Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weekend laziness, plus a short rant

Just another Saturday here. It's 2:00 and so far we've managed to have brunch. That's it. We've been threatening to go to the boat but we've not found the motivation to do that just yet.I'm glad it's the weekend however since I'm ready to be able to do nothing for a change. I didn't get lots of good sleep this last week and I'm needing to catch up. I'm thinking a night at the boat would be good, but we're gonna have to get ourselves together to do it. I'm sensing a bit of a mood from Jayson. My guess is that he was hoping I'd have a big birthday weekend planned, which I didn't, and he's disappointed. I guess I'll find out...

Chris wrote something about health care in the US that was interesting. He asks if the capitalist system isn't doing more harm than good when it comes to health care. The answer is a resounding yes, it's doing much more harm than good. Spending money to keep people healthy and alive is completely at odds with making a huge profit. In the US system the patients are merely the portion of the equation that generates income for the various players. On the one hand you've got doctors and hospitals that make money by providing services, so as Chris wrote they want us to need them by being unhealthy. The insurance companies make money by taking our premiums and paying out as little as possible. They want us to be healthy without any care or support. In the end the insurance companies win out since they're paying the bills most of the time, so they tell us when we can and can't be treated for something. What we end up with is not a "health care" system but a "health repair" system. The structure of insurance coverage in this country keeps people from going to the doctor to maintain health and to have basic checkups. Because out-of-pocket costs are so high we tend to visit out docs only once we're sick or have a problem. Like anything, it costs more money to fix something once it's broken than to keep it in good shape in the first way. Our health is the same way.

A prime example of all of this is my own insurance coverage at work. I have a "health fund" which gives me $1500 a year to spend any way I see fit. If I use medical providers that the insurance company has contracted with they prices are lower so that $1500 lasts longer. That initial money if the "fund" part of the coverage. That part's all well and good. After the fund, the next $1500 of care comes directly out of my pocket; the insurance company refers to this as the "bridge". If I spend all of the fund and don't have money to cover the bridge, I'm in trouble. One way or another I have to pay it and if I can't then I don't get treatment. After the "bridge" the insurance will pay about 90% of what I get, and that's fine. Now, if I don't use all of the fund from this year, the remainder will roll over into next year and be added to a new $1500 next year. Luckily prescription coverage doesn't get taken out of the fund. However, going to the doc every three months and having labs done at the same time adds up fast. Each lab is about $400 and each doc visit is about $150 so you can see that by going in for my regular check-ups and labs I've gone over the fund right there.

It's obvious what the point of this coverage is. The insurance company wants to me to limit my medical care to $1500 per year. They're hoping that I won't want to pony up all that money after the fund and will stop there for the year. What kind of medical care is that? Instead of encouraging me to see a doctor before something becomes a problem the system encourages me to avoid spending any money at all. The literature even stresses that using the fund for frivoulous (as if any health care is frivolous!) expenses will cose me more out of pocket if some kind of unexpected major medical comes up for me. Talk about scare tactics. I could go for a standard PPO and pay a $500 yearly deductible and then not have the "bridge". But again the insurance company had made sure I don't get to choose coverage that will keep me healthy. The premiums for the health fund plan are about $50/month and the premiums for the PPO are about $350/month. They're really wanting to make sure I use that fund plan. The bottom line is that it's all geared for the insurance companies to keep as much of their money as possible while I give as little as possible to my health care. The doctors and labs know this so they bill as much as they possibly can each time I see them so that they can make their money. In the end, I the loser. Until companies in this country start to realize that it's better them to have healthy employees and start fighting back against the tightwad insurance companies and over-charging medical providers, nothing will change. I won't even talk about single-payer health care in the US since it's nothing but a distant dream.

Wow, that was a lot about health care. If you're still reading this far, thanks! In other news, my mother is getting here on Friday. I'm really really looking forward to her visit. She's not been here in over 18 months and she's not seen where we live currently. I don't know yet what we'll do, but I'm taking off Friday afternoon and all day Tues/Wed/Thurs. We'll figure something out to fill our time I'm sure.

Seems like I should have more to write, but it's not that exciting of a week. I've got some errands to run for Jayson's birthday on Monday, and that's about it. I'm kinda just waiting to see where our mood around here goes today, but I'm definitely looking for to hanging out on the boat. Music, a bottle of wine while watching the sunset, and then a quiet dinner.  That being said, here's a pic of me and the dog hanging out on the boat. Yeah, the pic is a few years old. Note the absence of grey in my beard. But I still like it anyway.

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