Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Thursday Throwdown: Why You Should Want Universal Insurance

Yes, I’m pre-empting my normal ranting and raving about publishing and writing to bring you an overtly political rant and rave about healthcare reform.

Here’s the thing…I’m frankly baffled that this is political at all. Everyone should want universal access to healthcare in America. Everyone should want everyone else to have insurance coverage. Everyone. Including, yes, those terrible, evil illegal immigrants who are ruining America.

But I digress.

I have a very personal story to tell that illustrate why universal coverage should matter to you, even if you have health insurance. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do, really, with enlightened self-interest or lowering costs by getting all those uninsured people out of the emergency room.

No, it’s because it can save your life (or the life of someone you love).

Back in July of 2003, I had a sudden and severe asthma attack. The best way I can describe it is to say that it felt like someone had closed a door between my upper airways and my lungs. Everything seemed to have swollen shut. I tried my rescue inhaler without success. I tried my nebulizer, also without success. It was the middle of the night, so I called 911, imagining that there would be something the paramedics could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself. Then I woke my husband.

I don’t remember much after that. My husband says it took almost 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. They tried to get me to use my nebulizer (duh, I’d tried that; didn’t work). They tried giving me oxygen. And finally, they realized they had to transport me.

And then they spent SEVERAL MINUTES in the driveway of our house trying to get my husband (at 2am with his wife DYING in front of his eyes) to supply proof that we had insurance. Never mind that, even then, that was illegal. Never mind that I was in the back of the ambulance going cyanotic and gasping for air.

Obviously, they did eventually transport me and, thank God, a wonderful team of doctors and nurses saved my life. But by the time I arrived, I’d been in cardiac arrest for almost five minutes.

Now, if those paramedics hadn’t stood there in the driveway asking my husband about our insurance, I MIGHT have arrived at the hospital with a heartbeat. I might not have had to have CPR. I might have spent less time in the hospital, costing my insurance company and the health care system in general less money. At the time, I had a

Even though they weren’t supposed to ask, the fact that they KNEW many people don’t have insurance made them feel they were justified in doing so. They wanted to make sure they would get paid. I can’t say I entirely blame them. But that small delay could have been the difference between my living and dying.

When my husband arrived at the hospital, the paramedics were coming out. They wouldn’t look at him. He thought then that I was gone. They are probably lucky I lived, because he’d probably have had a cause of action in my wrongful death if I didn’t.

But either way, wouldn’t it be better if no one EVER had to worry whether a patient’s care would be paid for? It could save lives. Maybe yours.


  • Raine September 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Jackie, that’s obscene.
    The priorities here have become seriously skewed.
    Why in the world is this even cause for debate? The richest country in the world is dragging its feet on protecting its own citizens in time of need?

  • Courtney Milan September 10, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Without saying anything about my own political sensibilities, I just have to say that the thing that bothers me most about the way health care reform has come down in this country is that the people opposing health care reform aren’t making any of the *good* arguments for their opposition.

    They could make arguments about personal responsibility or the value of the free market. Those arguments might or might not be convincing to the voting public or Congress.

    And in every well thought out argument, there is always a grain of truth–sometimes more than a grain. If we talked about them, we might be able to come up with a plan that addressed those real, valid points and made a stronger plan altogether.

    Sometimes, very occasionally, we hear those arguments.

    But most of the discourse is just pure rubbish–it’s composed of lies that people refuse to relinquish–like this nonsense about “death panels” and the insistence that somehow health care reform is like Hitler’s “final solution” that killed millions and millions of Jews and Gypsies and gays. And the discourse is not about trying to do what is best for the country, but about shouting those lies really, really loudly.

    I find that so depressing. And it makes me wonder: Why are all the people who have *legitimate* worries about some sort of universal health care letting these people take over the debate? Don’t they know that it makes it seem as if there aren’t any real arguments against it? Are they so committed to scotching health care reform that they’ll do it at any cost, without any thought as to whether their real objections are aired?

    I know there are intelligent, principled conservatives out there. I know there are some intelligent, principled liberals who aren’t necessarily on board with health care reform. I’ve talked to some of them. Why aren’t we hearing more from them right now? Why are we stuck with lies as the only discourse?

  • Amie Stuart September 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    And the discourse is not about trying to do what is best for the country, but about shouting those lies really, really loudly.

    AMEN 🙁

    Why are all the people who have *legitimate* worries about some sort of universal health care letting these people take over the debate?

    Ok here’s where I get a bit bitter and angry and let my liberal flag hang out (or whatever LOL). Because they’re too sick? Because no one can hear them over the shouting? Because it comes down to the almighty dollar and right now the little man (you remember him –and I don’t mean “you” as in YOU, Courtney LOL) doesn’t have the $ so no clout. Ok seriously!!!! No one is listening because humans in general are slow to accept change. Slow to adjust to change (*eyes the car industry, the publishing industry and the government*), slow to make change happen. It seems that, by and large, change happens when you drag folks kicking and screaming down the Evolutionary Highway

    *sigh* I’m not sure what the right answer is but I’ve heard enough American Healthcare horror stories (1st hand not 2nd or 3rd) to know we need SOMETHING. And honestly, I’m afraid it’ll be another 20 or so years before we actually see anything worked out. I guess we need more old, narrow-minded, not-thinking, bass ackwards peeps to die off first?


  • Melissa Blue September 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Courtney I agree about the real arguments that can be made aren’t being made.

    At the same time I don’t understand being against universal health care. I see it this way, we still pay for all those people without insurance or not enough insurance. We pay for through taxes, insurance companies hiking up premiums, having our loved ones die or be harmed because “that’s not covered under your insurance”, we PAY when we are paying for the right to live. No one should die because they don’t have health insurance. THIS IS EVERY DAY.

    To me that’s something people should get upset and loud about. American’s should be mad but not about things that don’t actually exist.

  • kris eton September 10, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Okay, first I have to say, where I live NO ONE asks you for insurance info before they take you to the hospital…My ex is an EMT, so I know this to be true. So, obviously, this decision was made by the service that is in your area. Has nothing to do with insurance or not. Couldn’t they just have easily asked about a credit card payment upfront if they were concerned about payment? So that is an argument to take up with the service in your area…because that IS ridiculous.

    Second, the problem i have with this healthcare ‘reform’ going around is that it is NOT actual reform. Actual reform would target the problems with insurance…steep insurance costs for doctors due to runaway lawyers, over-regulating so that insurance companies can’t sell policies across state lines, and also the fact I can’t buy the kind of policy I want! I could afford to pay for regular doctor’s visits out of pocket. Most people could. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an ’emergency illness/accident’ only policy? Most healthy people only need this kind of policy…then if you get a major illness like cancer or have a stroke, you would be covered. The big expensive stuff is what most of us worry about.

    Once you do these things, costs for insurance would come down and people could afford policies.

    There are other reforms, but i don’t have room here. Just had to lay a few out. I think they say tort reform alone would lower medical costs 10%!

    • admin September 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm

      With all due respect, you don’t know what’s being asked when people are being transported to the hospital unless you’re THERE when it happens. As I said in my post, it is, in fact, illegal to ask about insurance and was at the time my incident occurred. My husband was asked anyway, wasting precious minutes.

      In all fairness, I do think the EMTs may have been trying to determine whether we had Kaiser or not. Because at least part of the question seemed to be about which hospital to take me to. But even if I HAD Kaiser insurance, the Kaiser hospital is 20 minutes away; there is another 5 minutes away. Given my condition, the last thing they should have been thinking about was choosing between a hospital 20 minutes distant and one 5 minutes distant, whatever the insurance situation.

      And whatever their motives, the real issue is that questions about whether or not we were insured and by WHOM cost time. It could easily have cost my life. And I would not be surprised to discover that people have, in fact, died as a result of these types of situations. Maybe not where you live, Kris. But across the entire US? I’d bet a lot that it happens more often than we’d like to think.

      As for reform not being real reform, the president said last night he’s behind tort reform, but I have my doubts that malpractice/etc. accounts for even CLOSE to 10% of medical costs. (The estimates I’ve heard/seen recently are closer to 2-3%.) There are marginal savings to be had there, but at the same time, people DO have to be protected from bad doctors. And they do exist.

      Now, if you mean defensive medicine, then I’m right there with you. Problem is, what you and I might consider eliminating defensive medicine, plenty of others would call “rationing of care.”

      Take, for example, the routine ultrasounds women get in this country. There is simply NO evidence that this improves outcomes. None. (Oh, I’m sure someone will tell you the story of how ultrasound saved their baby’s life. The problem is, in most of those cases, there were other indicators of problems that would have led to discovery of the issue WITHOUT routine ultrasound.) But now everyone does them and you can’t take them away because expectant parents have come to expect them. The result is thousands and thousands of dollars being spent on early baby pictures. So parents can find out if it’s a boy or a girl and “bond” and pick out the right color clothes and a name. Seriously.

      The real problem in this country isn’t simply that our health insurance system is jacked (in all the ways you’ve pointed out, although you absolutely CAN get the kind of insurance policy you’re talking about in many states, though it’s possible YOUR state prohibits it–another reason reform must be FEDERAL, not at a state by state level), but that we have a disconnect between what people PERCEIVE to be good care and what actuallly IS good care. How many people do you know who go to the doctor when they have a cold and demand an antibiotic? Add to that the fact the people like me, if we lost our employer-provided insurance, could not GET even a catastrophic policy like the kind you mention without paying literally thousands and thousands a year (and even then, it would probably explicitly exclude any illness related to my ashtma), and you have the disaster that is “free market medicine.”

      You say what we’re discussing now isn’t real reform. You’re right. A single-payer system would be “real” reform. But given the choice between what we have now and something that’s even marginally better–especially if it eliminates pre-existing condition exceptions/denials and mandates minimum universal coverage–I’ll take the increment. Because the status quo is bankrupt.

  • Amie Stuart September 10, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Kris…You make a good point however, I’m also paying 150/mo for ADHD meds (non-generic none available, for 3 people), plus 35 for hormones, about 50/mo for two inhalers. My point being that adds up. It’s not just the insurance companies, it’s the pharmaceutical companies also. I’d like to see them all neutered.

    On another note, while i KNOW that Michael Moore can be uh inflamatory, I highly recommend watching Sicko.

    • admin September 10, 2009 at 8:52 pm

      I pay $50 a month for the medicine that has kept me virtually asthma-free for the past six years. That’s with my insurance. Without insurance, it would be $200/month. And as great as I think this medication is for me, it’s really just a combination of two drugs that have been available as generics for years. $200? It’s highway robbery!

      Recently, they changed the formulation of albuterol (which my son and I both use as “rescue” inhalers). The (insurance-subsidized) price went from $5 to $18. The medicine hasn’t changed a bit. All that’s changed is what the propellant. Oh, and the inhalers are smaller, too. And yet there’s a more than 100% increase in the price?

      I’m sympathetic to the notion that drug companies need to charge enough for medication to cover the R&D costs. But frankly, the R&D costs in these two drugs are negligible at best. There’s no rational justification for their prices for these drugs. But I need them, so I pay for them.

  • Amie Stuart September 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Charging 200.00 for an inhaler is insane. That’s how much son’s Symbicort would be without the insurance, because i asked, because we thought the dog had gotten hold of it.

    Kinda makes me wonder who/what got “the common man” in a frenzy because it’s not the common man getting campaign donations etc from insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

    And Jackie apropo of nothing, my nephew was one of those (probably) one in a million babies who had something wrong that didn’t cause his mother side affects that wouldn’t have been detected if not for a sonogram. Like I said, one in a million!!!

  • admin September 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    And Jackie apropo of nothing, my nephew was one of those (probably) one in a million babies who had something wrong that didn’t cause his mother side affects that wouldn’t have been detected if not for a sonogram. Like I said, one in a million!!!

    It’s pretty hard to know for sure, though, isn’t it? The problem might not have been detected until later in the pregnancy, but there’s usually some outward sign of serious problems (because the baby stops growing properly or what have you) as the pregnancy progresses.

    I’ve heard more than one “if not for routine u/s, my baby would have died” story, and believe me, it’s always scary to think what might have happened without that u/s. But at the same time, it’s kind of like “if we hadn’t waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, we wouldn’t have found out about [insert evil plot here].” Yeah, you know because of the routine u/s waterboarding, but that doesn’t mean you could not/would not have found out some other way.

    Just sayin’!

  • Kris Eton September 11, 2009 at 7:06 am

    The federal government is what created the state-by-state system…it has to do with business across state lines, which is a federally regulated area. As for an ’emergency-only’ policy…yes, I can buy one now, but really what it is, is a high-deductible policy…so I’m paying reg. things out-of-pocket, and if I was hospitalized, I’d have a $10,000 or whatever deductible to meet before that kicked in. When I was in grad school and was off my parents’ insurance policy, I could buy an emergency policy for only $500 every six months. CHEAP!

    This is the thing, if everyone could afford insurance, these types of pre-existing exclusions would almost end. You’d have insurance under your parents as children and then would move into a policy that would be an emergency-type policy as an adult. Most people at a young age are very healthy.

    Anyway, I just think there are areas being completely ignored in order to push a VERY expensive alternative that will eventually eradicate competition and result in all of us having NO choice. If the federal gov’t can operate their plan in a deficit, guess what? They will always be the cheapest option and insurance companies will be driven out of business. Companies will drop coverage to save $$.

    And tort reform would save 10% due to unnecessary medical tests and specialists that doctors order up in order to avoid a lawsuit. Malpractice insurance would fall in price, meaning doctors would have to charge less for the services in order to make a living. A lot of costs are tied into malpractice crap.

    I agree with the medicine costs…that is a tough one. I am glad for the innovations these companies have brought us…so I wouldn’t want to do away with that. What I would like to see is making it illegal to advertise medicine on tv and in magazines for the general public. That ticks me off. And that savings might off-set some of the R&D costs.

    This is such a complicated issue! I enjoy the debate and the analyzing going on here!

  • Amie Stuart September 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    It’s pretty hard to know for sure, though, isn’t it?

    Actually he was perfectly normal (except for the big-ass hole in his stomach–intestines can float in the amniotic fluid), and blessed to be born in a hospital that knew/and understood his condition. The only way they would have detected it is genetic testing–and my ex SIL was perfectly normal so they wouldn’t have done that 19 years ago.


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