by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
October 24, 2009
INSIDE THE HEALTH CARE NIGHTMARE
BROOKLYN, N.Y., Oct. 24, 2009 -- I wonder if a national health plan bordering on socialism would be a slam dunk if liberal Democrats like the late Ted Kennedy had "spun" the issue so that departed Senate icons such as Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, hard-core Carolina conservatives, could make it a "populist" cause.
"Ahem, ahem, now," the power structure of the current Broadway revival of "Finian's Rainbow" might tell the folks of mythical Missitucky, "We don't want none of that there pinko commie national health care, just the same darned health and medical protection them fat cats we bailed out on Wall Street all have for their young'uns and kin."
It seems as if serious health reform is someone else's problem, someone else's issue, someone else's tragedy - until it is yours.
Charity from a friend puts me in a brownstone in the upscale Park Slope section of Brooklyn to recuperate from prostate cancer surgery earlier this week at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
In New Mexico, where $700 plus a month buys you perhaps a $10,000 deductible and $3,000 and 50% co-pay when you are still three years too young for Medicare, deficient medical insurance hits you squarely in the face with unhappy choices.
Do what I did in a state where there was no bariatric surgeon in the state is certified to perform weight loss surgery, a mandatory precursor to cancer surgery; and no Davinci laproscopic surgery machine is available until months after my diagnosis.
I took my chances, literally, engaged in "watchful waiting" while at least two tumors had a chance to grow, rather than go on "hormone" therapy with daily pills and quarterly $1,900 shots. Ask nine urologists in two countries where they would go with the same cancer and have eight of them tell you Sloan Kettering, and the ninth would say, "Go to M.D. Andersen in Houston - unless you have more time - and [then] I'd go to New York to Sloan-Kettering."
So with a wife of 40-plus years who takes "for better or worse" seriously and the real likelihood of literally losing the ranch because my insurer changed my New York treatment from in-network to "out-of-network" coverage because a new machine was unveiled in Albuquerque after I had already embarked on a course of treatment in New York, I went forward.
After working and scrimping since age 11, starting as a copy boy at the New York World-Telegram & Sun, I think I will be able to pay my bills. I also think doing so will take all my remaining retirement funds, max out all my credit cards, and with the economic downturn I may actually flirt with foreclosure and/or bankruptcy unless things pick up. Meanwhile, I am not meeting my financial obligations to an elderly mom, and not helping out struggling kids and grandkids. C'est la vie.
Years ago, when the OpEd page of the New York Times published a dispatch I wrote from Cuba, I remarked to friends that Cuban residents could not understand parents needing to pay for child care or health care in order to be secure in a job.
Does Boeing really and truly play on a level playing field with Airbus Industrie when airlines bid on planes? Boeing's planes include the cost of health care packages negotiated with, for, and by working people. But Airbus low-balls prices in a work environment subsidized by half of the taxpayers of Western Europe. If Airbus loses a contract and has to lay off, the health care is uninterrupted. But who cares for Boeing workers when they get laid off by the tens of thousands and their health care polices expire?
Nothing has changed in health care except millions of Americans have lost their homes because other Americans believe political promoters who tell them it's no one else's worry if Mom has to miss work or take an extra job to pay for a kid's ER bill after a soccer injury.
In Park Slope, a metal canister with much less than a pound of coffee is $14.99. Across from Methodist Hospital two burgers at Five Guys and a Coke are $14.10. The small Breakstone's cottage cheese at Steve's discount supermarket is more than four bucks. And through it all New Yorkers, New Mexicans and everyone in between pay hundreds or thousands every month for coverage they pray they will never need, and which may not cover them when they do need it.
The pain after radical prostate surgery is like being in a knife fight you lost. I gained a new respect for drug addicts popping pain pills. But after four days, the pain has subsided and thoughts of "Did they get it all?," recovery, resumed work, and the bills I'll face push to the forefront of my personal health care journey.
Is it really a luxury to guarantee a basic safety net for all Americans?
As I think of the current health care debate, I wonder if some of the captains of Wall Street now scorned - the Guggenheims or an Admiral Josephthal - would be very proud of the way workers are treated. Cutting my investment broker's teeth at the end of the golden era of Josephthal & Co., I remember when true leaders such as Michael DeMarco, Sr., and Raymond Mando took care of employees.
Workers who helped the firm survive the Great Depression had a job with benefits for life. Period.
As a young limited partner and director I learned of at least two cases when employees' children were accepted to medical school and the firm proudly paid their tuitions.
A coronary that killed a worker resulted in $900+ complete physical exams for all employees paid for by the firm.
Thanksgiving did not only mean a fresh turkey but a choice of an Empire Kosher Turkey for Jewish workers. I won't even get into the gold-plated Seth Thomas mantel clocks on corporate anniversaries.
Yup, a single payer national universal health care system is pretty bad policy. Except when it hits home.
Brooklyn-born Mark Scheinbaum, a former UPI newsman, is managing director of LF-Financial, LLC and lives in Angel Fire, New Mexico.