I am not a health care expert. I know that in preparation for the end of his time at CBS,
Steve procured a second health care policy. This was to insulate us from being insured for any pre-existing that might develop between
employment and Medicare. CBS
is still good enough to insure us; nevertheless, we pay these thousands of
dollars every year so that we will not fall into an abyss when the primary
coverage ends. We are really lucky
that Steve did this, because my knee does not have a scintilla of cartilage. I am in chronic pain, have constricted
mobility and stability: I will
need to purchase a new one. I am
currently in the rehab-injection-ramped up pain meds phase. Soon I will beg for relief, and I am
lucky enough that I will get it.
My Dad worked until he was 84, and had fine medical coverage
with Blue Cross. He used it when
he was 70 to have very successful bypass surgery. This year he had an enrollment period for Medicare before he
went to Florida, and he signed up, and mistakenly signed off of Blue Cross
without adding a supplemental.
Apparently it was Blue Cross' obligation to advise him to get a
supplemental. They did not; Dad
happily flew South for the winter, contemplating retirement. Then he died, after 48 hours in
emergency and critical care.
Medicare will not pay, claiming Blue Cross must suffer the costs for
their lack of counsel. Blue Cross
will not pay. We will likely end up out of pocket, but that is not the real
issue. Dad paid premiums for Medicare until he was 84. He never used a dime of services. He is denied for services he used
on the last 2 days of his life because the rules are so serpentine that a man
who was bright enough to work every day as a manufacturer's rep made an
enrollment error. Gotcha!
My other reference point to health care is my Mother. Mom had a damaged heart from rheumatic
fever. She had mitral valve
prolapse, and was beta-blocked so that her chest would not flood with the blood
that escaped. She had congestive
heart failure. Macular degeneration. Extreme arthritis, osteo and
rheumatoid. At 71 years, her
cardiologist told her that her aortic valve was worn out. His suggestion: open heart surgery. She would still have the mitral
valve problem, be hobbled and blind and have a failing heart. But there might be a longer life.
Mom was afraid, but she agreed.
She survived the surgery and went home. The heart surgeon put it in the
Win column. At home, the
combination of weakness, blood thinners and pain wore Mom down for 6 weeks. She finally ventured out of her home to
buy Halloween candy. That night,
she died in her sleep.
My point here is that my parents only spoke to the heart
surgeon. There was no other
counseling proffered. No
statistics, alternative therapies, or life expectancy data was shared. Mom was Catholic, had always had the
Choose Life bumper sticker. Sometimes,
that should be modified to Choose a Good Life. I think my Mom may have chosen to live her days out without
the violence and pain she endured. The surgeon and hospital would have lost some revenue; the
insurance company would have benefited.
All of this came to mind yesterday when I read the featured
editorial on the Tribune's Opinion page. Here the Tribune concedes that there
are no provisions for "death panels".
They admit the wisdom of counseling for hospice options, and legal proxy
considerations. They acknowledge
that the resistance to governmental reform is based on speculation and fear.
Then they stoke that fear, creating a scenario where the rising
numbers of seniors will require "bending the curve of care downward....and the specter
of government rationing of seniors' health care." How could such a law
eventually be interpreted or expanded, they ask, disingenuously. This editorial is a cynical assist to
the fear mongerers. Here is how it
works: mention Death Panels, scare
people, admit there is no such beast as Death Panels, but since the notion
scares people, encourage that the planners edit any reimbursement for the
counseling that may result in good end of life quality so that people will not
I am not claiming to have the blueprint for revising a
system that we acknowledge is going to bankrupt us, personally or
nationally. Dialogue and understanding will be
needed to advance a workable and comprehensive plan. Hysteria and
misinformation will not advance the cause. To capitulate to the oldest propaganda technique, that of
creating fear and confusion, is a coward's approach. The Tribune was complicit in such cowardice in its Sunday
I think the
op-ed page is a place for leadership and thought. Not yesterday.