WHY AREN’T YOU DEAD YET?

Why aren’t you dead yet?

If you’re over 65 and/or on Medicare, or poor on Medicaid, that’s the message you’re getting.

Out-of-pocket costs of Medicare have been going up annually, with ever-higher deductibles and premiums and a massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage that like the energizer bunny just keeps going and going and going. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. Out-of-pockets costs are terrifying.

Coffin

It doesn’t matter that you literally can’t live without your medications. Survival is your problem. Your health care providers, including your doctors, don’t care.

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide into worse medical care. As long as I was on MassHealth (Massachusetts’ Medicaid), I was okay. Medication was affordable. If I was sick, I got care. Lucky I had cancer while I was covered by MassHealth. Otherwise, I’d be dead.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped from MassHealth. I vainly hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I had been on Social Security disability for years. Officially disabled, I was thus entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified me as just old, not disabled. They switched me to standard Social Security. I get the same money, but without the protection. They also changed the poverty line so I no longer qualify for the extra help I was getting for medications.

Cost-of-care

Apparently when you’re over 65, you need a lot less money to live on. Pity no one told my mortgage company or other creditors. Or the drug companies. When you hit 65, you are healed of all existing disabilities and can can live on a third of the money you needed before. Poverty — when you are 65 or older — is set to levels so low you couldn’t afford a refrigerator crate.

All of this occurred right after the second anniversary of the two tumors which cost me both breasts, at which point I discovered I needed major heart repair. Without MassHealth, I needed a new medical plan and had switched to a Medicare HMO. At the time, there was only one in Worcester County. Fallon was (and remains) awful with practically no oncologists and they didn’t include the only dedicated cancer facility in central Massachusetts.

So, for a year, under Fallon, I didn’t see an oncologist. I made appointments, but they were consistently cancelled because the guy had meetings. Not emergencies. Meetings. By the end of 2013, facing heart surgery and needing a real oncologist, I switched to one of Blue Cross’s Medicare PPO Advantage plans. Simultaneously, Partners Group, the umbrella organization for all the doctors I’d been using withdrew from the Medicare and MassHealth HMO programs. Partners Group chose to not serve the old and poor. Not profitable.

At the beginning of 2013, I had no doctors. My PCP, gastroenterologist, psychiatrist … my entire support network … dissolved. In theory, I could continue to go to them. It was, after all a PPO … but it turns out just because you can go to a doctor doesn’t mean your insurance will pay the bills.

I needed new doctors and I don’t have them.

I’ve had four different kinds of heart surgery and I don’t have a cardiologist. No one is monitoring my blood pressure or medications.

Essentially, I’ve got no medical services. I’m taking the medications I was taking before surgery because I don’t know what else to do. I’m doing my best to hook up with doctors, but I’m in limbo and have been since before the surgery.

I’m angry. I’m trying hard to stay calm, but inside, I’m terribly angry. I’m getting the message loud and clear.

“Why don’t you just die already? Stop using up valuable resources we could use for younger people who deserve to live.”

I’ve outlived my usefulness. So how come I’m not dead yet?

When did we become this mean-spirited country with medical organizations which would rather close down than provide care to most vulnerable citizens? How did we come to this? Who are we?

I know. I get it. Just die already.

49 thoughts on “WHY AREN’T YOU DEAD YET?

  1. I don’t want to stick my nose in where it’s not wanted, being an outsider and all, but I can’t stop thinking about your story, and Cee’s, and no doubt millions of others, There you are, intelligent, hard-working people in the world’s most powerful, advanced and influential country to which you have paid your taxes for a lifetime, condemned to third-world health care because you had the temerity to get old. You can’t make waves: zero might be reduced to minus. So what about this for a thought.

    One thing outsiders know about the US is that they don’t like other countries criticising their domestic policies. (Funny, that!) They like it even less when their ‘democracy’ is shown to be less perfect than they’d have us believe. And as for suggesting the American Dream is a fantasy – the the poor and discounted aren’t necessarily poor and discounted because they’re no-hopers – that is absolute anathema.

    Garry is a highly respected journalist who I’m sure still has overseas contacts. What about a series of articles (The Guardian, say?) to draw outside attention to the realities of US health care on a personal level. I was disgusted when Obama’s health care reforms were shot down, but I’m shocked and outraged by a personal insight into what this means to you.

    Just a thought…

    Like

    • It’s a good idea … Garry will read this and think on it. He takes this sort of thing very seriously.

      In all the years America has been a nation, the only president who managed to get any significant legislation through were Lyndon Johnson and Obama. FDR tried and failed as did Clinton. We still don’t know how or if Obama’s bill will affect health care. Millions of people signed on … but it hasn’t had time to shake out the wrinkles.

      I’ve been saying for more than 40 years that our system stinks. It’s NOT a system. It’s just a disaster.

      Like

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