Healthcare: For Profit Or For All? Or “How My Insurance Company Tried To Kill My Wife”
I’ve been told the best way to write is to write about what you know. I’m not an expert in healthcare but any stretch of the imagination but I do know that for-profit healthcare cost me two children and almost my wife. That’s a pretty good place to start, don’t you think?
There’s not a whole lot of humor in this article, it’s really hard to be flippant about this sort of thing.
Back in 2005, a friend of mine asked me an incredibly odd question (for me, anyway). She and her partner wanted to know if I would be the father of their child. Up until this point I hadn’t even considered having children since I wasn’t sure I would be a good parent. Debbie, my significant other, hadn’t brought it up and seemed content to go without children. We were living together, unwed, and that was enough for us. I pondered it for a few weeks and decided, sure, I’d do it but I had to ask Debbie first and she had absolute veto power. To her credit, Debbie just blinked and said she’d think about it and we didn’t discuss it too much outside of the details for a week. To her further credit, she said “Yes, but I want one, too.”
I agreed on the spot and suggested that if we were going to have kids, we should probably get married first. Don’t get the wrong impression; I have nothing against unwed pregnancies. My oldest brother, most of my cousins and my oldest niece all resulted from unplanned, out of wedlock pregnancies. Did I mention I’m a Puerto Rican Jew (guess which side the pregnancies come from)? I regularly tease my fellow Hispanic coworkers about being unwed and knocking up their girlfriend before they were 18. I call them “statistics” and they call me “El Diablo Blanco” (that’s “The White Devil” for you gringos out there). I just figured if we were going to plan to have a child, we should be married.
Lest a conservative reader decide that this is proof that Hispanics are out of control baby factories, I feel the need to point out that they have been, in all my 20 odd years of retail experience, the hardest working people with the strongest work ethic I have ever seen. A few million more like that is only going to make the workforce stronger so let’s move on, shall we?
So Debbie got pregnant shortly after the wedding and we were all excited. Then she miscarried in the third month.
It wasn’t a quick miscarriage either; it was a slow deterioration over a few agonizing weeks. I’ve only cried three times in my adult life; when my mother died of lung cancer, when I had to put my dog of 15 years, Muffin, to sleep and a few days after the doctor confirmed that the baby wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t before that because Debbie needed me to be calm while her world fell apart.
I don’t blame my insurer for the miscarriage. These things happen. A lot, actually.
The doctors told us that the miscarriage would finish as a particularly heavy period (sort of). That didn’t turn out to be the case. Debbie hemorrhaged in the middle of the night. She woke up to a pool of blood between her legs. Fortunately, the sight of blood doesn’t faze me in the slightest for some reason. We bundled her up in towels and zipped off to the hospital where Debbie proceeded to sit in the waiting room for an hour until she starting getting dizzy from blood loss. After Debbie held up the giant pad they had given her to sit on, soaked in blood, the nurse’s eyes got real wide and they put her in a bed. They transfused a lot of blood and performed an emergency D&C on her. A D&C is essentially an abortion performed after the fetus is dead.
If she had stayed sleeping for another two hours or so, she wouldn’t have woken up at all.
That was August 8, 2006.
After she was given a clean bill of health a few weeks later, we tried again. We were less optimistic this time. We had asked the doctor if there were any tests he could run to determine what had happened in hopes of avoiding it again. There were but the insurer wouldn’t authorize them for a first miscarriage since they are so common. Not a single test? No. Nothing.
Undeterred, we got pregnant again. And the same thing happened. A slow deterioration over a few weeks and then silence. It was less painful this time only because we had held back in fear.
We planted a tree in the park near our house and had a plaque put in front of it. I could write for the rest of my life, win every literary award there is and I would still consider this my finest piece of work:
THIS loss I blame on my insurer. Now they authorized a battery of tests. They found the problem immediately. A simple blood test revealed that Debbie’s blood was slightly too thick to pass through the placental wall easily. The remedy? Take a baby aspirin everyday during the pregnancy.
That was it. Fucking baby aspirin.
To top it all off, our insurer initially refused to authorize a voluntary D&C. Too expensive. Since the second miscarriage followed, almost to the day, the same course as the first, there was every reason to suspect a second hemorrhage and yet, they were willing to take that risk. Maybe it would be OK this time. Or maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t wake up this time. We weren’t about to find out and we browbeat them into authorizing it.
That was December 12, 2006. Merry fucking Christmas.
In the meantime, the women who originally got this ball rolling had decided that maybe they should find another donor. They had been waiting for two years while we got married and went through the two miscarriages and they felt that pressuring us for their chance would be totally unacceptable. Debbie understood and so did I. But, on the other hand, I was devastated. It was as if I had lost a third child in the span of six months. I didn’t say anything to the women for a long time about it and when I did to one of them, the look of horror in her eyes told me it have never even occurred to her I would see it that way. There was really no reason she should have, of course. There’s empathy and then there’s mind reading. And I’m particularly difficult to read when I don’t want you to know what I’m thinking.
So there, two babies that I’ll never know and an attempt to risk my wife’s life. For a profit.
Sure the exact same thing could have, and probably would have, happened under a government run system. You know what though? I could live with it knowing that the money they “saved” would be used for a medical procedure for someone else. That’s not what happens now, though, is it? No. What happens now, is that health insurance providers try to save money at their
victims’customers’ expense to pay out enormous bonuses and profits to stockholders.
How, in a sane world, is that moral?
It’s not. It’s disgusting. I’d rather know that I was denied a treatment so the government could pay for a life saving procedure for someone else or to help as many as possible then know it was denied so someone could pocket the savings.
Every single dollar paid out in bonuses and to stockholders should have a note attached telling them who died so they could get that money. That money is drenched in blood as surely as the diamonds from Sierra Leone.
Post Script: We eventually had kids despite the setbacks. Jordan John Rosario, born 4/21/08 and Anastasia Janet Cassandra Rosario, born 2/12/10 and it was the best decision we ever made.