Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: <i>Livin' and dyin' in 3/4 time</i> .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Livin' and dyin' in 3/4 time

Those who lack health insurance need ingenuity

Still not convinced we have a health care crisis in this country? Some people have discovered that its so much cheaper to get medical services in other countries, airfare included, that they're combining their vacations with preventive and elective medical care and still saving piles of money. Take the case of Arnaud Durieux:

Because he has no health or dental insurance, he figured this was his best option to get good care at a good price, even factoring in the cost to fly. The French dentist charged about $500 for the crown, compared with the $2,000 he says it would have cost in New York.

Durieux's is one of many unusual strategies that the 45 million uninsured people in the United States employ in an attempt to keep themselves healthy without going broke, as medical and health insurance costs have soared in recent years.

Escalating costs of health insurance, particularly for those whose employers don't provide economical health care coverage, have driven many to seek alternatives for health care. Most of them are young people for whom health care is not a big priority. But as these folks get older, this strategy catches up with them, saddling them with medical care costs that far exceed their available budget.

For Nancy Twigg, a 38-year-old author and newsletter publisher in Knoxville, Tenn., being uninsured means looking up her symptoms on the Internet when she gets sick, peppering friends who are nurses and pharmacists with questions, and treating whatever she can with over-the-counter medicines.

If disaster strikes, she has faith she'll be covered by a service called Samaritan Ministries, a group of Christians who send money each month to members of the network with high medical bills.

"We are happy to know that it goes to a family in need, rather than a large insurance corporation," she said.

When doctor's visits become unavoidable, she has found a doctor who offers a discount to self-pay patients and recently gave her $1,000 worth of drug samples to treat a shingles case.

"Had she not done this, I would have just had to tough it out," she says.

Which brings up another point. The drug companies can shell out $1000 worth of samples because they expect doctors to prescribe these drugs, thereby profiting tenfold on the initial outlay. So who's covering the cost of these freebies? I'll give you a two-letter hint - "U" and "I".

Because of this, those of us who do have medical insurance are paying more each year for coverage.

Premiums for family coverage in employer-sponsored plans rose 59 percent between 2001 and 2004, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, compared with a 9.7 percent growth in consumer prices.

At these rates, many of the self employed and small business employees who want health insurance can't afford it. It's estimated that by 2013, 56 million people - more than one fourth of Americans - will not have health insurance, leaving them at risk of a catastrophic illness or injury that will either be covered by our taxes or insurance premiums.

At the risk of pissing off the conservatoons, I'd like to point out that during the Clinton administration, the people without medical insurance dropped to its lowest levels since before Reagan, and began climbing again as soon as Little Bush took over. Something to think about.

Meanwhile, this administration forces cuts in medical care to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, and the overall health of our nation is being left up to chance. Hey, that's what capitalism is all about anyway, right? Taking risks that could lead to a larger payoff in the end? Only in this case, the people who stand to lose the most are those that have no choice and nothing to gain by taking the risk.

But all the risk takers will have to do to minimize their own risk, if the plan fails, is to pass legislation that cuts the losers off from medical care completely. After all, if it cuts into their own pocketbook, it's not good for the economy. They'll just blame the "tax and spend libruls" to justify benefit cuts.

But, wait a minute. If they do that, then there'll be no "Social Security Crisis", because a good portion of the recipients won't be around to receive benefits. See that, crisis solved. Of course, those that survive will still need to invest in Private Accounts so the investment bankers can be subsidized. After all, that is the American Way.


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