Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Scares Me Most

You know, as a chronic hypochondriac, fear of illness is a regular companion of mine. It was made more complicated in my youth, when I was so fearful of doctors and needles that I would think I might have appendicitis... but was too scared to go get it checked out. It made for many fearful days. I eventually got over the worst of my fears and have had blood work and various shots in the last decade with minor angst.

4 years ago, I lost my job at William Morris, and went on COBRA for 18 (very expensive) months. Now as a self-employed computer technician, I have been uninsured for 2.5 years, and have only a small healthcare cushion in the form of Christian Healthcare Ministries; it doesn't cover much, but does serve as protection against a Worst Case Scenario of cancer or a car wreck. Most of the big expenses will be covered. Because I am overweight and take prozac, I can't even get insurance companies to respond to my application without requiring ridiculously high premiums, so I am grateful for this small shield.

In the midst of the current wildfire over healthcare reform, I am one of those who is personally concerned with the outcome. It is the difference between being able to go to the doctor when I have a bad fall and twist my knee, and sitting at home with an ice pack and ibuprofin and praying that it's nothing serious. That's fear. And in every news story, every debate on the virtues and failings of both the current American system and socialized medicine, the rage and the unwillingness to concede a single point is just that: fear. We are terrified of being helpless.

I hear an interview on the radio with a young woman who developed cancer and had no insurance and the horrors she endured as a result, and my instinctive response is to get a full-time job at Starbucks so I can have insurance.

I hear stories from Canada and the UK and Europe about people who had to wait months for an appointment and received critical care too late, and my instinctive response is to call my congresspersons and beg them to stop the proposed reform.

I hear nothing but fear and accusation, really. The government is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry... the government wants to dictate our care... we'll be taxed to pay for lazy slobs who can't be bothered to eat right or exercise... the insurance companies are really just out to make money... the doctors in the US don't care as much for their patients... the doctors in Europe don't care as much for their patients... People in Canada come to the US for critical care because they can't get it there...

Every time I try and make sense of the whirling dervishes of healthcare rhetoric, I become more disillusioned and confused, and feel less confident in ANYTHING that purports to fix the problem. In my worldly self, I would rather just let the American system stay as it is, and hope to get insurance again someday, because I have no faith in our government to effectively reform healthcare. I would rather be in debt for quality care, than pay nothing for essentially weak/poor care.

And then I remember the nature of society... to find a fear, and ride it into the ground. Once it was illegal immigrants, once it was Communism, once it was Indians, once it was smallpox, once it was Catholics, once it was the Plague, once it was the Vikings, once it was the Romans, once it was the Persians. All those fears which had genuine danger underlying them have long since passed, but our makeup as humans seems to require something to be frightened of. So by all means, let's be frightened of Socialism creeping in through the guise of healthcare reform; it helps take our mind off the economy.

I actually think it's sortof good for me to not have health insurance. Good health insurance gives you the illusion of having an armed guard to protect you wherever you go; well, that armed guard is easily recalled at any moment, so it's best not to rely upon it. I will be far better cared for by God than by Blue Cross, even though I cannot tell how or know what form it will take. When I fell down 2 weeks ago and twisted my knee badly, I cried because I was helpless and couldn't afford to go to the doctor. I told some friends, and asked for prayer. Advice rolled in from medical professionals: prop your knee up, ice it frequently, take anti-inflammatories for the first 24-48 hours, the first 2 days are crucial. Many, many people prayed. And my knee slowly and steadily grew better. Now, 2 weeks later, it's about 95% normal (I have hyper-extended knees, and can't fully extend it yet) and I scarcely limp at all. It is discernibly better each day.

Was it really a bad accident? I don't know if I'll ever know. It might have been just a bad wrench of the knee muscles. But it also might have been something worse that was healed through prayer. And I survived it (quite well, actually) without consulting with the healthcare industry. It was not fun being scared... but I much prefer the method and results.

1 comment:

Mike Howell said...

I know what you mean to a degree. When my second daughter was born I missed the dealine to turn in her info for health insurance and she had to go 6 months without it. That was a tense six months. I can't imagine what years of that would be like.

I do suffer from the "don't have $10 for the copay" syndrome, but I know I could always get care if needed. Like you, I wish the debate was a bit more honest between the two sides.