Health Care

Out-of-Network Horror Stories

I want to share this article about surprise medical bills with you but it fills me with so much anxiety I don’t even know where to begin.

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Is 75 Enough?

If you’d like mortality mansplained, this pedantic fellow in the Atlantic does an excellent job. (“Mortality: You’re Doing It Wrong.”) In the process of declaring that 75 is a perfect age to die, the author also declares himself against euthanasia / “death with dignity” movements for some reason and adds that he will have a memorial service before his death because wow is he a control freak. Yet, as the Dude would put it, the author is not wrong — at least not in his main point, that he won’t make any effort to extend his life past 75; he’s just kind of an asshole.

The good news is that we have made major strides in reducing mortality from strokes. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths from stroke declined by more than 20 percent. The bad news is that many of the roughly 6.8 million Americans who have survived a stroke suffer from paralysis or an inability to speak. And many of the estimated 13 million more Americans who have survived a “silent” stroke suffer from more-subtle brain dysfunction such as aberrations in thought processes, mood regulation, and cognitive functioning. Worse, it is projected that over the next 15 years there will be a 50 percent increase in the number of Americans suffering from stroke-induced disabilities. Unfortunately, the same phenomenon is repeated with many other diseases.

So American immortals may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Not to me.

He makes sound arguments for why trying to extend life past a certain point simply for the sake of it is silly and not cost-effective, especially when quality of life deteriorates and all we have to look forward to is that “second childishness, and mere oblivion” stage. (Which can be a serious financial and emotional burden on our children/care-givers.) I’m kind of convinced. But ask me again when I’ve reached his age: if I have also attained his level of success and feeling of supreme self-satisfaction, perhaps I too will be ready to Let It Go.

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Canadian Health Care Awesomeness: Is It As Awesome As It Seems?

We’re all jealous of the Canadian health care system, unless we’re Canadian ourselves, in which case we spend our time eating poutine and watching hockey and politely marveling at the idiocy of Americans. But is the universal, public, accessible, single-payer health care that folks north of the border enjoy REALLY as great as it seems? Jacobin investigates:

The two largest holes in Canada’s health care system are the lack of universal coverage for dental care and the inadequate defraying of optical and prescription drug costs. As of 2012, an estimated one in five Canadians — disproportionately women, the unemployed, and freelancers — did not have the supplementary private health insurance that foots the bill for these services.

Uh. 20% of Canadians might have to pay for some dental and vision out of pocket, and these are your biggest problems? Here is the world’s tiniest violin, and here is me smashing it with a hammer made out of solidified resentment.

Universal health care is not just being eroded via underfunding. The federal government has been unwilling to enforce the Canada Health Act, which makes funding contingent on meeting certain standards. The lax regulatory environment has led to a proliferation of private clinics across Canada and inequitable access to some medical services.

OK now we’re getting somewhere. Maybe. It’s still hard for me to get worked up over the kinks in what seems like, overall, still a vastly preferable system to the one we’re stuck with down here, but pain is relative. And it does suck that abortions are hard to come by on Prince Edward Island.

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Crowdfunding Your Life, Including Your Abortion

What can we crowdfund and what can’t we? Where are the lines?

Last week, VICE published an interview with a 23-year-old woman in need of, and crowdsourcing funds for, an abortion. In her state, the procedure would cost about $2,500 and take two days.

Her GoFundMe page, originally titled the “Stop Bailey From Breeding Fund,” informs visitors that “Bailey is currently unemployed, completely broke, in debt, and in no position to hold down a job due to severe symptoms of a rough, unplanned and unexpected pregnancy.” Having just moved to Chicago from Phoenix, Arizona, Bailey says she’s 23, likes to read and go to shows, and really, really doesn’t want to be a mom.

In the past, GoFundMe has been used for some pretty noble projects, such as collecting donations for one of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and helping raise money to operate on the brain tumor of a morbidly obese 12-year-old. Somewhat more controversially, GoFundMe was used recently to support Officer Darren Wilson, who famously shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown, resulting in the Ferguson, Missouri demonstrations. I guess you could say the operators of GoFundMe aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Except that they are, after all: Bailey’s GoFundMe page has been taken down permanently. 

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California Passes Bill Granting Workers the Right to Three Sick Days Per Year

Whether you spent this weekend working or enjoying your Labor Day holiday, you might have missed big news from California: it became the second state to pass a bill guaranteeing paid sick leave to workers. Governor Jerry Brown still needs to sign the bill into law, but it is (we hope) on its way.

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The Cost of Bringing a Person Into The World Via C-Section

TOTAL HOSPITAL BILLS: $43,871.25

TOTAL CO-PAYS: $1,000.00

TOTAL UNRESOLVED BILLS WHICH I BETTER NOT HAVE TO PAY BUT I MIGHT HAVE TO PAY AND I STILL HAVEN’T CALLED ABOUT AND THEY’RE THREATENING TO SEND TO COLLECTIONS BUT EVERY TIME I GO TO CALL THE BABY WAKES UP: $1422.00

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Your Waistline = Your Boss’s Business

Here is your open thread, brought to you by the lengths corporations will go to spend less on health insurance:

companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit. The tactic may reduce corporate health-care costs by encouraging healthier lifestyles, even as companies must overcome a creepy factor and concerns from privacy advocates that employers are prying too deeply into workers’ personal lives. … Companies and insurers said they protect the privacy of people using wearable gadgets, and comply with federal laws that prevent employers from seeing certain health information about employees without consent. The wearable programs are voluntary and often administered by third-party vendors like StayWell, which works with BP.

Big Brother is watching you on behalf of your boss. What could be better?

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The “Give Everyone a Goalie” Kind of Sex Ed

Sex ed is a hot button issue in America because certain folks believe it’s not a good idea for public schools to acknowledge that unmarried humans also have genitals, so we have an alarmingly high teen birth rate compared to other developed nations. That costs everyone money. What if instead of arguing about whether it’s acceptable to have high schoolers roll condoms onto bananas, we gave every lady a goalie instead, i.e., went straight to funding long-term, reversible birth control?

Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country, according to a report released today by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. During that time, its teen birth rates dropped 39 percent compared to 29 percent nationwide. Abortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 and are falling nationally, as well.

The CDC’s report comes on the heels of Colorado’s own study, which reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long-acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. … The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

Women who elected to go with condoms, the pill, or the patch instead were twenty times more likely to get pregnancy accidentally than those who got the implant/insertion. Shifting more of them to the long-term methods saved taxpayers $12 billion just in 2010. TWELVE BILLION!@!#!! Several other states are following suit, expanding Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term devices for postpartum women.

God, I hope this is something we can all get behind.

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Link Roundup: Affluenza/Douchiness; Hospitals & Obamacare; Macy’s Settles with “Shoplifters”

+ Remember that Texas boy who killed a bunch of people and got off with a slap on the wrist because, his lawyers argued, his wealthy parents never taught him right from wrong? SHOCKER, his dad just got arrested. Not for never teaching his son “thou shalt not kill,” but for being a douche.

The father of the Texas teenager who killed four people while driving drunk and claimed his family’s wealth was partially to blame has been arrested for impersonating a police officer, legal documents showed. Frederick Anthony Couch was arrested on Tuesday for an incident that occurred on July 28 in the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills. Couch is the father the then 16-year-old boy who was sentenced to probation for the deadly accident after his lawyers argued the enormous wealth of the youth’s family blinded him to responsibilities resulting from his actions.

+ Hospitals, Obamacare, and who qualifies for free emergency treatment.

While many charity care programs have been in place for decades, others were established following widespread complaints and lawsuits brought in the late 1990s over aggressive hospital collections tactics. Those included placing liens on patients’ homes and charging the uninsured the highest list prices, which were far more than what insurance companies paid on behalf of policyholders. Now, under the health law, nonprofit hospitals must make reasonable efforts to determine if patients qualify for help before taking tough collection tactics. And the law says the amount sought from the patient cannot be the hospitals’ list price, but an amount closer to what is generally billed to insured patients.

+ Macy’s pays $650,000 to settle with shoppers after acting like a shitty police state. Because America really needed another one of those. 

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How a Chronically Ill Person Does Money

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, and from that point on nearly all of my major life choices have been made with it in mind, including picking a college major that would result in a job with health insurance.

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