U.S. Healthcare…Privilege, Poverty and Pain

This is my second day back in the office after vacation. Yesterday and this morning were filled with catching up. That will take most of the rest of the week to complete. I decided to share an experience and some reflections before I get too removed from them.

While on vacation, my back went out. I have had chronic back issues since I was a young woman…maybe even since I was a child. In January 2007, I fell from my bicycle and separated my shoulder. Since October 2007, I have regularly visited a chiropractor to manage the neck pain that has become a focus since that fall. My neck and back have become chronic problems with intensity of pain varying depending upon multiple factors.

Vacation was a bicycling getaway in the Florida panhandle. The cottage we stayed at in Apalachicola had a bed that did not agree with my back. After two nights of wrong mattress and two days of riding, my lower back went into major spasm. I spent the third day of vacation searching for a massage therapist and traveling 100 miles to purchase a mattress topper to ease the pain. Everyone with whom we dealt was extremely kind and concerned, even when they were not able to help.

I did manage to relieve the discomfort somewhat and rode for three more days after we moved on to Monticello. Some correction to my bike position and change in pedaling technique also helped. You will notice that I did not try to see a physician and I did not go to an emergency room. Dealing with out-of-network services for a chronic rather than emergent condition felt too costly to justify. Fortunately, I found a massage therapist and could afford to pay her.

On our final day, we visited Thomasville, GA. As we drove into town, we passed a demonstration opposing health care reform. Signs indicated that “they” are going to increase our taxes to pay for someone else’s healthcare, and  “we” cannot afford to pay for the poor to have insurance. The participants were overwhelmingly white skinned, well-dressed individuals.

Today I managed to get to my own chiropractor and massage therapist. My insurance only pays the chiropractor $15 per visit; they do not cover massage therapy at all. Because these services keep me functioning, I choose to pay for them and am fortunate to be able to do so. But during this summer when Congress is working hard to come up with a plan to reform our healthcare system so more people can afford to receive care, I find myself wondering how we will succeed.

1. From amidst my pain, my thinking about how to resolve my discomfort was minimal and ineffectual. Soaking in the tub did not take care of the problem. Over the counter medications did not relieve the pain. Without my husband to find resources for me, I might still be in that tub. I think about the emotionally ill individual who has no one to advocate for them…mired in their pain and confusion without treatment.

2. Even with good, costly health insurance, the community in which I was located did not have resources for which my insurance would pay. If I were not privileged and educated and benefiting from adequate income, I would have been unable to pay for the resources we did locate. There are no local mental health services at all. I think of those who live in small town America and cannot travel to the resources of larger communities, as well as those who live in cities who cannot afford to access those resources.

3. I know very few health care providers or training programs or modern treatment procedures that were not assisted by government funds. Health research and hospitals and medical school and even graduate school in psychology cost too much for most of us to pay without government grants or loans. Even those of us who can afford to pay are dramatically benefited by government funding.

4. We are a kind and concerned people.

5. We are selfish and protective of our money, our privilege and our position.

6. There are no easy solutions to healthcare reform. It is going to cost all of us. The only question is how much it will cost and how we will pay for it, and whether the mechanisms are different from how we pay now. It is unconscionable that access to basic healthcare is not guaranteed to everyone who lives in the U.S.

This is all my opinion…for what it is worth. And what do you think? Please make your comments by clicking on the title of this article and entering your thoughts in the box at the bottom of the page.

0 thoughts on “U.S. Healthcare…Privilege, Poverty and Pain

  • Doran Cushing says:

    Let me suggest the true nature of the health care reform debate in one word – POWER.
    The Republican Party cannot allow the Democrats to make any significant improvement to the health care system because it will reward the Democrats for years to come and neutralize the Republican Party for decades. It is as simple as that. You only have to follow the obstructionism from the Republicans en masse to see this obvious point in action. “They” cannot maintain any leverage in the political system if the Democrats accomplish even the smallest of changes so “They” will continue the campaign of lies, disruptions, and financial bullying. The only question remaining is whether the Democrats will play this losing game or stand up for the majority of Americans and “just say no” to this corrupt attempt to grab power (while keeping a broken system broken).

    I work in a medical office and the games the insurance carriers will play to avoid paying claims is just criminal. They rely on the massive flood of rejected claims as a means of not paying what is owed both the patients (customers) and the providers (also customers). On a daily basis I am lied to by carriers while they try to disquise their responsibilities behind additional paperwork requirements, endless pre-authorizations,and marginalized coverage for behavioral health benefits. Single payer is the proper solution but even a true government option would force the carriers to examine their marketing and cashflow policies.

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