Jamie Beckett's Blog

Rambling with Conviction

Jamie Beckett

Jamie Beckett
Florida, USA
December 21
Jamie Beckett, is a resident of central Florida, the United States, Earth. Jamie's first novel, "Burritos and Gasoline," sold beyond the author's wildest dreams, earning enough cold, hard cash to take the entire family out to Denny's - twice! His second work of fiction, a novella called "To the Lifeboats," (available exclusively in eBook format) was released in September 2012. Jamie is an author, a city commissioner, and the humble recipient of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association's 2012 Let's Go Flying award. An avid motorcyclist, dedicated airplane nut, and part-time guitar collector, Jamie is putting serious thought into developing some sort of career plan, as soon as more interesting things become somewhat less interesting.


OCTOBER 30, 2009 9:24AM

A Health Care Story - First Person, Past Tense

Rate: 3 Flag

This is the post that will get me flamed. At least that's my fear. It's a little long, too. But it's a story worth posting. So I will. The fires of contempt be damned.

It is one of the great sorrows of my life that what passes for political discourse in our time is more appropriately described as name-calling. It's rare to encounter an actual exchange of ideas. Especially when an exchange of insults is so much more satisfying and easier to support.

Currently, there is no topic more hotly debated in the U.S. than health care reform.  And that's good. Health care is a serious issue that touches all our lives in one way or another at some point. Most of us were born in a commercial health care institution, filled with professional health care providers. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, administrative workers, and maintenance crews live among us. They are our friends and our neighbors. They are us.

Health care is big business. Mostly because the customer base is so large and highly motivated. Not so much because those health care pros are mean, bitter people motivated to do little more than Hoover out your wallet at the first opportunity.

All this talk of reform has me thinking, but confused.  The public option is in. The public option is out. States can opt in, or out, or do whatever they want. Unless they can't.


What the heck is a public option, anyway? Really! I have no idea what it actually means. The term has become a little like, “quark,” or “dark matter,” for me. I hear it a lot. Everyone else seems to know exactly what they're talking about. But nobody seems to be able to attach a solid definition to the term.

I find that puzzling.

Today, I am 50 years old. I will be 51 soon, too. I have no problem with that. In the long run, and I hope to have a very long run, I will see doctors and nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, and all sorts of medical professionals. Some will poke me with needles. Others will talk to me in soothing tones, possibly to share information that is painful to hear. That's okay. That's their job. A job I'm willing to pay them for, in fact.

Earlier this week I called my doctor's office to make an appointment for a flu shot. I've never had a flu shut before, but then I've never been 50 years old before, either. It feels like this is a good time to start a new habit. Why not start with an annual flu shot?

To my surprise I learned that I was too old for a flu shot. At least I'm too old this month. Next month I might be young enough. We'll see when next month comes.

Apparently there isn't enough flu vaccine to go around. So they're starting with the young and moving into the older ranks incrementally. I thought that was interesting. And fair, too – all things considered.

I suspect this is why some people fear health care rationing. Because there is health care rationing. Come to think of it, there has been health care rationing in the past, too. It's just the way things work. Supply and demand. Jefferson and Franklin would smirk with satisfaction, I'm sure.

 Yes, the truth can be told. I am a capitalist. 

Fortunately, I'm a reasonably healthy guy, too. All my standard equipment still works, albeit a little slower and with a slightly smaller range of motion than in the past. In my case at least, exercise seems to have forestalled the onset of truly old age. It's a battle I will lose in the end. But I'm fighting it. I'll always be fighting it.

When I was in my 30s, there was a period when I wasn't doing so well, however. I got sick. The kind of sick that involves internal bleeding and requires surgical intervention. To make matters worse I had recently made a career change that had requierd me to spend nearly $30,000 on an expanded education to get into a career that paid me a whopping $6,000 the year got sick.

Let's just say money was tight. And of course, I had no health insurance.

Now to be perfectly honest, I didn't care that I didn't have health insurance. I didn't need a broker, an agent,  a pile of paperwork, and an annual premium. I needed doctors, nurses, lab techs, and test results. I needed health care. And like anyone else, I could buy as much of that as I needed. All I had to do was sign a form and the health care was mine.


The way my thought process worked was this. I financed my car, and I would hopefully finance a home one day  (if I lived that long).  Why wouldn't I finance my own health care? It just seemed logical to me. So I did.

The doctor would tell me, “This test is going to cost roughly $1,000.” To which I would reply, “Okay.” When the tests came back we had a conversation. He asked if I understood that the diagnoses would require surgical intervention. I said, “Uh huh.”

It never struck me as an issue that had to move beyond the doctor's office, or my kitchen table where my wife and I would be paying the bills. There was not a single time, not one day, when I thought my siblings should kick in to help pay the cost. It never occurred to me to involve my high school, or college classmates to ask them for a percentage of the bill. I needed health care, I bought it, I survived. That seemed like at least as good a reason to pay a whopping large bill as any desire to drive a new car, or move into a bigger house, or put an extra large wide-screen television on the wall.

The long and the short of it is this; I don't know exactly what the public option is, but I didn't believe in it when I didn't have the cash I needed to prolong my life. I don't believe in it now, either. Not for me at least. I'm perfectly happy taking care of my own responsibilities, as well as those of my wife and our kids. Rest easy – no matter how far down the economic ladder I may fall (and I have been pretty far down there, let me tell you) you will never have to pay one of my bills. Not for anything.

Flame on!

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I've never had a post log so many views, but no comments. I was sincerely hoping to get some feedback from readers on this one.

Any thoughts at all will be welcome.
I never criticize someone's opinion. I do understand your feelings. But my understanding comes from the fact that I have health insurance. Many do not. he public option opens the door for a chance at coverage, or a chance at lowering costs should one be denied coverage or have coverage terminated. ~R~
Point taken, Chuck. My only wish is that people could discuss, like you are doing, not shout and scream and vilify their opponents.

We live in an astoundingly wealthy country. And by world standards, most of us are unimaginably fortunate. I have no doubt we can provide a humane level of care for all who live within our borders. The question remains however, how do we accomplish that?

I'm hopeful, but skeptical. A curios combination - apparently.
I have no intention of flaming you. But I too am a responsible adult, one with a child, and our health care together costs me, without getting sick, over 40% of my income. That's a lot of income. When I get sick ... well, I sat down and did the math. Last year, I spent over 60% of my income on healthcare, without which I or the Kid would have died.

That's not acceptable. It's just not. It's one thing to pay a fair price. This is another thing. And my insurance company covers less and less every year. And I pay them more and more.

I am not a capitalist, as I've observed the idea of the free market doesn't really seem to work on a grand scale. It's gets easily corrupted. Corporations now band together, even as they are separate, not to offer the best prices, but to keep prices UP. The consumer is forced to choose between living longer and saving money.

It's just completely and utterly wrong in all conceivable ways and has little to do with "Bootstraps" or "Get With It-Ness." People here don't have the same standard of care as the majority of most comparable countries. We're 72nd in health according the World Health Organization. That is not good.
"What the heck is a public option, anyway?" Now there's a question I've been afraid to ask outloud. glad you did Jamie. I pretty much agree with you. Something needs to be done. If you've read my posts - Mom's Social Security & HMO are paying to have her in hospital for weeks!!!and nothing's worng. Something's got to be done. But so far I havn't heard a decent answer. rated
I hope life doesn't upset your plans. It can.
Good comment, Mumbletypeg.

I like to take the obvious view. We are extremely fragile biological beings who live on a planet that is constantly trying to kill us with droughts, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, disease, and famine. Our odds aren't good, long term.

Enjoy what you've got while you've got it. Tomorrow is only an illusion until it arrives. Then it's today.

Live for today, plan for tomorrow. Hopefully we'll all get lucky for a few decades.
I'm as clueless as most people about this topic, but I do know from some recent minor medical issues, that they come with a major pricetag - some astounding expenses, really. If I didn't have some kind of health insurance, I would be paying this off for many years.

I can only imagine the cost of a major medical problem, the likelihood of which increases as I get older. Like many do now, I might end up at the ER, incapable of ever covering the bill. If a big enough number can't pay, quality will plummet for all but the very rich.

This may be a simplistic approach, Jamie, but I don't mind chipping in what I can afford to Uncle Sam on your behalf, if you'll return the favor.
I'm pleased to see such reasoned, thoughtful feedback on this piece. I wish Congress was as respectful.

I've come to see the health care reform dilemma as three separate issues. They are, in no particular order, the cost of health care, the quality of health care, and a method of payment for health care.

My preference would be that each of these three issues is dealt with individually. Simple is almost always better. And it is virtually impossible to deal with a leaky roof on your house, a leaking pipe in your basement, and a leaking fish tank in the kid's room. They're all leaks, and they all involve water, but the complexity, cause, and cost of the fix is radically different in each case.

Whatever the outcome, I'm enjoying this exchange of thoughts and observations much more than the personal attacks, partisan bickering, and general childishness I see on the news each night.

Nice job, fellow OSers.
Thank you for your reasonable post. You will find reasonable discussion, when there isn't baiting, which is done in a lot of posts. Many of us like to discuss topics and here differing views. I am one of those folks.

I'll second mumbletypeg. My husband and I both had over 100K year jobs. We both no longer have either. Due to circumstances outside our control, we had to empty 401K accounts. All in the name of "health care." I don't view that as anyone else's responsibility, I just don't think it is ethical when insurance says they will pay bills then don't, especially when you are in the middle of crisis and can't fight all of it. Then, when you are at broke point, you no longer have coverage, or enough coverage left due to limitations of the policy.

I'm for capitalism, too, but not how it has been designed post 1950s era capitalism. The corporation, as a non-human entity, is given too much power without enough accountability. Plus, they have the ability to lobby for dollars, where, as you say, it is considered rude to ask for help if you are the average citizen. They simply have more leverage. The incentives are out of balance. As the most advanced economist of our times, Steven Levitt, notes, it is all about incentives. Insurance companies are legally obligated to shareholders; they are obligated to profits. They are not being given incentive to care for your health. This is what I call a double bind if I've ever heard of one.

I still believe in capitalism, however, it needs to be removed from health care. There is no room for it. It can succeed outside this vertical market and people can still make a living. Countries all over the world are doing it. Steve Blevins post on the Swiss model is very enlightening, and it is closest to what I believe will work.

I appreciate your view, as you put your money where your mouth is so to speak, but you may not always be that fortunate. As many others, like myself, who once were, are now not. No one needs to go bankrupt to get health care. There is no need for it to be mutually exclusive. Not when 96% of this country's wealth goes to 1% of the population...many of which are connected to Washington.

OK. I'm done.