Maximum Capacity, Part 1

November 15, 2010 at 1:37 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I entered a very disconcerting phase of my life 5 months ago. All those things large, small, & in-between that made my 50 year’s of life a tough slog finally caught-up with me. And so, I checked myself into the psychiatric ward of one of the local hospitals.

Notice I said they were the things that made my life a tough slog. We each have our own menu of situations & encounters that we react to either positively or negatively. Some persons are devastated by a hangnail, others barely slow down if their arm gets amputated. I admit I am closer to the hangnail end of the spectrum. And not only would the pain of the hangnail itself bother me but I would want to know why I got a hangnail in the first place and why God allows anyone to suffer with hangnails and the whys of all hangnail-related questions in our universe.

During the week I was locked in the booby-hatch one of the group-therapists said I “ask far too many whys.” I responded that I had always hoped that, if I could understand why things are as they are, I could tolerate it better. “Things are what they are; just get over it!” was his answer. I still fail to see how that attitude is more therapeutic (or actually any different) than the religionists who say we must just accept whatever happens to us as inscrutable God’s will.

Thirty years ago, I went to my family doctor (one of those luxuries back in the days when I had health insurance) and told him I was extremely stressed-out. “Why are you stressed-out?” he inquired in his best bedside manner. I replied, “Over money.” He offered this advice as he immediately directed me out of the examination room to pay the receptionist $35: “Learn to relax.”

Sage wisdom, indeed! But not so easy to practice in a world that is determined to put us under unbearable pressure.


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Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

August 5, 2010 at 1:36 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Barbara O’Brien, guest blogger

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by Sloan-Kettering mesothelioma cancer researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

(Barbara Hoetsu O’Brien is a journalist and student of Zen Buddhism currently living in the greater New York City area. She has a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. More of her writings can be read at The )

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March 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Colonel Edwin Girdle

Our Hypocrite of the Day is right-wing masturbatory fantasy, Sarah Palin, who admits she and her family used to “hustle” across the Canadian border to get free medical care. Palin, in case you were lucky enough to miss hearing her completely uninformed viewpoint, has said in previous interviews that “Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit.” (By the way, polls show the Canadian people give their health system a 90% approval rating.)

I guess now that Sarah is living large off her undeserved 15+ minutes of fame she no longer need grab freebie care from the Canadian taxpayers, because money is essential in America to get adequate medical treatment. Celebrities like Sarah, Senatorial Democrat/doormat Harry Reid, or entertainment windbag Rush Limbaugh get A-1 care. By the way, Rush, who was hospitalized in Hawaii recently by severe chest pains, has pronounced the U.S. health system free of any problems- based upon his experience. So that settles that and anyone who says differently is just a crybaby.

Well, this crybaby writes this blog with the intention of telling you what life is like at my level of the American pyramid. Therefore, please let us recount some recent experiences I and some of my friends have had down here near the economic basement. Oddy enough, our impression of the U.S. health system was not nearly as favorable as Mr.Limbaugh’s. In fact, I think most everyone I know wishes they lived close-enough to hustle over into Canada for some of that evil socialist health-care.

In my January essay, “Financially Naked”, I wrote about Myra and her frustrating & expensive run-in with America’s medical colossus. Now Myra’s elderly mother has developed blood in her stools. Doctors were unable to quickly diagnose the problem and talked her into a procedure that involved injection of a substance containing gold, which she was told would detect a problem as small as one cell in the body. The procedure was done and, unfortunately, told the doctors nothing useful. Although Myra’s mom has insurance HER SHARE OF THE BILL WAS $49,000 !!! Just the stress of dealing with this one bill threatens to send the old lady & her hubby over the mental & physical cliff. But Sarah Palin should be happy about that opportunity for the medical business to “turn a profit.”

Back during the long Ohio winter, I came down with bronchitis & laryngitis (no, I have never smoked but do have severe dust allergy). I did what any uninsured American would do: I tried to tough it out and treat myself. After 6 weeks, I was so ill that I could not drive myself to the emergency room and I had to be wheelchaired into the hospital. Five hours, 5 minutes with a doctor, and some free pills later I went home. While there I got a list of clinics that serve the poor, so as to schedule a follow-up visit. After a few days, I concluded the medication was doing no good. But when I called the nearest clinic I was told they had been taken-over by some sort of doctors’ conglomerate and they “no longer serve those people (the low income).” The other clinics are only open limited hours a few days each week. Back to the emergency room for another 6 hours’ wait, another 5 minutes with a different doctor, and a different diagnosis. Another week brought no improvement in my condition. Back to the emergency room a third time, for another 5 minutes with a doctor. His diagnosis was allergy gone rampant.

At this point let me tell you the story I croaked-out to that doctor: Since childhood, I always had severe allergy to particulate dust. Up until 15 years ago, I had health insurance & used to go to my doctor once each month and get an allergy shot. That kept the stuffy nose, sore throat, ear infections, bronchitis, and other complications at bay. Then the insurance company put a stop to the shots because they cost too much. After that I tried many prescription & over the counter allergy medicines with no real improvement. One medicine I found that definitely doesn’t work for me is Claritin. It has absolutely no effect at all. I emphasized that point as emphatically as a person could who sounded like a bullfrog. The disinterested doctor exited. Fifteen minutes later a nurse comes in and hands me a prescription sheet for, of course, Claritin.

After that, I went to a health-food store near my home in search of natural allergy potions. I fought my allergy down to a dull roar and made a slow recovery. Experiences like these have lead me to believe modern medicine is vastly over-rated in its effectiveness and over-compensated in its cost.

As for the $1200 worth of bills from the hospital: I applied for them to be written off under HCAP (Hospital Care Assurance Program). You are aware, dear reader, that each year the government gives hospitals millions of dollars to help cover care for the poor? But you have to apply for it through the hospital’s “social services” department. Many times they fail to let patients know that it is available. Such was the case with one of the other citizens waiting in the emergency room. In brief, the man waited anxiously with his 8 year old daughter. His wife had fallen down the stairs in their home and was brought in by ambulance. Not only did he not know how he would pay for his wife’s treatment, he didn’t have money to pay the $5 charge for the parking lot. He had just finished receiving a brow-beating from a representative of the hospital billing department, when my wife Myrtle stepped in to let him know about HCAP and that he should demand a pass for free parking. He was effusively grateful. Oh, I almost forgot. The man was dressed in a police uniform from one of the Dayton suburbs. He said he made $8 per hour and was lucky to get 30 hours’ work per week. He had just got home from duty and found his injured wife.

But back to Sarah Palin. Personally, I would love the press to hound her over her Canadian medical care until she was forced to issue a theatrical apology akin to Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful “I have sinned against you” speech. Then she could retire to well-earned obscurity. Not likely to happen, but it would be beautiful.

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