Tuesday, February 12, 2008

tomatoes & my bête noire

So I was thinking about the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as I took my shower this morning. See? I don't actually think about MS all of the time. Actually I think about it relatively little in comparison to other things. Like politics. I spend of my spare time thinking about international relations (when I am not busy dealing with health insurance companies here at work). This is an important election year (understatement) so I am sitting around making flow charts of various arguments, trying not to be influenced by wardrobes, and generally considering the issues important to me. I have trouble understanding why people don't have fun doing this.

So here's my really random thought for the day....governments are like tomatoes. I am a big supporter of democracy- in theory. I like the way it works. Slow, steady, representing the people and all that gobbly-gook. So take the government in Iraq. A democracy in words only. I really doubt the history books are going to say that the U.S. was the reason that Iraq became a democracy. Because it's like a hydroponically grown tomato. Sure it looks and feels like a tomato but it doesn't always have the taste of a real tomato. It is grown for one purpose. Rapid consumption- often at the wrong time of year. It will never be as good as a tomato grown at a local farm or in your own garden. It will always have that slightly pithy texture and its perfect skin, no blemishes at all, will always be slightly tougher. It's the ratty tomato plant in granddad's garden that produces the best fruit. It doesn't look perfect. But it is the real thing. And that makes it beautiful despite it's imperfections.

I have always hated the idea of "spreading freedom" and "liberating the people." I have no problem when the military partakes in peace keeping efforts to stop genocide and loss of human life but I have major issues with "liberating the people and forcing them to accept our form of government." It may seem a little naive but isn't this something people have to decide for themselves? Rebellion and changes in government happen naturally. Sometimes our government likes what happens and sometimes....Hamas in the Gaza strip. And when there is a leader who tightly controls everything (usually called a dictator) we have someone to hate. It doesn't work that way in a democracy. Technically we should dislike everyone when a policy we disagree with is made...voice of the people and all. I think this may be why US citizens are generally despised (among other things). After all, we don't always act like team players (understatement).

So back to the tomato analogy...it gave me some hope. I am not going to claim to know how to "fix" the unrest in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't know if we can. But I do know that we've helped mess things up. When you think of war you always think of bad guys and good guys. We have been hearing about the "bad guys" for a long time. A lot since 9/11. But I no longer believe in bad guys and good guys because I think everyone believes they are the good guys. We believe we are in the right as does the other side. So that means that sometimes I have to stop and say "I am one of the bad guys." I am not advocating on the side of terrorism. I hate violence. I know that sometimes it seems unavoidable. I know that in the case of Iraq diplomacy was a no go. (did we try diplomacy?) So back to the tomato.... If you take same plant that is in the greenhouse and put it outside eventually it will grow real tomatoes. Not force grown tomatoes. They are not going to look like the tomatoes your neighbor grows. You will use different fertilizer, different soil and in the end it will be a completely different plant. It might take a couple tries. You might have to change a few things- shade, surrounding plants, the depth of mulch etc. but when you finally manage to grow your own natural plant you feel good. The fruit tastes that much better. And you can always improve on what you know to be good.

So that's what I thought about in the shower. Scott asked "what thought came first...the tomato or Iraq?" I honestly don't know but it sure beat thinking about ....

My bête noire. Health Insurance. I hate health insurance. I hate the system that commercializes human life like we are automobiles. I hate the idea that you make a living on betting whether or not people will be healthy. I hate the idea that some person sitting at a desk somewhere will decide whether or not my condition will get treated. I hate watching people make the choice: Do I live and go into bankruptcy or do I accept this as fate and all my family has to worry about is the funeral expenses. I hate dealing with insurance companies. I hate my health insurance company. I hate that I have to think about it.

When I was a freshman in high school I joined the debate team. The national topic that year was health insurance. I had never really had to think about health insurance before. So my debate partner and I championed the cause of HMO's (hey the point was to win the debate...not believe in what you were debating). After out first win I knew that HMO's were not the answer. After our first few debates I knew that there didn't seem to be a clear answer and in that rather teenage self centered way I was not thinking it wouldn't work for humanitarian reasons - I just knew the whole system is flawed. I wasn't going to win the debate. The nation wasn't winning the debate.

People break. We wear down and develop strange illnesses and conditions. We get sick and we reproduce. We are in accidents and we fight in wars where the whole point is to maximize damage done to other humans. We abuse our bodies. We push ourselves so far that out bodies can't keep up. We sometimes need medical attention. Why? Because we are human! Because we are living organisms and not machines made of metal and fiberglass. So creating a whole commercial business that gambles on whether or not people will get sick is bloody stupid. And then prices go up because insurance companies are having to raise premiums because they aren't making a profit. Because they have to pay doctors. Because people do need medical attention or doctors would not exist in the first place.

If debating the merits of certain insurance plans did not convince me that I hate medical insurance getting my diagnosis sure did. I was in college and still on my parents health care plan. Thank goodness. But the question was what to do after college? Prior to the MS I was strongly considering the military (kinda glad that didn't work out- thanks to the dx- tomatoes and all that). Now I was faced with a disability that was not severe enough to be counted as a disability but needed medical attention. I was graduating with a degree but no money. I had to get a job with health benefits. Because if I had a month lapse in coverage between commercial group coverage programs then I would fall into that "pre-existing condition" category. They wouldn't pay for anything related to my MS for six months to a year depending on the plan. Experience had already taught me that everything is related to MS. You have female problems-must be the MS. You have sprained your ankle-the MS caused you to fall. You have floaters in your eyes causing intense headaches-MS You have a cavity in the tooth?-MS Plantars warts? Athletes foot? a busted appendix?- MS (In truth I have never had a problem with my appendix but I am waiting and it will all be the fault of MS). My whole life would become a pre-existing condition. Hey! It's life. It is a pre-existing condition from the moment you pop out of mommy's womb till the moment you kick the bucket.

I really did try to get a job with health insurance right off but we had just elected a new president and had rather large national disaster and our economy was tanking. Parents could keep me on their plan as long as I was not entirely independent. I found a job that offered health benefits after three months. I became an accountant to a very small law firm. I was not pursuing the job of my dreams or even something I had training in. I was in the pursuit of health insurance- not happiness. And after three months my boss refused to give it to me because I would raise premium costs for every employee. I know that I could have taken legal action. I know I should have raised a stink. I know I still had no money and had nowhere to go if I got fired. I felt trapped. I thought if I just held on he would relent. I was so completely wrong. So after nine months of misery I called my boyfriend (now my hubby) and said " come get me and move me to TN."

I went through a couple more jobs...all with the same insurance problem -as in it was not offered. It was not an option. I was willing to do anything just to get insurance. Clean toilets. Work at a gas station. Wear high heels every freaking impossible day. The problem was I needed money to live so if I got a job I had to take it. The next problem was that even though the job might be "good" it didn't come with benefits. And I looked and searched and....no insurance. The day finally came when my parents said "ok...they are kicking you off the insurance" No duh. It probably should have happened several years before. And I said "uh-oh."

I could have moved back home to live with them. I lived with Scott at the time and we were managing...barely. He had a job that provided insurance. Good insurance We love each other very much and intend to spend the rest of our lives together. So we got married. Just like that- 2 weeks notice. It pissed a lot of people off. It wasn't that getting married was a bad thing...it was fabulous. I love being married. It was a timing issue. It was like having a shot gun wedding because I was....disabled. And the thought going through everyones head was "is she marrying him for his insurance?" No! and yet yes. Damn. Our relationship means so much more than the insurance. We got married then so we could stay together. It was, at the time, the only option. I think the family has forgiven us. They have seen that I am not using him to get at his benefits but why do we live in a country where such a thought would even cross their minds? It wasn't fair. And it isn't just me. Lot's of couple's have to make this choice. And let's not even talk about the couples who should be able to make this choice and aren't allowed to. The couples that are not recognized or given full rights....err, blood pressure just hit a new high.

The thing is.....why are we having to base our life choices around access to a basic human right? "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25., Section 1). Ha!!!

The truth is now I have a happy marriage, a job I like (but it doesn't have benefits because they can't afford to provide them-- and its a doctor's office- and they really really honestly can't afford to offer health insurance because health insurance companies are not paying as well as the used to), and a pretty good life all around but....

I work for a doctor calling insurance companies and getting surgeries pre-certified so the good doc gets paid. I spend all day on hold so I can convince some minion that the doctor knows what he is doing. I have to go though lists of multiple question surveys to fulfill requirements for surgery approval. He's a doctor for heavens sake...he knows what he is doing. He knows if it needs to be done. He does not perform surgery just because he like cutting people and seeing the blood squirt. And sometimes I have to lie to convince Mr. Insurance guy that the surgery needs to be done. I hate this. Why can't they just trust the doctor's years of medical school? And sometimes I have to schedule surgery for someone who does not have insurance Our doctor does it at a huge discount if not for free but the hospital does not! No, our portion is $300 for the doc and $7,000 for the hospital. And that's not cool. I see the patients eyes glass over as they contemplate trying to raise the money....I see them wondering if it is worth it. Do they really need that tumor in their neck removed....wouldn't it be easier just to ignore it? I see that look and a little part of me dies. I know that since we have diagnosed them they will never be able to get health insurance..they are uninsurable because they are sick and we are trying to save their life. Trying to save their life so they can face a future of economic difficulty and a future of no health insurance, I see that look and know it is hopelessness and defeat. Some overcome it...some don't. I can help find programs to pay. I can sweet talk the people at the hospital into providing discounts. I can talk to them and tell them its not fair. I can try to convince them it's all worth it. Most of all I can stay mad, send off my letters to politicians, and curse this stupid system that says a healthy person is worth more than a sick one. I hate health insurance It has been my enemy for so long I don't know what I am ever going to do if they can fix the system. It is my job. It is my future. It has dictated life choices. And I am sick of it....our system is sick.

Well there's a couple of rants. I have some insurence companies to call.....


Elizabeth McClung said...

Well, I read this the other day and then by the time I came back you posted AGAIN, why does time move when I am busy? Doesn't time realize I am going as fast as I can?

Iraq: though I don't offer politics opinions, I do think there is a great misunderstanding; which is that setting up a European style "democracy" (for instance REQUIRING a higher percentage of women respresentives than has ever been in the US congress in a culture where women don't speak out or argue against men in public) is going to work as long as there is a "Green Zone" and then, like ever imposed democracy in the region from Iran to Saudi, it will likely become some form of shared dictatorship and everyone will be happy because a) dictatorships actually have strong militaries which do quite well supressing rebels - they also are quite good at supressing human rights and torture, but since the US already acknowledges THEY need to do that..... b) The oil from the second largest reserve it the world will start flowing for the first time in years - consistantly, and everyone will be happy. I am not an oil conspiracist, what I am saying is that if five years after "liberataion" the energy infastructure (like having electricity) is still worse than with Saddam, do you think the population is going to be THAT upset with someone who says, "Okay, We're in charge, gas is back to 1 cent, here is money for electricity, now don't disagree with me in public" (feel free to savage me of course, but there is nothing particularly "natural" about the USA's particularly twisty system of "democracy" in which a very recent election had a leader assume control after a majority of the population voted for someone else entirely)

About HMO's and health care. Your story breaks my heart because I lived there, I have US citizenship and yet due to the marriage issue and the health care issue I cannot live in Oregon or Washington as I might have chosen to. I too had to wait on operations becasue we could only afford the collective deductable one year so everyone got thier MRI's and operations done in the same year. That you needed to marry for insurance sucks, that insurance was more important than how you valued the job means to me that there is not a great distance from the garbage pickers of Brazil or the sweatshop workers (of LA), in that when the richest country on earth has educated citizens who CAN do other things but must focus solely on survival....that is a crying waste of resources. Forget the Canada model if you want, there are literally 26 different models over in Europe to look at, or Cuba, or mexico. Will it take another great depression before the idea of profit, profit, profit is finally trumped by "Hey, why don't we have some security and care for our own citizens." (just thinking of SSI's start and the work projects, Tennessee Valley Authority, etc)

Sorry, now you got my rant too. And yeah, it SUCKS!

ms bond said...
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ms bond said...

Your are right. USA is not a good example of democracy working smoothly. But at least it is our damn fault. We seem to forget that we are the government. It is within our power to change it...we just have to care. I know I am an idealistic twit. But I honestly belive that if we were actually taught civics in scholl and taught that our voice mattered (and reworked that whole electoral college thing) we could change if we really wanted to. I think we should look at our human rights record and cring-i instead of just applauding ourselves for past sucesses. I am totally for celebrating the civil rights movement but isn't time for another? We are complacent buggers that just let all this happen...me included.

Funny you should mention the marriage laws in Oregon. My first memory of political activism was going door to door trying to raise awareness against those laws. I was maybe twelve or thirteen. I just couldn't believe that people actually didn't see that those "laws" were wrong (proposed measure {Measure #9} to stop same-sex marriages from ever obtaining the same rights as "traditional marriages") Honestly...until then I never even knew that it was an issue. Two people love each other? Great! What's the big deal? It came as quite a wake-up call that most my friends were bigots. The thing I took away from the whole exercise was 1) you have to be taught to hate 2) It seems easy to teach people to hate 3) I love my parents 'cause they never taught me that there was anything different about love between two people that are the same sex and two people who are different sexes 4) I hate intolerant people 5)most people don't have a problem denying people basic human rights...they just have a problem when their own human rights are denied.

I am so sorry that you and Linda have been denied the right to live (as full citizens)where you wanted. Oregon is always going to be my home...even if I now live in Tennessee. But they screwed up with that one....

So I feel your pain. And yeah...there are plenty of models to choose from. If we could just stop with the "King of the Hill" mentality and actually learn from others we might actually make some social progress...oh no...do I sound slightly socialist? Good.