A Year Ago, Today

I hesitated on whether or not to do this but I ended up at the conclusion that putting a face to a healthcare story would make it more meaningful.  Though, out of respect, I darkened his features for this photo.

The radio waves and blogosphere have been all abuzz concerning the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama and the Democrat Party’s Healthcare plan.  (http://www.healthcare.gov/)

In due fairness, I tend to travel in a more conservative-than-liberal social pack.  I haven’t, yet, had anyone come to me, “High Five!  It Passed!”  In fact, I’ve heard a myriad of friends, coworkers and relation bellyache about it.  Not to mention the non-stop end-of-the-world antics of Talk Radio.

I don’t particularly support this legislation, by the way.   But, the legislation itself isn’t why I’m writing today.   

There are a lot of very sterile words and phrases being bandied about by both parties. Healthcare exchanges, actuarials, health savings accounts, physician reimbursement percentages and increased accountability.  Leave it to lawyers, politicians and accountants to find terms in describing the situation that obfuscate the real underlying topic with capitalist terminology.   

Human life and wellness.  People.

This photo is of a person.  My Dad.   1 year ago today I snapped this photo (and a myriad that I will not share outside my family) of my father in his final days of life.   He was a veteran, at one time a business owner and in recent times very much an example -case-scenario of a person using “government money.”

He and mom, died within 3 weeks of each other from complications related to being smokers.   Some complications, I as a non-smoker also face but thank the lord – to a lesser degree, so far.

Mom had Asthma, COPD and dad had full-on Inoperable Lung Cancer.  His cancer was treated by the VA Hospital in Biloxi.  His medicines were largely paid for by the Veteran’s Administration and Medicare.     Mom, was a SSI/Medicaid recipient for at least the last 20 years.

The treatments that dad received from the VA most likely did nothing to extend his life.   His experience was that of confusion, frustration with a smattering of a few undignified moments.  

Not to be construed as an indictment of the VA  They did.. something… A doctor there,.. tried.. something.. But as a poverty-level Veteran, certainly Dad’s level of care wasn’t equal to that of what Steve Jobs received.    

Free markets are great, if you have the money to participate.    Cancer is evil.

During the last week of June, 2011, dad found himself in an awkward place.   He was unable to care for himself but he had run out of “covered” days for his inpatient stay.   Some of the many “cracks” in our existing low-income healthcare safety net.  They sent him home, knowing he was unable to care for himself.   He went from receiving around-the-clock care to a once-a-week caseworker.

That lasted one night. 

I moved the kids into one bedroom of my .. then.. quite modest home and called some friends.  We moved dad in and I began to care for him while my mom’s health further declined.

Hospice provided.. some.. support but their level of support was limited by classifications and the potential for reimbursement of the service they could provide.  

Not to be construed as an indictment of hospice, either.  The nurses were tender and special people – tons of respect for what they do but an accountant stands between you and the nurse.  Therein lays the problem.

The Chief argument I hear is that you don’t want the Government making healthcare decisions based on monetary policy.    My thing is..  I don’t want ANYONE making healthcare decisions based on monetary feasibility.    These are peoples’ lives.  Fathers, mothers, sons & daughters.    In the capitol of the free world, I agree that healthcare should be available to all (citizenry) but I can’t help but wonder if sacking the economy with more taxes is the worst possible solution.

I suppose this is the age-old debate.  Everyone wants the services to be available but no one wants to pay for it.   

What I do know is… Government-assisted healthcare, in my Dad’s case… did provide medication reasonably cheap or free.   He didn’t receive top-notch care but he received some attention from a physician, who tried.    Eventually he fell into fiscal and legal loopholes that left him confused and out in the cold.

In mom’s case, a “hospice level of care” document she signed, eventually led a nursing facility to withhold vital treatments that lead to her death.

You could say that bureaucracy, as much as smoking, killed both of my parents last summer.  
You can also say that the free market didn’t help them either.