Oct 2, 2012

Why Our Health Care System Sucks

Most of my blog posts are rants, but they're well thought out rants.  This one isn't.  So it's probably going to be full of typos, and spelling errors, and grammatical errors.  The spelling and grammar Nazi in me cringes at the mere thought, but I need to get this off my chest and I don't have time to edit properly so I wanted to put that caveat out there.  Errors:  If you find 'em -- just this once -- ignore 'em.

Second, there's a lot of different directions and a lot of information here.  Like I said, it's not the most well thought out rant I've ever had.  But, as this is my diary (of sorts) and since I find writing cathartic (sometimes) you're all just going to have to bear with me.

Here we go...

First -- I'm a welfare mom.  I'm just going to throw that right out there.  I am a recipient of Medicaid.  As both my children have chronic conditions (Quinn has a heart defect, Claire has asthma), I feel VERY fortunate that we qualify for such a program.  Claire's prescriptions would run me about $700/month and pediatric cardiologist appointments are quite pricey. 

Now, it's important to note -- I have a job.  In fact, I have several of them.  I've been a virtual assistant for nearly a dozen years, and I make a pretty decent wage doing it.  I used to make a better wage, but then my long-term client fired me.  However, I'm slowly starting to earn a decent wage again and I'm hopeful that, eventually, I won't be a welfare mom.  Right now though?  Things are tough.  Therefore...

I'm also a food stamp recipient.  Thank-freaking-God, otherwise I'm pretty sure we'd all be starving to death.  And, because I'm fortunate enough to qualify for this program, I'm able to get good, healthy, non-processed food for my kids and me.  Which helps keep them healthier than if I didn't qualify for food stamps.  Processed food is, sadly, cheaper than the good healthy stuff. 

Any person who ever bitches about how "easy" it is to get welfare hasn't ever applied for it.  I needed to provide NINETY pages of proofs and fill out a 10-page form (I think -- it all became a blur after about page 5).  Then I needed to have a telephone interview and provide more proof.  According to my caseworker, whom I absolutely adore, it's about an 80-20 split of people who get welfare who need it, vs. people who are cheating the system.  Granted, I wish that 20% figure didn't exist at all, but what system doesn't have its fair share of cheats?  I like to focus on the fact that 80% of the people are getting the help they need, and that they qualify for.

Another thing to note?  I have an iPhone.  I've seen this charming little meme out there about the girl with the iPhone paying for her groceries with food stamps.  It never ceases to piss me off.  Why do people judge what the people in front of them are buying at the grocery store, and how they're paying for it?  You don't know them. You don't know their story.  But let me tell you mine.

This asshat needs to mind her own business at the checkout

I have an iPhone, an iPad, an iTouch, a Mac computer, and a Kindle.  ALL of them were purchased for me by my ex-client.  ALL of them were gifts.  And I use ALL of them in my pursuit of new clients to generate more business.  I didn't buy any of them -- I couldn't afford to.  And I can't afford to sell any of them either -- they are worth more to me and my future business endeavors than I could ever get for them on eBay.

I also have a Coach purse (it's fake), a 4-carat diamond ring (it was my mother's), and two platinum rings (combat pay for 11 years of marriage and birthing two kids -- at least that's how I think of them).  If I get run over by a bus tomorrow, these are pretty much the only inheritance my kids will receive.

I'm also on track to make about $12,000 this year after expenses and that's if I'm lucky.  And THAT is why I qualify for welfare.  So -- go ahead and judge me in the check out line for having my iPhone in my fake Coach purse.  I'm pretty sure it's not enough incentive for you to want to trade places with me for my food stamps.

Anyway... I have Medicaid. And I'm damn lucky to have it.  Except - most providers don't want to take it so a lot of time I'm left struggling to find good medical care for my kids.

My primary caregiver is FANTASTIC -- we are so lucky to have her.  In fact, if anyone in the Mason County area is looking for a smart, responsive, proactive primary caregiver, message me and I will give you her name.  She's wonderful.

However, both of my kids have "issues" that require specialty care.  Quinn has the aforementioned heart defect and it's looking like we're going to have to start seeing an endocrinologist to deal with his growth issues too.  I'm pretty sure pediatric endocrinologist are about as pricey as pediatric cardiologists.

Claire has her aforementioned asthma condition and we've recently found out she needs to start seeing a pediatric neurologist.  She'd been having headaches -- bad ones -- and my pediatrician decided to do an MRI.  Her results were not so good -- she has lesions on her brain.  I don't know what that means, that's why we need to see a neurologist.  But lesions... on her BRAIN -- that's sounding not so bueno.  In fact, it's hard not to freak completely out when you hear the word "lesions" coupled with "brain".

We got the results of her MRI two weeks ago and have been waiting to hear from the neurologist.  And waiting. And waiting.  So -- finally -- I called the hospital today and found out that they could see Claire. In January. Over 3.5 months from now.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for 3.5 months while the words "lesions" and "brain" swirl together nightmarishly in my head.  I want to see someone NOW.

So -- I get on the phone and start calling.  University of Michigan.  Detroit Children's Hospital.  The Cleveland Clinic.  Mayo.  I explained to each of them that my nine-year-old daughter recently had an MRI where it was discovered she had lesions on the brain and my doctor was recommending a consult with a pediatric neurologist.  Each hospital asked me what insurance I had.  When I told them it was Medicaid, they couldn't rush me off the phone fast enough.  "We don't accept that insurance plan."


Wait... I have a nine year old. With brain lesions.  Aren't you supposed to help me?  Isn't the Hippocratic Oath, "... [F]or the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice"?  Did I miss the part where it says, "Unless I don't accept their insurance plan"?

No one.  NO ONE can tell me that the health care system is not broken.  I don't care if you're Republican, Democrat, or Independent -- this system doesn't work.

I spent hours today working with my doctor's office -- who is unbelievably frustrated at their inability to get care for their patient based on a pencil pusher's policy -- trying to find someone who would see my daughter.  The nine year old who loves to sing, and dance, and play dress up, and has LESIONS on her BRAIN.

And when I finally called her father to update him on the progress, his only comment was the same comment he made when we found out Quinn needed his adenoids taken out, when his hole in his heart had reopened, when he had to get five teeth removed by the oral surgeon, when Claire needed to get ear tubes put in and adenoids out: "And your insurance is going to cover all this, right?"

Oh. My. God.  The health care system isn't the only thing that is broken.

I'm going to go make a drink. Or six.  And focus on the upside that, when the zombie apocalypse comes, they're going to leave Claire alone.  They don't like the taste of lesion-y brains.