Chronic Pain, Insurance & Neo

NeoNeocon goes deeply personal to chronicle a horrendous-sounding injury, years of pain, and how this is relevant to what may be in our own future. It’s long, but please give it a read. Neo was told there was “nothing” that could be done and that pain management would be difficult as well. Finally – after years – she had surgery. But this is pretty sobering when our president is saying, “maybe you won’t need the surgery, maybe you just take the painkiller.”

It was actually my injuries that first propelled me online over ten years ago, looking for information to help me with my decisions, and to read about the experiences of other people who suffered from similar problems. One of the things I found at that time that made a deep impression on me were the stories told by patients in Canada and Britain. Although they didn’t have to worry about insurance coverage, they were uniformly the most miserable of all the chronic pain patients on several message boards I frequented. They had to wait forever for tests. They often lacked the freedom to choose their doctors, and/or there were far fewer specialists in Canada and Britain that knew anything about their injuries or how to treat them either surgically or medically. The problems of these patients were generally considered unimportant and they were given low priority.

Until that time, if I’d thought about the health care system in those countries at all, I had assumed it was a great thing that there was universal coverage. But during this experience I learned that, at least for nerve injuries and chronic pain of the sort I had, the care here was far better. In fact, many of these people dreamed of saving up enough money to come to the US to some of the surgeons I’d been able to see. But they could not afford it, and they continued to suffer.

I’m not a rich person. But ever since then I’ve continued to pay extra for the medical insurance most likely to preserve my freedom to choose. If I hadn’t been able to have surgery on the west coast, I believe that even now, ten years later, I would probably be suffering from pain at or above the level of those early years. The prospect is so dreadful that I shudder to even think about it. I’m just grateful that wasn’t the case.

You’ll want to read it all.

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  • Bender

    Odd, isn’t it, that when they impose a system where “healthcare is a right,” that you –
    no longer have the right to seek the care of a doctor of your choice;
    no longer have the right to seek treatment at the hospital or facility of your choice;
    no longer have the right to obtain the treatment you need or want, even if you are willing to pay for it yourself, even if you have an immediate life-threatening condition;
    no longer have the right to decide, with the professional judgment of your doctor, the right course of treatment for you;
    no longer have the right to keep the government out of the treatment and exam room; and
    no longer have the right to refuse to participate and pay into the government system.

    In short, when “healthcare is a right,” it seems you no longer have any rights. You only have what the government does to you.

    I know that “freedom” is a dirty word in the Obama Administration, and is held in contempt by Obama as it pertains to all manner of people yearning to be free around the world, but the answer to the issue of healthcare, like most things, is freedom — Freedom from government, the inalienable rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the liberty to seek and obtain healthcare as you yourself deem proper, free from any impediments or obstructions by government.

    The reason that we are in this whole mess is GOVERNMENT! It was government that pushed and enacted the whole quasi-socialist system we have now. Before HMOs and PPOs and all these other “health plans” pushed by government (the old camel’s nose under the tent), when we had a true health insurance system, where the insurance paid only for unexpected and major medical costs, before the current system, we did not have a crisis in healthcare financing. Government got us here, government created this mess.

    Government cannot be the solution because government is the problem!

  • Joseph Marshall

    I’m not a rich person. But ever since then I’ve continued to pay extra for the medical insurance most likely to preserve my freedom to choose.

    Neo is not a poor person either. She is still above a threshold where she can afford to do this. She is far closer to falling below that threshold than she was a decade ago. So are you, Anchoress. So, in all probability, is Bender.

    I fell below it in 2002 and I have never recovered. Once you fall below it you usually don’t. Catching up with the rising costs when underemployed is usually impossible.

    More and more of us are becoming underemployed without even having to lose our job.

    My companion and the lady across the hall are equally disabled, the one in chronic pain, the other in the process of dying by inches while hoping against hope for a liver transplant from one of the few institutions [the Cleveland Clinic] where there is even a slim chance she might get one. I don’t think she’ll make it.

    “Choice” is something you pay for in this man’s country. None of the three of us will ever be able to pay for it again. Fall below that threshold, and you won’t either. Really.

    You all can sit on your hands, hold your breath until you are blue, and refuse to participate in the process of trying to fix this steady progress of the U.S. toward the best health care that no one can afford. That choice is a precious part of our freedom. I hope none of us ever lose it.

    But I also hope that all of you take a good look at how close you are to never being able to afford medical insurance again and start making your preparations for falling off that cliff.

    Because, sooner or later, you will. Not you might, you will.

  • Bender

    She is far closer to falling below that threshold than she was a decade ago. So are you, Anchoress. So, in all probability, is Bender. . . . Catching up with the rising costs when underemployed is usually impossible. More and more of us are becoming underemployed without even having to lose our job.

    To the contrary, I have been unemployed and severely underemployed for long periods of time. It began in 1993, when Bill Clinton was president. In 1993 a lot of people struggled to find work. For most of the 90s, I struggled, often couldn’t pay the entirety of the rent, and most certainly did not have health insurance.

    Now again, with Obama as president, I am facing unemployment again as my position is being eliminated (actually, it was sent overseas).

    In both instances, the government — Democrat-run government — did and is doing NOTHING to help with the employment situation. To be sure, the government has made the situation worse, the government hindered me and countless others in our gainful employment. More specifically, Democrat-run government imposed burdens and added costs on business and the evil rich, that is, employers. Instead of lowering burdens and costs and taxes on employers, so that employers would have more money to hire people like me, they increased them, so that they lacked the money to hire.

    Government is not the solution because government is the problem.

  • Jeanette

    My husband turned 65 on August 1. He was Medicare eligible on July 1 since his birthday is the first of the month, but the doctor’s office didn’t believe it and wouldn’t give him an appointment until yesterday.

    His EKG showed an abnormality the doctor says is not serious, but since he sees a cardiologist anyway he took the EKG to that office so his cardiologist will have it when he has his next visit in a couple of weeks.

    If we were under the Obamacare program they’d probably tell him “so sorry”. At least now he has options. And we did get supplemental insurance but not from AARP. All the supplemental insurance policies are the same for each of the “letters” but differing companies offer different rates. What would have cost us $180 with AARP ($130+ the first year per month) is costing us a bit under $100 with United of Omaha for the same coverage, plan F.

    We don’t want for him to be on Medicare but we have no choice in this country once we turn 65. All I want is for the government to insure those who need it and leave me alone.

    If they do a sit-down to discuss end of life with me I’ll tell them I have already signed a Medical power of attorney and the person designated knows and will carry out my wishes. End of conversation.

  • Ann

    As a nurse married to an primary care physican I feel my view from the battle is probably better than most. You can believe it or not, at this point I truly don’t care to engage your simplistic view of complex issues. If this is going to be about Obama or about R vs. L the debate will stagnate forever. Good luck to all of you.
    I am amused that Obama is so powerful that after 6 ungodly months in office he was able to ship Benders job overseas! My my, a force to be reckoned with. Sigh. Again, honest discussion and a look at the facts? No. I would be disgusted with my kids if they offered an answer like that.
    Jeanette, honey, good for you two that you can afford supplemental insurance to Medicare. And believe it or not, there are many normal variations of EKG’s so maybe your husband would survive even under Obama care. But please, run it over to the specialist. You two deserve the peace of mind. Maybe he should run a couple of tests, just to be sure!!
    The whole point of the end of life discussion is that, IF THE PATIENT desires it, the primary care doc would be reimbursed for taking the time to have what should be a very long, personal, honest discussion. You probably have no idea the razor thin margin these docs operate on, so I forgive your simplification and ignorance. This time. They do not have billable hours and every minute fighting with insurance companies, filling out forms, documenting and documenting, is on their own time. Ask your primary care MD the next time your in for a visit about his frustrations with the system. He/She may not agree with Obama but I doubt very much that he feels the system is working well. ( Now, a specialist/procedure guy might be doing okay under the “fee for service” dynamic.) So the fact that you have already dealt with the Medical power of attorney makes this point moot for you but not for others. Many others are suddently thrown into the acute care setting regardless of their wishes or life expectancy with no plan, no previous discussions. Trust me, you go to the hospital with no plan, things will be done. Lots of (invasive, expensive, iatrogenic)things will be done.
    Hate the process, hate the outcome, but do not indulge in the fantasy that the system is not broke.

    [Welcome to the site. I don't think there is anyone here who says - ala Rush, for instance - that the healthcare is fantastic and needs no adjusting. But the "rush" to do this resembles the "rush" to war that so many have since regretted, and which should certainly have taught us something about running headlong into uncharted waters. The "we're going to do this whether you like it or not" attitude, and the sheer scope of this plan demands that we get better from our government than "we're not even reading the bill, you people are just unreasonable," and vague promises like "you can keep your doctor and your insurance" which run against all sense when upon consideration, companies facing 8% payroll penalties discussed in the legislation (page 149, I think) will quickly bail from offering anything but the "public option." There are other considerations. If we destroy the "villainous" insurance companies, where will those employees go to work? Will they all be taken up by the government to manage the sprawling bureaucracy that will be needed to handle this (as inefficiently as gov't handles most things, btw). I mean, the insurance industry employees a lot of people, and our gov't is already broke. What will it pay them with? And of course, there is the larger question, which is if there really are 41 million uninsured (and that number is debatable) why can't the government simply find a way to give them coverage without upending the whole country? Recall, there is already Schip coverage for children in middle and lower class families, and some sort of comperable catastrophic care coverage might be all that is necessary to balance things out. I don't think anyone is convinced (except those who wish to be) that the nation needs a complete healthcare overhaul, and that is what much of this pushback is about. A little tort reform, a little accountability from insurers and hospitals, and perhaps some comprehensive immigration reform (grandfathering in those illegal immigrants who have been here a long time, live and work peaceably, so they can get on the payrolls and start contributing to the tax base, where revenues are crashing) could go a long way toward improving our healthcare system and our bottom lines.

    How we are supposed to do this - and the GAO suggests it will cost MORE than a trillion dollars - while we are broke, and the jobs are dwindling, not growing, that's another very fair question. What is the rush? Shouldn't the priority here be getting people back to work, getting the Midwest back to work? Attending to those states with 15-17% unemployment? Or does it help the gov't to have people out of work and uninsured and at the mercy of their sped-through legislation. It's a reasonable question. It is also more than reasonable to wonder what road we are headed down. If a physician wants to talk "end of life" considerations with a patient and get paid for that, okay...but why must that be a mandatory thing? We see that in Oregon, a cancer patient has been offered "help" in dying rather than treatment, which is deemed "too expensive." It is absolutely reasonable to ask where this can conceivably end, particularly in light of the difficulties the UK and Canada are having in treating their citizenry. It is reasonable to ask, "if my 100 year old mother wants to continue to live" will she be allowed to. It is beyond reasonable to ask our legislators "will you be subscribing to this health care yourself, or will you be keeping your gold-standard insurace, paid for by the taxpayers?"

    Now...Since you are a new commenter, I invite you to avail yourself of our very reasonable comments rules, which are neither harsh nor burdensome, and are designed to keep this place civil, interesting, and above all friendly. As Jeanette is a very good woman whom you do not yet know (I happen to know that she buys gifts and clothing for underprivileged kids she doesn't even know and serves the poor with a generous heart) I am hoping you will reconsider the condescending manner in which you address her concerns.

    I am sure that with your background you have some fresh perspective to bring here, and we'd all be happy to hear it, but I'm hoping you're just tired or cranky or something and that you did not really mean to come into my site and - in your very first comment, no less - tell us that you will "forgive" our "ignorance," "this time." You'll excuse me, but that did get my Irish back up into "who the hell are you" mode, because that really was some off-putting entrance you made, Miss Ann. Perhaps you'd like a Mulligan? We're a forgiving bunch around here, but no one likes being talked to like they're stupid idiots being forborne with by a higher being with limited and conditional patience. -admin]