Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Health Insurance Debate

This is an endurance training and fund raising to achieve cures for cancer blog, not a political one. But now and then, topics are going to come up that cross the boundaries between my normal topics and the political realm. The highly polarized health insurance debate is one of these areas. People get very emotional about this. I know of people who think that if the plan before the Congress passes, it will wreck health care as we know it and bankrupt the country. I heard a quote attributed to Fox News that only 10% of Americans without health insurance want it. I am no expert on the first statement, and don’t know the best solution. But I can’t imagine that only 10% of uninsured Americans would want health insurance. Maybe if you asked the question with a price – “If you could get health insurance for $1,000 a month, would you want it?” – maybe then people would say no because they can’t afford it. But who would choose to be without insurance if they could afford it and had that choice?

Someone I met recently with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma and who is currently getting ABVD chemo, the same regimen that I had, is without insurance. Because of this, she is being given cheaper, less effective anti-nausea drugs, and is sick a lot. She often throws up all night. She has never been given a lung function test. For someone with insurance, or who has enough money to pay out of pocket, these would be givens as part of this treatment.

I know first hand what it is like to throw up all night from chemotherapy, to lay on the bathroom floor at the feet of the “porcelain god” feeling like your insides are going to come out your throat. But I had insurance, and when I talked to my oncologist, he put me on an incredibly expensive drug – like $800 for 12 pills but my co-pay was only about $50 – that kept the nausea more or less under control for 12 hours at a time, so I could get through the night without being sick to my stomach. Because once that vomiting starts in the middle of the night, you are not going to be able to take a pill and keep that pill down. It made all the difference in the world.

I guess if I hadn’t had insurance, I would not have gotten pulmonary function tests, either. I am convinced that I am alive today only because of this. They caught the beginning of severe lung damage in time to stop using bleomycin and to allow the damage to apparently heal. Someone who gets bleomycin and doesn’t get a PFT is playing Russian roulette with their lungs. And also with their lives, because as it turns out, one’s lungs are fairly important organs.

Can you imagine having cancer or some other serious illness and not having medical insurance? Plenty of people are in this boat, and I would imagine they often must choose between being bankrupt and taking huge chances with their health and/or getting suboptimal medical care. I think it is a real shame that in such a wealthy country that so many people are not able to afford medical care.

I don’t know what the answer is. It seems to me that we should be able to analyze all of the possible plans in use over the world, and come up with the best features of them all and implement them here. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it should be a lot better than what we have. As I blogged a couple of weeks ago, we got to the moon 40 years ago. Aren’t we smart enough, and more importantly wise enough, to come up with a more optimal health coverage plan for the nation?

I welcome civil comment and discussion about this. What are your ideas? I plan on blogging more about this in future posts if there is sufficient interest and comment.

1 comment:

Elayne said...

Hi Art~ this post has really made me think. I too have very good insurance and receive top care for my cancer. However, I too spent MANY nights "hugging the porcelain god" and can't imagine not having health care or insurance.
On the other side of things, two of my sons have epilepsy and require daily meds. One missed dose and they are in trouble.As young adults they HAVE to have insurance or their lives would be non functional as they could not afford the medication. My oldest son just moved to Europe ( with a year supply of his meds) so this will be interesting to see the quality of care he receives and how it is different from here. I will keep you posted.