Shitty Obamacare

In 2011 my daughters and I went to Spain for a week. During that visit, my older daughter fell down some stairs, severely cut her head, and had to ride in an ambulance to the emergency room. She was stitched up and given all her care products and prescriptions by the doctor at the hospital. As a non European citizen, the visit cost us $64 American dollars. For everything. For the ambulance ride, the visit, the stitching, the care products and drugs. A similar visit in the US would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6000, if not more. And since the ACA went into effect, it’s only gotten worse.

The ACA is not a boon to Americans. It’s not. Do you know that it’s virtually impossible to get a plan on low or moderate income that doesn’t have a multi-thousand dollar deductible? Somehow, in over 2000 pages as a law, someone didn’t think to tell insurers to cap deductibles. It’s insane. Pretend to be an average American. Go to the “marketplace.” Look at the options there. You’ll see that all the plans have insane deductibles. The only plans that don’t are too high priced for people in lower income brackets. It’s a joke.

The ACA isn’t a boon. It’s a legislative nightmare. It’s a paperwork nightmare. It’s raised costs, not lowered them. Emergency plans available before the ACA that covered essentially the same thing were cheaper than the plans under the ACA. The ACA operating in reality is anything but an example of success unless you’re an insurance company executive. What would be a real success would be getting rid of the for-profit middle man in healthcare. Then when someone needs to go the doctor, it would cost what it should instead of lining the pockets of everyone along the way while the person in need of care suffers financially in addition to suffering with their health.

What the ACA has done is to take public dollars and use them for privatized profit. People whose health insurance is “subsidized” get their insane premiums paid for by tax dollars. So greedy ass insurance company charges $740 a month for their crappy plan (that’s $8880 a year!) and the government pays part of that premium out of tax dollars. The shitty insurance company theoretically can’t profit more than a certain percentage, but that doesn’t mean they can’t pay their executives more and have less in “profit.” It’s all a big game, but it works out the same: public tax dollars paying a greedy middle man to skim profit off before providing subpar healthcare. And people are worried about socialized medicine because they don’t want to pay higher taxes? The logic escapes me. Really the problem is that the greedy bastards who lobby for the insurance companies have all the “lawmakers” in their pockets. It’s a giant, shambling scam.

We never asked for our daughter’s insurance company to reimburse the $64 spent in Spain the day she was injured. We paid for it because we could because that kind of healthcare is truly affordable. The Affordable Care Act? Not so much.

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Autumn — Chapter 12

Read Autumn — Chapter 11

Summers in the West Linn house were extremely pleasant. The enormous cherry tree in the front yard kept the house nearly fully shaded. There were windows covering two entire walls in the living room, and a full corner of our bedroom. A large picture window opened onto the dining room. In warm months, we opened all these windows, allowing a gentle breeze to move throughout the rooms. In combination with the shade of the cherry tree, the effect was comfortable and gratifying.

Because of the grandfather clause allowing livestock on the property, we owned two ducks and had brought my old, childhood, bay pony named Lady to the house from my parent’s. Swaybacked and ancient, she kept the grass behind the house mowed and blackberry vines in check. I set up a hammock between two trees in the backyard, and would lie between them with a book while Milla roamed the yard with the dogs and Lady.

I was lying in this hammock the afternoon of Autumn’s bladder scope, waiting for the call from the vet telling us to come and bring her home and, I hoped, some diagnosis.

Finally, at about three in the afternoon, the specialist’s office called to say Autumn was ready to go home. The receptionist informed me that the specialist would call me to discuss the case.

I gathered up my book and hefted myself out of the hammock, pulled Milla from the sandbox, wiping sand from her hands and knees, and headed through the house and out to the car. The specialist’s office was in another Portland suburb, about twenty minutes from our house.

When I arrived at the specialist’s office, Autumn was woozy, but none the worse for wear from her experience. The office told me the specialist would call me later with the results. Seriously? Dang, this was taking a long time.

On the drive home, my mobile phone rang. I plugged in my corded headphones and answered. It was the specialist.

“Your dog’s bladder looked like world war three,” she told me soberly. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The inside of her bladder wall was a mess. I cleaned some off some of the loose tissue, so she should not have any further bleeding.”

She went on to say that there wasn’t a lot of information out there about why this happened. The doctor didn’t know the exact cause of Autumn’s troubles. She said in cases like this, it was believed that stress brought it on. Antibiotics would not help, and actually could make it worse, so she wanted me to stop giving Autumn antibiotics. The good news was that there was no evidence of cancer, and no indication that anything was going on that would kill her. The bad news was there wasn’t much more that she could tell me, and there was not a lot that could be done.

I thanked her and hung up the phone, then called Dr. Fletcher and left him a message, and called Debbie and Bjorn. I was so relieved that the diagnosis wasn’t death.

Over the next several years, Autumn had several other similar such bleeding bladder episodes, and they all occurred when she was stressed, even when the stress was good. One such incident occurred when I took Milla and the dogs for a weekend at the beach. We rented an oceanfront motel cabin with a hot tub in the room.

Autumn adored the beach. She would run herself ragged, chase sea birds, and gambol and play in the edge of the ocean. Most of the places we liked to visit along the Oregon coast were located at the mouths of creeks or streams emptying into the sea. Autumn would race back and forth through these waterways, soaking herself and anyone nearby.

In spite of the fact that Autumn loved the beach, her bladder issue came back with full force while we were there. Luckily the motel room was covered in synthetic wood flooring, making it easy to clean her accidents, but I could not take her anywhere in the car, and liberally covered the seats with towels before heading home in case she leaked blood or urine. I gave Autumn one of the painkillers prescribed by the vet because the episodes were painful, and simply waited for it to pass.

A couple of years after Autumn was scoped, and after many bleeding bladder episodes, I was visiting my mom’s house. My mom is something of a magazine addict, and keeps dozens of them around the house and in the bathroom at any given time.

While there, I picked up a Lady’s Home Journal and thumbed through it when one of the headlines caught my eye. It said something like “Bladder Problems Nearly Ended my Life,” or some such thing so dramatic. I read through the article and became increasingly excited.

The author of the article had experienced what seemed to be bladder infection after bladder infection. The infections were extremely painful, and grew worse, not better, with antibiotics. She often leaked blood. Nothing helped, and as time wore on, she lost her job and was in nearly constant pain. After years of struggle and torment, a doctor scoped her bladder and saw that the inside was shredded, exactly as the vet had described Autumn’s. It was only after all of this that the woman was diagnosed with a condition called interstitial cystitis, often called IC.

Finally, I too had a name for Autumn’s condition.

The article said that there was no cure for IC. In some cases in humans surgery could remove some of the damage to the bladder wall, but these surgeries were rare, and I knew in Autumn’s case we could probably never afford it, even if it were possible. It also stated that the best way to maintain the condition was through diet. Certain foods were triggers that could make the condition worse. And, as I had already determined from trial and error, stress was one of the biggest culprits in causing an episode.

The article referenced a website for humans suffering from IC. Later that evening after I returned home, I found the site and read everything there, and then searched further, thrilled to have found something that matched Autumn’s situation exactly. I also discovered what I had been figuring out by accident: bland foods were best, as was minimizing stress.

I called Dr. Fletcher and told him what I found and how. He knew of IC because he said it was common in cats. He had recently read a journal article about it, and reiterated that diet was the best means of maintenance. He also pointed out that studies showed that the binders in commercially prepared foods were one of the worst things for Autumn to eat, and suggested I look at natural foods to help with her disorder.

After reading everything I could get my hands on about IC and talking to Dr. Fletcher, I began purchasing 10 pound tubes of ground turkey and 20 pound bags of rice and cooking Autumn’s dinner every night. We had experimented with this diet before in an effort to calm Poppy’s skin problems, but it had not helped. However, I was willing to try it if it would help Autumn to feel better. Everything I read about IC said the episodes were very painful. I could only imagine how this felt for an animal who could not describe for me how she was feeling.

Of all the discoveries I made when Autumn was ill, the revelation that her bladder issue had a name and diagnosis was the most gratifying. Finally I had a name for the condition. Finally I had a list of triggers that made it worse. Finally, though nominal, I had some sense of how to manage it. I could actually make a difference and help her live more comfortably. This made all our lives more manageable in the long run. It wasn’t a perfect situation, but now I understood Autumn’s issues and was able to control things for the most part, which was a huge relief.

Read Autumn — Chapter 13

Cracking a Head on a Barcelona Stair

We are in the Philly airport now. We will be home in about 9 hours. Nice flight home…unlimited movies chosen from our seat. 

Yesterday we spent our last eve in Barcelona riding in an ambulance to the hospital. Milla slipped on some stairs right after it started to rain and banged her head on the cement. She required two stitches. Quite the ordeal, but two bright spots. One was the cost, only $53 euros for the entire thing, INCLUDING the ambulance ride. Two was the incredibly handsome Spanish men who were our paramedics. Both of them were handily some of the most incredible looking men I have ever seen. I can’t believe humans are that lovely in person.  (: Anyway Milla is recovering and has an interesting story to tell her classmates.

I’m the Poster Child for Public Healthcare

I was published on Huffington Post last week.  To see the original story, click here.  If you like it, please share on Facebook or twitter, and feel free to buzz me up.

I’m the Poster Child for Public Healthcare
by Lara M. Gardner

I am a poster child for public health. Why do I say this? Because I live in a state where there is a low-income, public healthcare option. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was able to utilize this option for my treatment. It worked, and it worked extremely well.

Uninsured and unemployed after job-hunting for over a year in late 2006, I discovered a lump in my breast. The lump turned out to be benign, but the mammogram of that lump showed early breast cancer. The nurse-practitioner who ordered the mammogram knew about a federal program for treatment of breast and cervical cancers in low-income women. I applied for the program and was accepted for my mammogram and subsequent biopsy. Once the biopsy showed that I indeed had cancer, the Oregon Health Plan kicked in, along with the federal program, to treat my cancer.

The care I received was phenomenal. I was able to choose my doctors. My surgeon and oncologists were all brilliant, amazing physicians. All of the staff in every facility treated me with kindness and respect. Throughout the process I was a partner in my care, everyone explaining procedures at a level commensurate with my education and understanding. Never once was I made to feel like a second-class citizen because of my public health status. I completed radiation treatments and, because I take an estrogen-blocking drug, have continued on the public-health program.

As part of my care, I was required to pay $3 for doctor visits. I had two surgeries for a biopsy and lumpectomy, a needle biopsy, radiation, multiple mammograms, and attended countless doctor appointments with various practitioners. The only bills I ever received were for the $3 fees. Not once did I suffer through multiple bills, trying to sort out which my insurance company had paid, who had been billed, who was owed what. I was spared all of this thanks to public healthcare.

Since the healthcare debate has come to the fore over the last year, I have read and heard story after story of women with cancers like mine who were “covered” by private health insurance. Over and over, I have heard of the trauma and stress these women experienced at the hands of their insurance companies at the same time they were dealing with the pain, fear, and exhaustion of their illness. Each time I heard these stories, I felt grateful that I was covered by a public health plan.

Part of the health care debate has included the old canards about the Canadian and British health systems. “You can’t choose your doctor.” “You have to wait for months to get treated.” These claims have been widely discredited, and I saw nothing in my experience with American public healthcare that was lacking. I chose all of my doctors. I was served immediately.

I sincerely hope our legislators can get their act together and create a health plan that provides health care for every American so all of us can experience true and complete care, as I did. It can work. It does work. We all deserve nothing less.

Reality Check

This article has been published on Huffington Post and can be seen here.

I saw several articles on 9/11 debating whether the US is safer, particularly since we went to Iraq.  That 9/11 is even connected to Iraq as somehow making us safer as laughable, especially considering the only relation between the two is that 9/11 was used as an excuse to get into Iraq.  Any suggestion that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 has been roundly proven to be non-existent.  Yet the myth remains.

Ironically (or not considering the climate of this country since the year 2000), in the so many “arguments” against healthcare reform, the reason most often posited against any public option by those purporting to be reasonable is the cost.  This is ironic mainly considering these same naysayers have not been arguing against the obscene cost of the Iraq war.  Even if the government took over 100% of healthcare, owned every medical facility, hired every medical professional, and owned all of the equipment, the cost still would come nowhere near what we have spent and continue to spend on the Iraq war.

Supporters of the Iraq war have long used the argument that being there keeps us safe from terrorists.  This of course is in spite of evidence against any connection between Iraq and terrorism, at least before we got there.  We may now have created more terrorists in the way we have handled and treated the citizens in Iraq.  But to the supporters of the war, spending money in Iraq is spending money to combat terrorism.

Yet let’s be realistic here.  Suppose we actually were doing something to fight terrorism by being in  Iraq.  Would the cost still be justified?

Ask the average American how their life or the lives of their family members have been touched by terrorism.  It is more likely that this person has been struck by lightening five times than it is they have been personally affected by a terrorist attack.  Yes, it can be scary for some people to contemplate.  But seriously, it is extremely rare any of us will endure anything terrorist related that affects us personally.

Ask the same average American how their life or the lives of their family members have been affected by the healthcare crisis in this country.  It is more likely that they or a family member have been affected personally by the healthcare crisis than not.  Nearly everyone has some story to tell.  And even if a citizen hasn’t yet been affected, the possibility they will be affected if they lose their job (a much higher possibility even in a good economy than being affected by terrorism), then the lack of affordable healthcare will affect them.

We have spent billions and continue to spend billions in Iraq based on the dubious possibility we might be fighting terrorism, something that affects so few people, yet most of us cannot point to anyone who has been personally affected by it.  At the same time, we have politicians and citizens arguing against a public option because they claim we can’t afford it, even though most of us are affected by it every day.

We need a reality check.  The next time a politician claims we can’t afford public healthcare, ask them to stop spending money in Iraq and spend it here on healthcare instead.  Even if we could afford Iraq (we can’t), and even if being in Iraq protected us (it doesn’t), the reality is we should stop spending that money there and spend it here at home on something that affects all of us every day.

Mini Healthcare Rant

Any republican, talk show idiot, or anyone else for that matter, who suggests that public health care will result in euthanasia should be ashamed.  Abominable, sickening, horrible fools.  People DIE DAILY in this country because we do not have health care and they have the nerve to try and scare people off with this shit?  So some scumbag insurance company can make more money?  Fuck I am sick of this stupid country and everything that is wrong with it.  Someone should just take these lying assholes out and shove them off a cliff.

Charade and Socialists

Milla, Boyfriend, and I watched the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie Charade tonight.  Good flick.  Milla really liked it.  Some things were kind of dated, but it was still enjoyable.  And Audrey Hepburn’s outfits were fantastic. It’s like the child of Duplicity, keeps you guessing.  Anyway, I recommend it.

On another note, I avoid the news lately.  In my current mental state, I simply can’t handle all the negativity.  However, I peruse a few pages including Huffington Post.  Today there was a story (see it here) regarding a Republican moron, er, congressman, who has created a, shhhhhh!  Secret list of socialists!!  Oooooh!  Can you BELIEVE this?  I was so upset, I could hardly stand it.  No wonder I don’t read the news anymore.  The one time I do and I discover socialists are creeping into our guvment.

Well, we’re just gonna have to root them dang socialites out, I’m telling you.  Get rid of anyone who thinks the guvment should pay for schools or roads or hell, social security (see that horrible word social in there?  It’s like herpes, you can’t get rid of it).  Big bad socialites, wanting the guvment to help pay for things like healthcare, education, transportation, and the like.  Hell, we should let people who can’t afford it DIE if they can’t go to the doctor.  And what’s the point of paying for schools?  They all teach the wrong stuff anyway.  And don’t even get me started on transportation.  All roads should be toll roads. That way the people who can afford it will drive and the rest can just stay home.  And if they can’t afford a home, well too bad for them!  Shit.  What is this world coming to people?  I swear, the anti-American bastards, we should just line them up and shoot them.