The Debate Continues
After illness struck, the Obama health care overhaul suddenly looks better
My partner John is as healthy as a horse. So when he came down with flu-like symptoms a month ago, we didn't think anything of it.
Three days later, he was in the intensive care unit of Methodist Hospital on a respirator. Doctors put him into a medically-induced coma to buy some time and figure out what was inexplicably attacking his lungs. They also started him on dialysis when his kidneys failed.
It was like a really bad episode of House.
He's home now and OK — weak from the ordeal but getting stronger every day. He's not taking any prescription medication. He can eat almost anything he wants. He can walk the dog and drive the car. Doctors don't really know what happened — they think a virus attacked his system but his body eventually fought it off. It will always remain a mystery.
I feel extremely fortunate that we live in a city with the best medical care in the world. The medical ICU team at Methodist is a group of incredible professionals who combine a sense of duty with deep caring for their patients.
But their care doesn't come cheap. Every day the mail brings two or three bills — from the hospital, more doctors than I remember seeing, and countless medical technicians who performed X-rays, CAT scans and other tests. The pile grows higher every day.
The medical deductibles are going to shave off a good bit of our savings, but I'm not complaining. If we didn't have good health insurance, I'm convinced he would be dead or we would be bankrupt. Or both.
Through the long drawn out fight over health care over the past year, I heard President Obama and others tell heart-wrenching stories about families who had lost everything because they didn't have coverage. After a while, I tuned them out. The horrific stories seem too tinged with political desperation. It reminded me of the times Bill Clinton or George W. Bush invoked everyday people to make their point during a State of the Union address. The person was usually invited to stand up, Congress applauded and nothing got done. It all seemed so forced.
But after our experience, I see things in a different light. A health crisis can happen to anyone. And when it does, your life falls to shambles. I can't imagine anyone facing a life-threatening illness without health insurance, but millions of Americans, often through no fault of their own, cope as best they can.
Even so, I'm as confused as anyone about what the new health care overhaul means. The new bill will cost $938 billion over the next 10 years (ouch). Republicans warn that it will saddle us with debt, weaken Medicare and lead to a government takeover of the health care system. I worry that this time they may be right.
Democrats say it will lower the federal deficit over time and contain health costs. Who can you believe?
According to the Associated Press (thanks for giving a simple explanation), starting this year, insurers can't put lifetime dollar limits on policies. They can't deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions or cancel policies because someone gets sick. Parents will be able to keep older kids on their coverage up to age 26. Insurers can't deny coverage to people with medical problems or charge them more. They can't charge women higher rates.
And more than 30 million will be covered under the new bill (although not until 2014).
That's enough for me. It may not be perfect, but it's a start.