February 17, 2020

John Oliver returns to do a deep dive into Medicare for All, and as usual, does a superb job. Via the A.V. Club:

Last Week Tonight returned this week, and Sunday’s show saw John Oliver back at it, somehow making a 20-minute segment about a seemingly intractable problem simultaneously infuriating, dispiriting, educational, inspirational, and entertaining. That even though, as Oliver pointed out when highlighting the English philanthropist who’s found that Americans are far more in need of free medical pop-up clinics than the rest of the world’s people, “Normally, Americans hate it when a British person comes over to diagnose what’s wrong with you.” Still, if any nation on Earth is in more need of a cheeky naturalized Englishman to airdrop reminders about why, say, Susan Collins (R-ME) is the poster child for Republican gullibility, complicity, and hypocrisy when it comes to Donald Trump (“She can tell Trump doesn’t learn anything because he kept having kids after Donald Trump Jr.”), it’s us in the U.S. And that goes double for Oliver’s main story about Medicare For All, the Democratic hot potato issue so radioactive to Fox News that they keep wheeling out “Sarah Palin’s fourth attempt at cloning herself” to scare its elderly viewership by essentially putting on a monkey mask and screaming “SOCIALISM! BOOGA BOOGA!*” (Only slightly more ridiculous than Fox Business host Kennedy sneering about “sicko socialism” when introducing her own nuanced examination of the undeniably complex health care issue.)

I have a unique point of view. I've had good insurance, I've had shitty insurance -- or none at all.

A few years back, while I was uninsured, I had six bouts of pancreatitis. (If you've ever had it, you know how awful it is. It's like having a heart attack, only you're puking up bile.) Every time I'd go into the ER, the doctors would nod seriously and tell me I had to have my gall bladder out OR I MIGHT DIE. Because I was too stupid to know I needed surgery, I guess. So then I'd tell them I had no insurance, and they'd send me right home.

That's when I found out that Obamacare included a bridge plan that covered preexisting conditions in most states before the ACA actually kicked in. I contacted my state rep's office (they'd never heard about it) and they called me back to tell me there was a three-month waiting period. Using my most desperate voice, I said, "Isn't there anything you can do? They're telling me I'll die without the surgery." They called me back again and it was done. (Yay, Obamacare! I got shingles after the surgery, too, but at least I was alive.)

Last year, I made it to the finish line: Medicare! (Yay!) I bought the top Medigap plan, one I can't really afford, because, you know, bad luck!

And almost immediately, was diagnosed with breast cancer. (Boo!) But first, my doctor insisted I do two months of physical conditioning before the surgery. (Yay!) But there was not just gas and bridge tolls, I also have an old Subaru that drinks antifreeze ($10 a gallon). If it wasn't for the people who donated to me, I couldn't have covered those costs. (I am very, very grateful to the people who donate, but it's also embarrassing to have to ask.)

On Jan. 3, I had the surgery. (Yay!) On Jan. 28th, I was in the ER with a mini-stroke. Boo! (See, this is why I get annoyed when people don't donate to our fund drive, BECAUSE THIS IS A STRESSFUL JOB.) That's when they found out why I was so out of breath all the time: Pulmonary hypertension! (Boo!)

Now, I had to make follow-up appointments. I had to see a cardiologist, a neurologist, AND a pulmonary specialist. And this is the part where I get mad at the anti-Medicare-for-all right-wing think tank commercials: BECAUSE WE ALREADY HAVE TO WAIT TO SEE SPECIALISTS! My pulmonary appointment is in April. My neurology appointment is in March. Under the best of circumstances, it takes a minimum of six weeks to get a first appointment with a specialist.

Fortunately for me, one of the cancer center doctors was so concerned about my shortness of breath, she insisted I see a cardiologist before I could get a colonoscopy. "I'm not going to have you stroke out on my table," she said. (And while I realize she was probably more concerned about liability, I like to think at least part of her concern was for me.)

And here's the key part: SHE CALLED THE CARDIOLOGIST HERSELF. And so, instead of the months-long wait at the big medical center (the earliest appointment I could get was in July), I get to see someone this very afternoon!


While I wish everyone had Medicare, I also know politics and those dirty thieving rotten Republicans will do anything they can to protect their donors, and did you know doctors are their largest group of donors?

I live in a large city with nine medical schools, and the reason I can't see a specialist for months is pretty simple: Doctors as an interest group keep the number of people admitted to medical school artificially small so they can keep prices artificially high. (You know, so specialists can continue to pay country club and greens fees and alimony and apartments for their mistresses and moan to patients about how high their malpractice insurance is. I don't need to tell you what I say to doctors who even hint at their poor woeful lives.)

And by the way, dental schools do the same. (I haven't even started on the dentists.)

The actual long-term solution here is, we need more health-care professionals. But we also need more professionals who can do the work of doctors, like physician's assistants and midwives and dental technologists. I love my specialists, but I don't believe they should make a quarter million a year and UP. (Did you know American specialists make more than their counterparts in any other country?)

AND we need a system that covers your costs. Like France, which never seems to come up in these discussions. They have what is rated as one of the best health care systems in the world -- and it's built around private insurance and doesn't cost people much at all! So yeah, private insurance CAN work -- it's our political system that's f*cked.

Honestly, I don't especially care what our final system looks like, but they need to have people like us in the room when they design it, or it's bullshit. Because that's when they came up with "We need 20% deductibles, or people won't have skin in the game." WHEN WE LITERALLY HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME.

I'm supposed to lower my stress, so I'd better stop now. Happy President's Day!

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