The bitter pill

May 2, 2013

billblog
I meant to post this last week but time got away from me, it seems. Funny thing, I received this “threatening” collections letter the day I had my last Remicade treatment – which is also the day I read a really fascinating Time magazine article titled, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us” by Steven Brill. It’s from Time’s March 4, 2013 issue and I luckily found a copy at the clinic so I snatched it up to read while being hooked up to my Remicade I.V. for three hours. Good decision! Although after reading the article (and in the middle of reading it), I became so infuriated and upset, because much of what Brill writes about has affected my life in similar ways. Unfortunately you have to pay to read the article online, but it’s really worth it. Everyone should read it – especially if you go to the doctor often, have a lot of medical expenses, or have any kind of health condition.

timemagblog
The article profiles several different patients and tells their stories about how they racked up huge medical bills, mostly from hospital expenses. Whether a cancer patient, an ER patient for heartburn thought to be a heart attack (and a $21,000 bill for that), the recipient of an overpriced implanted medical device, or a patient injured from a simple fall, one thing is constant in all of these stories – everyone was drowning in thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills. And the majority of the medical costs of these bills were grossly inflated and overpriced. Luckily I have managed to stay out of the hospital so far this year, but since January 1 I have accumulated a lot of medical debt due to doctor office visits, MRI and X-ray scans, prescription drugs, and expensive I.V. treatments for my RA. Let’s also add the bills for my psychologist appointments that I find necessary to help me stay sane trying to navigate all of this health crap on a daily basis. I feel like I’m going to the doctor all the time, even when I sometimes do cancel appointments (especially the therapy appointments) just to save money. Or I try to hold off on making appointments until after I’ve met my deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the year. I’ve heard stories from many other people who also go without their medications, treatments, or doctor visits because they can’t afford it. This, I feel, is simply wrong. Nobody should have to sacrifice his or her health because of financial reasons. But the way our healthcare system is set up, that is exactly what patients are pressured to do if they can’t afford their medical bills. Go into massive debt? Declare bankruptcy? Lose your house? Risk your life? It’s such a racket, with your dollars lining the pockets of the CEOs and administrators of  many health care and hospital systems – especially these so-called “nonprofit” hospitals that are actually making huge profits.

timemagblog

Me, Remicade I.V. treatment, Maple Grove, MN, 2013

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capitolblog

The U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., April 2012

It’s official – I’m going to D.C. again for the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Advocacy Summit! The Summit this year is March 4-6th and I can’t wait. I registered for it yesterday – the last day to get the “early bird” discount. Hopefully I can get a travel stipend again like last year, because my financial situation is even more dire than a year ago (is that possible?). But being a part of the Summit is really important to me, especially since last year was such a positive, incredible experience. I’m going to contact some people at the Arthritis Foundation who are involved with the event to see if I could also photograph and write about the Summit in some sort of official volunteer way. I’d love to do something like that in addition to being one of the delegates.

Emily on Capitol Hill

Emily on Capitol Hill, 2012

Here’s a photo from last year’s Summit of Emily, part of our Minnesota group, reading a letter she wrote for Representative Keith Ellison (I think), sharing her story of living with arthritis.

Minnesota girls on Capitol Hill, 2012

Minnesota girls on Capitol Hill, 2012

And here’s a photo of Emily again, along with two other awesome kids (Sammi and Ali) who were part of our Minnesota group. I met and got to know so many nice people last year at the Summit – can’t wait to do it again!

We are made for this moment

January 22, 2013

obamapinsblog

Happy Inauguration Day (yesterday)!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” - The Declaration of Independence, 1776

So I am a day late posting this, but better late than never, right? I didn’t tune in to ALL of the inauguration coverage that was happening yesterday (and before yesterday), but I did catch some of it and listened to President Obama’s speech, which I liked. I’m glad that he mentioned health care reform in it, because of course that is something I am passionate about and support. Publicly debating politics or getting preachy about political issues isn’t really my thing, but I will stand up for what I believe in and I don’t expect others to agree with me. I voted for Obama again this election, as I did four years ago and I’m incredibly happy that he won. I suppose I would consider myself a Moderate Liberal – more fiscally conservative but socially liberal. I’m not for outrageous wasteful government spending (who is, really?), but I also believe in many of the social programs that exist to help people. And of course health care is a huge issue for me and one that has affected my own life, very personally, in so many ways. Speaking of that – I’ve been having some major health and arthritis-related things going on over the last month, which I will update about after this post. I promise!

Health care should not be a luxury or privilege for few, but it should be seen as a basic human right, and this I believe with my whole heart and mind. I don’t blindly think President Obama or the Democrats are perfect by any means, but I do sincerely hope that the President and people across all parties will realize the importance of improving our corrupt, archaic, and broken health care system and will do something about it. There are too many people suffering just in our own country because they can’t get decent, affordable medical care when or if they need it. This is wrong and must change.

Anyway, here are some quotes from President Obama’s speech yesterday that stuck with me:

“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.”

To read the entire transcript of President Obama’s speech, go here:

The Washington Post – President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

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