burden of it entirely on your own. To expect help from someone who has the resources is !OMG! !Socialism!

I just can't believe the meanspiritedness of these a-holes. Yes, you're entitled to express your opinion. This is America. We are a democracy. We deserve to have an intelligent, spirited debate about this. But the sheer meanness that has been directed toward some of the most vulnerable people in our society -- that is just heartbreaking.

We deserve better than this.

Rachael said...

I kept picturing Mr. Cool as Joe Cool, the snoopy character, because of the sunglasses....

Anonymous said...

isn't support for the public option like near 70%??

yet the spectacle makes the news :(, yeh we're screwed.

Anonymous said...

oh and to see how insane this debate is, check out bartiromo on national tv:

Anonymous said...

I'd love it if, after lining up on the pro- or anti- sides, the Congressperson could say, "OK, all beneficiaries of Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and the VA lined up on the "anti" side, surprise! You lose the dreaded commie/N--i/socialist/unamerican government run health care programs you are protesting so vociferously against. Any questions?"

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Public health care will result in rationing via waiting lists, as in the UK. But people have the option of private health insurance, or paying cash to private hospitals, if they choose to.
Everyone should have access to healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay.
There's no perfect system, but at least in the UK, if you have cancer your biggest worry is dying, not losing everything, then dying and leaving your family to struggle with massive debts.

Anonymous said...

20 years ago when I finished pharmacy school, I decided as a Pharmacy Resident with a regular source of income, I could finally afford to pay for health insurance for my family of three. (At that time, residents working in the VA were not eligible for 'company' insurance.)

So, I went with my family doctor's advice for purchasing insurance. When the agent interviewed me, she told me never to miss paying the premium to risk cancellation because of a pre-existing condition (benign tumor removed 12 yrs before).

I find myself in the situation 18 years later with COBRA running out, despite tenuous job situation-- working every relief shift I can muster, and waiting the requisite time period for part-time job benefits to kick in, --that I can afford the exorbitant temporary coverage for family members, but my pre-existing condition (nearly 40 yrs resolved) prevented me from purchasing insurance at somewhat of an affordable rate. No health insurance for me!!

So, yea, I should just have been working harder to pay for some health insurance benefits for myself.

Jen said...

@ Anon#5

"Public health care will result in rationing via waiting lists, as in the UK..."

You do realize the argument your making was only good a DECADE AGO? They no longer have any issues with your so-called wait list. Get with the times.

And proud to tag this and not hide behind ANON (lol)

cphtlink said...

health care is no exception to "Godwin's law", apparently.

If the conversation is long enough, eventually someone will talk about hitler.

ThatDeborahGirl said...

I am so sick of talking about health care being rationed due to the public option. What do you think it is now? And it's not fairly rationed either. If you have money you get treated - and even then not always well or does your insurance cover everything.

And if you don't have insurance, you suffer and have manageable illnesses move to life-threatening illnesses all for want of care at the proper time.

It's stupid and heartless to make people beg for their lives in this fashion, yet we still live in some barbaric times - where we don't flinch at murder and bombing stranger - and are more than willing to deny help to those in need.

I am sickened by these sort of American ideals. Sickened, but not surprised. It's the stuff this country was built on. Cruelty, racism, discrimination, bigotry and denying the humanity of anyone who isn't rich enough or white enough.

The Pharmacy Princess said...

But it was totally okay for everyone to compare Bush to Hitler when he was in office, right? Why is it suddenly bad to compare the president to Hitler now that Obama is in office, when it was all the rage just a few months ago? This double-standard kills me, man.

DrugMonkey, Master of Pharmacy said...


You'll have to take it up with the people who did it.

But when they did. It destroyed their credibility, yes? Bush was evil. He started a war for no reason, killed a good many people and will most certainly rot in hell when he dies. As the roommate of Osama Bin Ladin if there is a thing as Karmic justice. As far as we know however, he stopped short of genocide. Which, yeah, makes equating him with Hitler a stretch.

Which makes comparing Hitler to Obama, who has to date started zero wars, and whose presidency so far has been defined by an effort to treat this country's sick with a measure of compassion and justice, turbo charged idiotic.

Which brings me back to my original point. Please, please please, keep comparing Hitler to the man trying to do what is right for our sick and suffering. It so much easier when you destroy your own credibility for me.

A sincere thank you for playing.

Jevodiah said...

One of the cranky old white men came into my pharmacy today grumbling about "Obamacare", as he was grumbling about this and some thinly veiled references to the fact that Obama is part black, he hands me both his Medicare B and D card. I couldn't resist putting this asshole in his place and pointed out that he was in fact on two government run programs at this very moment. The look on his face was priceless.