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Readers share their experiences of health care in the USA.

Back in June, a reader wrote:

I am, right now, apparently in the minority of ‘well insured’. And you are right that I don’t want to go to UHC. My fear is that instead of elevating everyone up to ‘well cared for’ (like my family) we’ll get downgraded to ‘what’s the least that can be done for _______?’.

I realize that makes me selfish. But, my husband just had a major heart attack (he was dead @ work and they used the paddles to bring him back). He now has a pacemaker. He’s had cancer 2x in his life and a liver transplant. He knows he cannot ever quit his job (and we pray he always HAS his job). I do not know what he would do if he knew his living would break us. I do not want to find out.

So, I would be all for UHC, IF and ONLY IF it meant everyone was well cared for. Or, if we could pay for our own supplemental insurance that would continue to cover us as well as it does. But, it would still have to be affordable. And it won’t be if companies drop their coverage because ‘the government is taking care of everyone’.

I really don’t know how to fix it.

My sympathy for anyone that has had hellish nurses. I have to give HUGE KUDOS to the nurses, doctors and staff of University Hospital here in Colorado. They were absolutely wonderful with my husband (who was just released and came home today). O

Sorry for being long winded, when I don’t even have an iota of an idea of how to fix things…

If you would like to share your own health care in America experiences, good, or bad, please email me at Hairylemony @ gmail.com


  • HCS7 (health care story 7),

    I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive (and if it does, I apologize), but it’s attitudes like yours that really drive me crazy.

    I know you’re thinking of yourself and your family, but what of the millions of other families who are also facing difficult health care issues and work for companies that don’t offer benefits? Or cannot work BECAUSE of their health issues? Or won’t get the care to live through the heart attacks and cancers because no hospital / doctor will take on their case because they don’t have insurance?

    If your husband’s company goes under, or he gets downsized or laid off, or forced into retirement, where are you and he going to turn for health care? And not just him, but every currently employed person you know.
    What if his company drops coverage because it’s too expensive? Or the insurance company drops his business because that group has proven too expensive to insure?

    Further, health benefits for the employed aren’t as ubiquitous as you seem to think. Most small businesses can’t even afford to offer them. What do you think those folks do for health care? They ignore their issues, hoping it’ll go away, or they clog up the emergency room and can’t afford to pay their bill – making YOUR premiums more expensive.

    And those hundreds of thousands of jobs lost that you hear about on the news every night? How are they and their families paying for their prescriptions and doctor’s visits and hospital stays?

    What the current administration is trying to do is get everyone covered (and yes, it is selfish of you not to want everyone else to have coverage too) and and get every part of health care playing on the offensive. Getting doctors to work towards prevention and curing and _health_ with a monetary incentive. Instead of the current monetary incentive where doctors are paid for procedures and tests. (I’m not trying to impugn the integrity of doctors, just stating facts.)

    No one, in any of the proposed bills, is saying don’t treat the sick. (As an aside, no one is saying kill the elderly either.) And no one is saying that people with private insurance have to give up their chosen provider. But what’s wrong with them also saying, let’s make sure everyone can be treated for illness, accident and disease, not just the lucky?


  • Emmy
    August 27
    9:38 am

    Think the poster here highlighted the main sticking point in the current health care debate: everyone has been convinced that a public health care option would come at the expense of the people who already have the care they want.

    Bottom line: I will not compromise on the care my family gets for the benefit of someone else. Full stop. I’m hoping the government can find a viable solution somewhere in the middle.


  • But the thing about it is, frankly I’m surprised her employer has retained her husband and continues to do so. I’ve read more than one story where an employer had to fire someone because their illness caused the insurance company to raise their premiums. Technically the insurance company can’t cancel the policy, but they can raise the premiums exponentially or even charge the company a penalty. That happened to at least one person I know who was diagnosed with breast cancer. And therein lies the problem with the system; lose your job and you die. Considering that companies are laying people off left and right these days, there is absolutely no security in that.


  • Actually, what the current administration is trying to do is to cram something down the throats of the American people without taking any of the legitimate concerns into consideration.

    What’s going to stop the big companies who now offer health care that (though all policies are flawed, many offer more than others) now allows premium coverage with employee participation, meaning we pay part of our premium every week, from suddenly deciding they are done with the coverage and have decided you can be downgraded to a universal coverage where, even though you may be so sick you can’t stand up, you’re told by the doctor’s office they’re not seeing anyone else with those symptoms this week?

    Sound far fetched? I have a friend who lives in England. She has congestive heart failure. She’s 39 and struggles with it in a very serious form. She was sick enough to call her doctor because she thought she had contracted the new flu strain, had all the symptoms. That was her answer to getting an appointment. They weren’t seeing anyone else with those symptoms that week. What’s to stop that here?

    I like my coverage just fine, thank you very much. If the government wants to give those with no coverage, temporary coverage until they have a job again (and continue to give it as long as the person doesn’t or doesn’t have or cannot afford private insurance) then fine. But there is nothing in the current legislation which states that’s as far as they’ll go with the UHC.

    There are too many holes and loop holes in this legislation that the current administration is refusing to look at and are instead crying foul and “blaming the republicans” when it’s the AMERICANS, the people who put these idiots into office, the ones who were mislead, the ones this administration WORKS FOR who they should be listening to.

    This is still a democracy the last time I looked.


  • Bonnie L.
    August 27
    4:20 pm

    What bothers me the most about this piece of legislation is that it completely ignores the biggest source of cost increase in American medicine today, liability insurance. Nearly every doctor is being slowly, but surely priced out of their ability to practice medicine by the cost of insuring themselves against malpractice claims. Not only that, but many doctors will order tests and procedures that are not needed in order to ensure that they are not later sued for not doing so. America is in desperate need of medical tort reform.

    Another thing that I think that this reform really ignores is that it relies heavily on primary care physicians and America is practically bleeding PCPs due to the fact that they are the least paid and most heavily overworked doctors in the field. When you have over $200,000 in education debt, why would you go into family care where it would take decades of high stress and little appreciation to pay off your school loans when you could go into a specialty where you can pay off your debt faster and not have to deal with sniffles and minor complaints? We need to figure out a way of making being a PCP a desirable thing.

    If UHC is going to be the future of US healthcare, I don’t want a hastily prepared and ill-thought out piece of trash* legislation meant to push through a pretty promise, I want good answers to bad problems. I want my lawmakers to really study the problem and work out the best solutions to fit the needs of America even if it may cost them a re-election.

    *I’m calling this trash legislation largely due to the fact that it seems so inept in actually solving problems. I foresee everyone being able to afford healthcare, but still not having access to it.


  • Janean
    August 27
    4:24 pm

    I haven’t read every single word of any proposed legislation myself, but I saw Obama giving a talk about this topic. He said that the legislation would prevent employers from changing employees to a cheaper public option if they previously offered them a private one.


  • Sad
    August 27
    4:49 pm

    I am uninsured. I have multiple chronic diseases, one of them high blood pressure in the “imminent stroke” range. I’ve never held a job that offered health insurance. With my health as it is now, I highly doubt I’ll be getting a job soon that offers any either.

    And I really wish those who are fortunate enough to have everything they want out of their coverage didn’t sound like they wished for me to fuck off and die before they even give me the opportunity to have basic care.

    I for one would gladly take a hit in my taxes to have healthcare offered to everyone out there in my situation.


  • Actually Bonnie L. I think the solution to the PCP problem is fairly straightforward and I understand it’s in the pipeline. Much like teachers and social workers who perform a public service for relatively low pay, there is some talk about student loan forgiveness for those who choose to become primary care physicians. If I can find the information I’ll link to it.


  • Oh, and this 2004 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicates that malpractice premiums are a drop in the bucket to the trillions of dollars spent on healthcare.


    This passage is particularly interesting. They’ve basically raised premiums because they’ve made bad investments, but want to maintain the same cash flow. That has nothing to do with liability, and just the insurance companies being their usual greedy selves.

    “The available evidence suggests that premiums have risen both because insurance companies have faced increased costs to pay claims (from growth in malpractice awards) and because of reduced income from their investments and short-term factors in the insurance market.


  • Anon76
    August 27
    6:14 pm

    Theo said:

    “I like my coverage just fine, thank you very much. If the government wants to give those with no coverage, temporary coverage until they have a job again (and continue to give it as long as the person doesn’t or doesn’t have or cannot afford private insurance) then fine. But there is nothing in the current legislation which states that’s as far as they’ll go with the UHC.”

    There is a thing called COBRA for those newly out of work. It is a way to continue the coverage you had with your previous employer for anywhere from 6-18 months. (That is, if you even had coverage through your employer.)

    Your policy is through the exact same insurer you had with your employer, with all the benifits and caveats included. Trick is, you pay 100% of the policy at this point, while your employer was paying a portion of your policy before. (And often recouping a portion of that price in weekly deductions from your check. I’ll get in to that later.)

    Depending on what type of policy your employer provided, you could face serious sticker shock, even for a crappy plan, when using the Cobra continuing insurance option.

    Real case scenario:

    My hubster’s employer changed insurance companies at least once a year. Why? Because the multi-million dollar company was family owned, and the whole family has serious medical issues that are passed on from generation to generation. Hence, they kept looking for insurers that would give higher and higher yearly and life time limits. (Deductibles meant squat to them, pocket change.)

    So, when hubster lost his job, to maintain his insurance using Cobra was $612 per month. God bless all you people who make lots of money, but $612 is a lot to us.

    Now, hubsters company had a mandatory 50 work week. So (excuse me, Emmy, cuz I know you’ll dispute my numbers) based on a regular 40 hour work week, the cost of that policy for hubster was $3.75 per hour. Add in that he got paid time and a half for the extra 10 hours each week, and those 10 hours are $5.62 an hour equaling $225, roughly.

    Totalling it up, that crappy insurance policy cost us $825 per month in lost wages.

    Hubster was making $21 per hour after 25 years, but imagine the guy standing next to him only making $11 an hour. I imagine that $825 per month would buy him a decent policy, and hubster too, with money left over.

    We’ve become so stuck in America that a “good” job equals must have health insurance, and the insurance companies lubs it. We are such sheep.


  • Anon76
    August 27
    6:20 pm

    And an edit. I meant that hubby could have bought another policy, and also the other guy, but not on the same $875. $875 for the one, $875 for the other.


  • Anon76
    August 27
    6:22 pm

    Shoot, and I meant $825. This issue drives me crazy, so it brings out the bad typist buried in my soul. LOL


  • I understand about COBRA and how it works. But people out of work can’t pay the $600 or $800 or $1200 it costs to continue the healthcare from the company, if the company offered it, which is my point. Fine, let the government provide healthcare to those who **don’t have any or are temporarily without** but leave mine alone! What so many are afraid will happen is the government’s healthcare will be so attractive an enticement for companies who provide for their employees now, that the companies will just drop their healthcare. Then what? We’re left with sub-par healthcare unless we can afford the $5-$700 a month for supplemental care.

    There should be a provision in this legislation, and there is NOT, that states that companies MUST provide healthcare if they’re over X amount of employees or they have historically been providing healthcare.

    We already contribute almost $200 a month to our healthcare insurance. I don’t want anyone in the government messing with what I have because when the government’s involved, they only make things worse.

    It may all end up being a moot point anyway though in the long run. The government is throwing money at everything right and left in an attempt to ‘fix’ problems. Where the money is coming from is no secret. Our pockets. And what’s going to happen when what’s left (and yes, I know all about our federal deficit) is so bad that some other country can literally buy us?

    Money is a panacea for the existing problems, UHC being one of them and tossing more money at them isn’t making them any better.


  • I’m fascinated by the thought that government intervention is always a bad thing. I think as westerners, we totally take for granted the fact that we have politicians who at least attempt to look after us.

    I would love to see how an America with no government would look. I’m pretty sure inadequate healthcare would be the least of your problems.


  • Government is never a bad thing, Karen, if the government works for the people. These legislators, our president, the lawmakers in general are either voted into office, essentially being ‘hired’ by us, or are appointed by those voted into office.

    The unfortunate thing is, rarely does the government make decisions that are based on what America as a whole needs or wants. Their usual (NOT always, but…) modus operandi is to push through agendas that will benefit their party and the public is second in consideration.

    OT a bit, but the cash for clunkers program? So far, the only real beneficiaries have been the Japanese auto companies. Seven out of ten companies, at last count, that had sold the most cars through this program were all foreign companies. There are MANY less foreign plants in the US that support the worker than there are the ‘big three’ and yet, our president (who I will make no bones about, I did not vote for) has called it a rousing success.

    For who?

    And trust me, I am by no means saying McCain was a better choice! I suppose I’m selfish, but we should be taking care of the American worker first and foremost. Not the foreign companies who import to us but aren’t all that interested in importing much From us.

    And I need to stop because I’m just getting very angry. And it’s not directed at anyone here. It’s directed at a government that cares more about itself than the people it’s supposed to care about.


  • Anon76
    August 27
    7:44 pm

    Wow, Theo, I have no words for your last responses.


  • Janean
    August 27
    9:55 pm

    I’m trying to understand how the government simply providing competition with the private insurance companies is going to create this horrible catastrophe some people are predicting. They aren’t creating the dreaded single payer system; no one is going to be FORCED to use the public option. People like me will be able to BUY insurance (they aren’t giving it away to everyone for free for God’s sake)in spite of pre-existing conditions.

    Oh the horror!! How dare they even suggest it!

    Oh yes, and the government is wrong to actually attempt to accomplish something that the current president included on his platform when running for office? You state that the government is acting on its own interests instead of those of the people when this man won the majority vote by making this one of the KEY ASPECTS of his campaign. Is it so hard to understand that this is not the government forcing something on the public that it has no interest in? Just because YOU don’t want it doesn’t mean that no one else does, you know.

    Oh and theo? This is NOT a democracy. Our government has NEVER been a democracy. It’s a REPUBLIC. There’s a BIG difference. If you think it’s supposed to be a democracy then tell me why the electoral college was created in the constitution.


  • SamG
    August 28
    1:52 am


    I was the reader that wrote the message in June. I’ve been re-reading it and am hard pressed to find where I said I didn’t want any change. I believe I said I’d support a program if everyone got good coverage (not lowest common denominator) OR those that still want better care can pay the extra to get it. That is a far cry from F off and die or never, never.

    I also covered the ‘we pray things don’t change’. I understand that life changes and sometimes the change sucks. We’ve been lucky. My husband works for a huge company, so they haven’t dropped him because he’s cost too much.

    I still am leery of UCH. Not because I want others to suffer or lose everything, or believe those who aren’t as lucky as I deserve their fates. I DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT TO RUN AN EFFICIENT PROGRAM. That has nothing to do with wanting others to suffer or wanting them denied. I can not name even ONE efficient government program (the post office? Medicare? Medicaid? Dept. of Trans? IRS? welfare?). Do you believe Medicaid or Medicare do a good job? If they did, would we have this hue and cry happening? Do you believe adding millions more people to an already over-burdened and poorly administered system (or creating a new over-burdened and poorly administered one) is going to improve anything?

    If the government did come up with a tiered program, would there still be a ‘that’s not fair to those that can’t afford it?’ Truly, if there was 5 distinct coverages…
    1) – NO COST – we cover basic, you get your shots, well baby care, appointments when you think you have strep, broken bones casted and medicines covered at 90% and also, when you are dying, we’ll give you drugs to ease your suffering.

    2) $200/month – you get all of the above plus treated for respiratory or diabetes or what have you

    3) 400/month – you get 1 and 2 and prosthetics, chemo, hysterectomies and or vasectomies etc

    4) 700/month – you get 1 – 3 and pacemakers, ventilators and other extreme life-saving methods and/or hospice care

    5) $1000/month – you get all that, plus private rooms, private nurses and things like plastic surgeries and other elective stuff covered.

    Now, those aren’t real. I don’t know where or how they’d draw lines. Are people, or are they not, still going to be screaming ‘unfair’…even when they get to choose their coverage?

    I had this discussion with a lady at my gym. She kept saying ‘we can be like France’, “France has great care’.
    And she is right. France pretty consistently rates high in access, availability and quality of care. But, from what I read, France’s system is 9 billion in debt and may be changing to an HMO style system. I’ve also heard (though I haven’t studied it) that Australia’s system is good. That one, though, covers a population total of 30 million (I think)…and we’re talking a system for 250 million people…

    One thing I loved about the french system: the sicker you were the less you paid. Truly, when you are battling cancer having to worry about your deductible on top of the chemo and what it is doing to your loved one would be a wonderful thing. Not that I’d know how to implement that…but still as one who was there it truly sounds great.

    Again, I’ll reiterate. I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO FIX IT. That presupposes that I know it does need fixed. I also understand that anything is going to cost. It will never be free. As much as I’d love ‘free’ health care for all…it is just never truly going to happen. Every damn thing has a price tag.

    Karen, thanks for not putting my name up from the old message…but I am still leery and don’t mind saying so. I am not usually good at arguments though, and am horrid at confrontation. This has been a nice forum to talk things out.

    I must say, I am disgusted by the little town meetings. Not one thing is ever going to be solved by yelling and screaming. No one is learning anything. I’d like more even-handed debates. Because I’m coming from the ‘I don’t mind change, but don’t think the UHC being proposed is the way to go’ camp. The ‘tiered coverage with varying costs’ or the ‘damn basic plan and if you have the cash you can pay extra’ are the only two ways I’ve thought of…



  • Sad
    August 28
    2:30 am

    @SamG From what I’ve seen of what the government does with Medicare, it does a great job. My father is on Medicare with a $180/month suppliment plan. Very affordable for him, even on a fixed social security income. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and spent about 5 months total in the hospital and rehab centers to get him back on his feet again after his surgery.

    His government healthcare and very affordable suppliment plan took care of *everything* for us. Even afterward when he had a bed sore from too much time on his back, they paid for full wound care services, including a healing pump and home health nurse twice weekly to change his bandages.

    With private insurance, he would have ran up a huge deductable, and would have likely been dropped after he had the few complications that kept him bedridden longer than expected. He and mom would have likely lost their entire life savings and their house.

    Government healthcare does work. It saves lives. In a lot of cases, it works a whole lot better than a for-profit company would.


  • SamG
    August 28
    2:48 am


    I’m glad it worked well for your dad. I think my parents, mother-in-law and husbands older cousins are the only ones I know that use it…and they all opted for extra coverage. My Dad had worked for a pharmaceutical company, and they also have very good retirement health packages/benefits, so he gets his through work. My mother-in-law pays the extra because she did have a hard time w/medicare. I think it is a YMMV. But, as I said, I’m very glad it worked well for you and yours.


  • SamG,
    you’ve been listening to right-wing talking points. It’s okay. I did for twenty years and more.

    The post office is very efficient. It moves millions of pieces of mail across thousands of miles of country every day. Private carriers such as UPS and Fed Ex offer some competition, but they cannot compete on the price when it comes to things under two pounds. They also have higher return to sender and misdelivery rates.

    How about the FDA? Shall we return to snakeoil, patent medicine and chalk-water passed as milk?

    Medicaid consistantly saves $3-4 for every dollar it spends on prenatal care for low income women. It was never an onerous system to register for or to use.

    Medicare paid for my stepfather’s death. They treated his cancer until it was clear he would not live. He was given pallative care and home visits and died at home, with his family around him. Most seniors will tell you that medicare works.

    Other things the government does well:
    Interstate highways. I spend 35 hours a week on the road. The difference in upkeep between state highways and interstates is incredible.

    DMV is a state agency. When it works, it works well. I’ve seen a class of 30 people come in for their CDL permits and be out of our local on in less than an hour.

    Military. When they tried taking that private, we ended up with Blackwater.

    Scientific Research. We all love to joke about the “Barry Manilow turns you into eggplant” experiments. But what put a man on the moon? Federal dollars. What
    created the space shuttle? What created the internet?

    The government works very well, when it is allowed to. When funds are cut and staffing is slashed and everything is taken away and the structure allowed to degrade, then the programs fail, like Amtrak.

    It’s rather akin to putting a weaver in front of an empty loom, giving them a single spool of thread and saying “make a carpet.” Then, when they fail, mocking them, saying “see, we told you people can’t weave.”

    80% of the country wants reform.
    59% of doctors support universal coverage.
    50% of your health care dollars go to middlemen whose job it is to deny you coverage and ensure the company’s bonuses. Think about that one.


  • My husband and I have gold-plated insurance through his company. He’s not an executive or even a manager. He works as a senior technical person. I continue to marvel at the way employees at his company are treated. The insurance plan is just one of many good things they do.

    I want every person in this country to have the same level of care we have. I don’t see universal health care in any way as a threat to the coverage I have, and even if I did, I would still be in favor of universal coverage.

    We are a much less civilized nation because we can’t get this very basic thing right, and it’s way past time for us to fix it.


  • medumb
    August 28
    6:43 am

    Just a quick query, I have gotten a bit confuddled with some comments.

    The changes proposed are to bring in a medicare system like Australia yeah? But you would still have the option for private insurance wouldn’t you?


  • @medumb, the proposal mandates health insurance coverage, like auto insurance coverage is mandated. The contentious part creates a public insurance that people who don’t have insurance through their employers, can’t afford private insurance, or are uninsurable will be able to buy.


  • medumb
    August 28
    10:28 am

    Thanks Angelia!
    I thought I had gotten a bit lost.
    But people would still be able to opt for the private insurance?


  • I can tell you from personal experience that I’d rather deal with government agencies any day. My mama died of breast cancer in 2002. For the last year of her life she lived with us while she underwent treatment. For the most part I took care of all her business during that time. I dealt with Social Security, VA, Medicare and God help me Blue Cross/Blue Shield. My sister and I had been concerned that she didn’t have enough coverage, so we bought a very expensive “Medigap” policy for her to make sure she was taken care of. Out of all those entities the only one that gave us any trouble was BCBS. I wish we’d simply saved our money and made a bonfire out of it. TWO YEARS LATER we were still fighting with those SOBs about coverage. Bottom line is, Medicare, despite all the nonsense is a good program. I can guarantee non of those anti-reformers at those townhalls don’t want any part of losing it. Even Medicaid which I dealt with regularly as a social worker is a good program despite being seriously underfunded. As for the post office, all I can say is, you can’t even get a cup of coffee for what they charge to come to YOUR HOUSE, pick up your mail and take it anywhere in the world. Typically in less than a week. I use the postal service a good deal sending out manuscripts and such. For about $6 per manuscript they pick up my packages at my door and ship them anywhere I want them to go. Inefficient my ass. I don’t even have to leave my house.


  • @theo – The reason your friend wasn’t allowed in was because of temporary emergency measures to try to prevent Swine Flu spreading. In general, if you have Swine Flu symptoms, you aren’t supposed to go to the hospital or doctor unless it’s an emergency. This is to stop more people getting infected, especially vulnerable people (which people with other illnesses and in the hospital often are).

    Instead, they’ll give you Tamiflu over the phone, and you’re supposed to get someone else without Swine Flu to pick it up if at all possible. You still get treated, but you can’t actually see a doctor, though you can talk to them on the phone.

    The UK has one of the highest rates of Swine Flu in the world (though some of that’s due to how they count it – if you have symptoms, you’re counted), and they don’t want it to get worse. This is a good thing in general, though it obviously sucks for your friend at the moment. At least she’s able to get treatment, regardless of her financial situation. And if she were being hospitalised right now, she’d probably be happy that they’re taking measures to prevent her getting Swine Flu.

    I know it’s just one point, but I hate seeing innacuracies about the NHS being spread. Yes, it has problems (lack of NHS dentists is a big one), but overall the treatment I’ve gotten here has been as good as or better than that in the US.

    And there’s nothing stopping people going private or using private medical insurance if they want. Some big companies even offer medical insurance (either paid for or discounted), but I’ve only ever had one job that offered it to me, and the plan they had wasn’t worth the money. There are also cash plans you can get that pay out cash when you get certain medical treatments that might not be covered by the NHS, which you can also sometimes get at a discounted rate via work.


  • Janean
    August 28
    5:43 pm

    yes medumb, people would still be able to opt for private insurance.


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