On booze, guns, voting, and healthcare

It is a popular belief that physicians take an oath to “first, do no harm.”  They do not, however, they should.  Not just physicians though — everyone.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, bankers, mayors, governors, congressmen, presidents……  What does it mean to “do no harm”?  Truthfully, I’m not really sure I know what it means, but I can imagine what it might look like.  It would look like people caring for their fellow man beyond platitudes and pity.  I would imagine it would stop lawmakers from making laws that are clearly harmful to any portion of the population.  “But it’s not possible to make everyone happy.”  I know this, but is it possible not to let people die for the sake of capitalism?  There have been numerous Facebook debates this week about whether or not healthcare is a right.  If I’m being honest, I think people get too caught up in semantics.  No, healthcare is not a right spelled out by what is apparently the holiest of all documents ever written, the Constitution of the United States.  

Let me take a moment to say this:  I love the Constitution of the United States of America.  It is a document that has stood the test of time and prevailed.  It is a simple explanation of what the government cannot do.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The constitution is not so much about the rights of the people as it is about the limits set on the federal government by that ubiquitous group of men we lovingly call “the founding fathers.”  The ‘founding fathers’ who, by the way, agreed with each other about as much as the democrats and republicans do today, really struggled to agree on what the government of this new country should look like.  The first seven articles, which comprise the ‘original’ Constitution, do not contain a single right. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. They simply lay out the powers of each branch of government and how each one is to function.

There are actually very few rights outlined in the Constitution besides voting and drinking. Yes, there is a ‘bill of rights’, but they have much more to do with what the government cannot either do to you or stop you from doing.

So, are the only rights we have the ones outlined in the constitution? Where does that leave us? We can drink, vote, shoot guns and tell everyone about how much we love or hate it.  Seems a little lacking to me.

What rights should we be guaranteed as humans? A few come to mind: safety, the right to self-determination, freedom; basically, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is referred to in the 14th amendment, but again it’s telling the government that they can’t take those away from people “without due cause.”

While the Constitution does not go into detail about basic rights, in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States ratified.  In it are 30 articles that are “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”  The three above are part of it, but there is so much more.  Like the right to marry whomever one chooses and the right to own property.  The freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  The right to one’s own opinion. The right not be belong to an association.  And way at the bottom, at number 25 is the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” and the “right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”  

How very refreshing to see that some entity somewhere cares about the well being of earth’s citizens.  Why do we, a “Christian Nation” allegedly “Under God” not care to meet those same standards?  Why do we think that some deserve for their illnesses to be treated while others remain sick?  Why do we think an adequate standard of living is only for the wealthy?  Why do we make health care a privilege?

It’s because we have been taught that God blesses the righteous and sends woes to the unrighteous.  We equate wealth with morality and it is sickening.  To be living in poverty means that you are not blessed by God and therefore not deserving of “handouts.”  You are not a “worthy poor.”  “If you would pray enough, you’d be healed.”  “If you tithed enough, you’d have more money.”  “Follow God and he will provide for all of your needs.”  These words only sound good to those saying them.  I am a Christian.  I believe in God.  I pray and go to church.  I serve my community in His name.  I study the bible.  Hymns are the first songs that come to mind when I need to fill empty space. I am a Christian.  I am also sick.  Before I knew what was wrong, I was in so much pain that I just wanted it gone or me gone, and that is what I prayed.

God didn’t take me to heaven or take the pain away.  No, He answered with a simple pill I take every night before bed.  A pill that costs $87 a piece.  Do the math.  That’s crazy, right!  Do you want to know what is even more crazy? In any other country it cost about $1. It is so much more expensive here because America not only worships the Constitution, but we worship capitalism as well.  The ability for the government to negotiate with drug companies has been repeatedly voted down because of capitalism.

There is a place for capitalism, healthcare is not it.  The right to live is not something that should ebb and flow with the market.  It should not be reserved for those who can afford it. Health care may not be a right in the United States, but it is a Human Right and should not be withheld just because someone can’t afford it.

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On Rights

 

“Healthcare (medical care) is not a right…” I have seen this over and over and over on Facebook and Twitter this week.  There’s even a hashtag.  Well, you all know how I love my word play, so let’s break it all down:

Right:
Noun: A moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something.

Moral:
Adjective: of, relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.

Ethical:
Adjective: Pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.
Synonyms: upright, honest, righteous, virtuous, honorable.

So, even if someone is not legally entitled to something, they could be ethically entitled.

Now, we may not be legally entitled to health care, but how can anyone say that we are not ethically entitled to it?

Would you like to know what we call something that we are not legally or ethically entitled to?
A privilege.

Privilege: A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of others or a grant to an individual under certain conditions or an advantage granted to a person.

So which is it?
Should medical care be classified as a right or a privilege?

Is it something that should be “enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages (money, status, job, ect.) of others?”

Is it upright, honest, righteous, virtuous, or honorable to tell someone that they don’t deserve medical care for any reason?

Is medical care only for people who are good (wealthy) enough for it?

What makes someone worthy to receive medical care?

These are all questions each and every person who claims that medical care is not a right must answer.  Please look those who are sick and dying in the face and tell them that they are not worthy of life.  Tell them that if they didn’t earn it they shouldn’t have it.  Tell them they should have worked harder and saved more.  Tell them you’re sorry about their situation, but medical care is not a right.  Tell them you’ll put them on the prayer list at church.

The reality is that it is a shame that the United States doesn’t have universal health coverage.  We’re so damned afraid of government involvement that we are only hurting ourselves.  We are so set on capitalist ideals that we’re willing to sacrifice “the least of these” on the altar of the free market.  Medical care should be exempt from the divides of wealth.  The poorest among us should expect the same care as the wealthiest.  Where is the compassion?  Where is Christ in this “Christian Nation”?  When are we going to hold ourselves accountable?

Yes, healthcare is a right; it is the most basic of rights and it’s about time American caught up with the rest of the world and realized that.

 

 

On using my words

On November 8th, enough people in the United States voted for Donald Trump to make him our new president. Since the election I have been very vocal about my displeasure regarding the outcome of the election. Despite giving sound, reasonable arguments for said displeasure, I have been accused of whining because my candidate lost, being blind to the world around me,  and my personal favorite, of just not being the Christian they thought I was because of my political alliances.

I will never support Donald Trump.  He is a man who is only out for himself. He refuses to fully take the job of President by keeping his business connections.  He mocks the office by throwing fits on Twitter and by appointing family members to high positions in his Administration. He has no respect for people and he has shown that by mocking real American heroes like John McCain for becoming a POW, parents who lost a son fighting for our country, and most recently John Lewis, a renowned Civil Rights advocate who sacrificed his own comfort and safety to fight for what he believed in. Donald Trump is not a good person and he was most certainly not “anointed by God for such a time as this.”  He did not win because he was chosen by God. He won because he was able to convince desperate people that he would help them to become less desperate. He won because he was able to convince neo-nazis and other racist and hateful people that he would give them a voice. He won because he was able to convince religious conservatives that he would appoint cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices that thought like them.  Notice that I did not lump all Trump supporters together. He was able to convince all of these separate groups that he was just the man they needed. That is why he won. He sold himself as a savior and people believed him. I did not and that makes me an outsider in my circles.

Being vocal about all of this has led to the loss of some decades long friendships, alienation by family members, and a general anxiety about social ramifications to come. I have every reason in the world to stop being vocal about the atrocities that are happening in our government.  Maybe if I stopped sharing articles on Facebook that support my views or just stopped having an opinion altogether, I could regain some of what I have lost.  It would benefit me to do those things, but I won’t – I can’t. I can’t because the stakes are too high and if my words have the potential to convince others to see what is at stake and to contact their representatives and congressmen, then all of my personal losses would be worth it.

While there are many problems with the soon to be POTUS, the real problem lies with  the Republican controlled House and Senate.  After the election, I voiced my concerns about the fact that our newly elected congress had one goal – to repeal the Affordable Care Act. People tried to convince me that I was blowing it out of proportion and my fears were completely unfounded – that everything would be okay.  Well, on January 9th the US Senate proved me right. They started the process of pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans who depend on the ACA to live. They rejected any agreement to save the life saving provisions that I and many others like me depend on.  They made the first step toward my physical destruction and on the 13th, the House of Representatives backed them up.

As many of you know, I am sick.  I am not sick because of poor life choices or risky behavior.  I have Lupus.  My immune system confuses healthy cells for sick ones and will one day cause my kidneys, liver, and heart to fail.  I am 32 years old and I know with some certainty how I am going to die. My access to health care will determine when.  Every cold, seasonal allergy attack, virus, and infection can cause my immune system to go into hyperdrive and damage my organs.  I go to the doctor at the first sniffle or as soon as my temperature hits 99 degrees because I need medication to shut down my immune system so that damage doesn’t occur.  In 2016, my insurance paid out $750,000 in claims. In one year, my medical cost exceeded what all but the wealthiest people could afford for a lifetime of medical care. This is not hyperbole or a tactic to garner pity and attention. It is simply the truth.  I am just one person out of millions who are facing the situation. We are terrified at what is happening in Washington. We are scared for our lives.

Please have some empathy and stop calling me and others like me snowflakes, libtards, or communists.  We just want the same right to live as everyone else and we can’t do that without the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. If voters don’t appeal to their congress people, sick people like me will die.  It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen eventually and our blood will be on the hands of those who refused to see that healthcare is not a privilege only reserved for the wealthy or the healthy; it is a basic human right.  I will not stop speaking out, no matter the social ramifications.  I don’t care who stops talking to me or who thinks less of me.  I am not going to stand by and let my life be taken without a fight because it’s not just about me; it’s about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans – healthy or sick, rich or poor.

On disappointment

Yesterday I needed to talk about unity and so I did; I still need to today, but this time I’m talking to myself.  Unity will not be easy simply because unity lost; diversity and inclusion lost, the people lost.  However, this is what the majority of American’s wanted, so I have to live in it and accept these results.  I have to keep my optimism for this country.  I have to believe that goodness will prevail.  I have to have hope.  Eventually these things will come, but today is not that day.  Today I’m  disappointed and scared and sorry.

I’m disappointed because I thought we could do better.  I thought people would care enough about each other to not give in to fear.  Boy was I wrong.  The thing that disappoints me more than any thing else is people’s lack of self preservation.  I have about 400 Facebook friends, and with the exception of about a dozen people, I know them all.  I’d say around 90% voiced their support for President Elect Donald Trump.  I know them well enough to know their situation.

For my friends who receive food stamps.  What will happen in six months when the “united” executive and legislative branches cut the program because they will have no one fighting for the poor?  The fact that we have had a Democrat controlled Senate and a Democrat President is the reason you can feed your families. Republicans have tried to pass bill after bill in an attempt to gut the program.  All I have to say, is that hopefully the people who will be profiting off of this election, business and the very wealthy, will do what they can to support their local food banks in the years to come.

For all of my friends making minimum wage, especially in the poorer southern states where your local governments are desperate for new manufactures to move in. I hope your state will step up when the federal minimum wage vanishes and it’s up to your state to set their own.  I hope your state legislature and governor doesn’t turn your, already too low, $7.50/hour pay into $5.50/hour to attract new businesses; unless, of course the reason for adding more jobs is so people can have more than one.

For my friends who have children on Tenncare, ARKids, or another CHIP program.  Did you know this has been on the chopping block too?  Kids healthcare is expensive.  I hope there will be new programs that pay for all of those shots, doctor appointments and medications.  How much is cost of amoxicillin these days?  Adderall? Insulin? I honestly don’t know and I bet you don’t either.  Maybe you’ll never have to find out.

For my friends who’s kids get free or reduced lunch at school.  Again, I hope the food banks stay stocked.  With your new, state set, minimum wage, it will be hard to buy all the extra food needed to send your kids to school with a full lunch box.

For my friends who’s kids go to daycare.  I’m sorry you didn’t see the need for that to cost less, especially knowing what could happen to your paycheck.

I honestly, sincerely hope these things don’t happen.  I hope that congress will want to help the american people – even if it’s just because they want to hold on to their seats in the mid-terms.  I hope they care more for the people than we did, but I’m scared.

I’m scared that racism and violence will increase.  I’m scared that hate for those who are on the margins will destroy lives and lead to atrocities.  I’m scared that I won’t be able to afford health insurance in 2018 and if you read http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g  you’ll know why.

Some will say that if I’m a Christian I should be happy, not scared because now abortion will be abolished.  It won’t, and if it happens to come to pass, congratulations.  You will have finally accomplished your goal of having an untold number of babies in homes without the  resources to feed, provide adequate healthcare for, or educate them; remember, no health insurance = no vaccines = no school.  When rates of preventable childhood diseases rise and children start dying from lack of adequate care, I will mourn with you . That will not be the time to divide us more with I told you so’s.

Finally, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for all the people who are not white, christian males.  I’m sorry African Americans.  I’m sorry that the police will no longer be questioned when they step out of line.  I’m sorry Muslims.  I’m sorry that your freedom of religion will be challenged.  Keep the faith; I will pray that God blesses you.  I’m sorry fellow women.  I’m sorry that we live in a world where rape is our fault because if it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves from getting raped, it’s our fault if it happens.  I’m sorry that we won’t have equality in the work place for awhile.  To our young women and girls.  I’m sorry that we failed you today.  You didn’t have a voice; remember this day and choose wisely when you can.

The truth is that I hope I’m wrong.  I hope I backed the wrong candidate.  Dear God, I hope I have never been more wrong in my life.  I hope with all that I have that President Elect Donald Trump truly is the right person to lead this country and that the extreme things he said were to entertain and get votes.  I hope he wants a second term badly enough to fight for the people like he claimed and not against them.

No matter what, I hope we can stand together and keep this country from falling apart.  I hope we can survive this.

 

 

 

On the Affordable Care Act

One of the Republican Party’s platforms is that they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  This is one of the main reasons I vote blue.

Let me tell you why….

I have had health insurance for most of my adult life; sometimes it was through a job, but for the most part, I was covered under a private plan.  I rarely had to use it and that was good because even though I paid high premiums there was very little benefit to me unless something catastrophic happened.  In 2011 before I moved from Houston to West Tennessee, I was paying around $350 a month and had a $5,000 deductible.  It did have good office visit and prescription coverage, so it was sufficient for my occasional strep throat and acid reflux.  I moved to Tennessee between Christmas of 2011 and New Year’s Day of 2012.

Skip ahead two weeks… One morning, I woke up with my neck so stiff that I couldn’t lift myself out of the bed.  I couldn’t lift my arms, turn my head or breathe too deep without electric shocks rippling through my body.  My arms were numb and my legs didn’t want to cooperate either.  For all intents and purposes, I was paralyzed.  It was a weekend, so I went to the emergency room where I was given pain killers and muscle relaxers and told to follow-up with my Primary Care Physician on Monday.  My body was throwing a temper tantrum and I hadn’t even met my doctor yet.

I went to the doctor on Monday.  It was determined that I needed an MRI to “rule out some things.”  My doctor put in the authorization and it was denied.  It was denied because only certain services were eligible outside of the state of Texas and imaging studies were not on that list.  So here I had this insurance plan that I could not use in my new state.  I had to pay out-of-pocket for the test.  When I get my MRI results, the news is bad.  The MRI in conjunction with my symptoms, confirmed that I had Multiple Sclerosis (it turns out I actually have Lupus, it just took a few years to sort out exactly how my body was revolting).  This was devastating news to me.  I was someone who had never been sick and loved being active, but that wasn’t the worst part.  The worst part was the fact that I had just become, with one MRI, uninsurable.

My premium went from $350 to $1100 and my deductible jumped to a whopping $10,500.  It still had good office visit and prescription coverage, so I had no choice but to keep it.  Thankfully, just a few months later, I got a job that offered a health care plan once I became a full-time employee.  That happened in August of 2012, so for almost 8 months, I paid more than I made every month just to go to the doctor and fill prescriptions.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I started to see how important the ACA actually was.  In 2015, I found myself in a position that made it necessary to leave my job and therefore lose my insurance.  At this point in my life, I was on seven different prescriptions a day that amounted to over 20 pills.  I never really paid attention to what that meant financially because I had prescription drug coverage, but suddenly, because the State of Tennessee cancelled my insurance a month before I expected, I had to pay out-of-pocket my medication.  The numbers were staggering.  One bottle of pills was over $300 another $150.  This was just 2 out of 7!  It took almost a month for me to get my COBRA paperwork and the news was not good.  To continue my insurance, I was going to have to come up with almost $1200 a month.  I had just enrolled in school and there was no way I could pay that, so I wandered over to the healthcare.gov website and checked it out. I had heard it was expensive and just all around bad coverage, but that is not what I found.

The process, while a little confusing at first, was easy enough to navigate.  I filled out my eligibility forms and got a shocking surprise — I qualified for a subsidy.  I was sure I wouldn’t because I had a fairly good salary at my previous job, and was living well above the poverty line.  It turns out that is exactly who the ACA is for; those who work.  In theory it was supposed to expand Medicaid for those living below the poverty line, but that decision was turned over to the states.  I found a plan that was better coverage than my plan through the state, and with my subsidy, my premium was 1/10th of what COBRA would have been.  This was so great.  The next year, I found a plan that was even better. This was incredible.  I didn’t understand why people hated this great thing so much.  Here I was, someone who desperately needed insurance and without the ACA, would be denied by company after company due to pre-existing conditions.

Earlier this year the news started to report that premiums were skyrocketing in 2017 and no one would be able to afford coverage.  Around this time, I found out that my current company would not be offering individual plans this year.  I’ve got to be honest; I was very nervous about all of this.  I am full-time student with no ability to get a full-time job with benefits and continue school.  On November 1st, I logged in with great trepidation.  I needed good insurance.  Well friends, I was shocked by what I found.  There was a plan I could afford.  In fact, I found a better plan than I have now!  In 2017, I will only pay  $696.32 in health care expenses for the entire year.

Folks, I have a chronic illness and that is not cheap.  One of my medications, if paid for out-of-pocket, is almost $600 a month and that’s just one of many.  In 2016, I have visited the emergency room 4 times, spent 3 days in the hospital in two different occasions, had 3 CT scans, 2 x-rays, 1 MRI, multiple expensive blood panels, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a renal stint and things I probably can’t even recall.  I had all of this done for $837 total.  Total! This amount includes my monthly premium.  Do you have any idea how much all of this would have cost out-of-pocket?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This isn’t something even the wealthiest person I know could afford, and to top it off, this is how every year will be FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.  I will always be sick; I will always need insurance.

I am just one of millions all over this country with a chronic illness who, without insurance, would be completely disabled.  My treatments and medications make me a person that can contribute to society because without them, I wouldn’t be able to even care for myself – let alone go to school, volunteer with the humane society, or take care of our lovely sheep; I would be in my bed because my immune system is literally fighting my body when not kept in check.

I understand that there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, but it needs to be improved, not done away with.  If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, Americans will lose the following provisions that did not exist prior to the ACA:

• No annual or lifetime limits on healthcare.

• All major medical insurance is guaranteed issue, meaning you can’t be denied coverage for any reason.

• You can’t be charged more based on health status or gender.

• Insurance companies can’t drop you when you are sick or for making a mistake on your application.

• You can’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.

• Young Adults can stay on their parent’s plan until 26.

• New preventative services at no-out-of pocket costs.

• Essential health benefits like emergency care, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and maternity and newborn care must be included on all non-grandfathered plans at no out-of-pocket limit.

• New rules and regulations ensure that all major medical plans provide a minimum actuarial value and have a maximum out-of-pocket cost no more than $6,600 for an individual and $13,200 for a family for 2015. This is revised each year, see current limits.

For those of you who can’t afford a plan, it’s probably your state’s fault.  They didn’t expand Medicaid even though there were federal subsidies for them to do so.

Let me explain:

Family size of 1 could make up to $16,394 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 2 could make up to $22,108 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 3 could make up to $27,821 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Family size of 4 could make up to $33,534 and qualify for Medicaid if your state had expanded the program.

Additionally, under the ACA if you have a family of 4 and make between $24,300 and $97,200, you qualify for federal subsidies even if your state didn’t expand Medicaid.

Check out this website to see where you fall on the scale and what the ACA can do for you: http://obamacarefacts.com/federal-poverty-level/

Therefore, if the states would have expanded Medicaid (which most blue states did) you could either purchase an affordable plan, or qualify for Medicaid.  So, where does the problem lay?  It lies with partisanship.  Republicans blocked the ACA every way they could.  They are the reason Tennessee and many other states didn’t expand Medicaid.  They are the reason you can’t afford health insurance.  This is why I vote blue.  I vote blue for the right to be healthy and for other’s right to be healthy.  Healthcare shouldn’t just be for those who can afford it.  The problems with the ACA lie with those who fought against it not those who created it.  Stop voting against yourselves.  Do research.  Find where the real problems are.  Discern what is fact and what is just a rumor by looking at non-partisan news outlets.  Disagree if you want, but find out why you disagree and back it up with facts, verifiable facts, and stop thinking only along party lines.