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Patients Should Assign the Risk Where It Belongs

It's time, fellow patients, that we put the legal responsibility for what is being done to us where it belongs. In the stack of forms signed when we seek healthcare anywhere in our current healthcare system, we sign all sorts of forms giving consent for treatment and billing, agreeing to the assignment of insurance benefits and payment, and assumption of the financial and physical risks of seeking care.

Every single form patients sign protects someone else in the system - none of the forms are designed in any way to protect our health and well-being and certainly not our financial status. We sit, sometimes in a state of physical and mental duress, and sign away rights with every single signature.

As we listen to this crafting of "insurance reform" and healthcare reform on a national level, we patients need to be smart and extremely protective of our own personal status, as it is clear that no one else is prepared to do so for us.

I am but one patient, and I am on day 11 of my own post in-patient hospitalization denials of medication and follow-up care recommended during my stay. My insurance neither protects my health nor my financial well-being - and I know so well that I am one of millions of people who try to maneuver a system hostile to my best interests. As consumers, we are disadvantaged so drastically that unless we begin putting these other interests on notice, we can expect more abuse and damage, not less.

This Congress and this President do not intend to protect us any time soon from the defective product that is for-profit, health insurance or from the personal legal risk we are asked to exclusively assume when we seek medical care in this nation.

My insurance company started by denying the medication I tried to pick up at the pharmacy on the way home from my in-patient hospital stay and now is actively blocking the follow-up screenings recommended by the hospital physicians. I thought asking to get these tests done on an out-patient basis would be a responsible way to do this and would allow me to keep up an active work schedule while going through the process. Briefly, I am a cancer survivor with an aneurysm in my thoracic aorta (the main blood vessel between my heart and lungs) that needs appropriate evaluation and some anemia that needs some diagnostic investigation. These issues are troubling to me, and I don't feel as well as I would like. But I cannot get care right now.

So, I am putting the insurance company and providers on notice that I hold them all responsible for the delay. If something dire happens, I am not the one at fault as I am being responsible in seeking appropriate care, carrying insurance and expecting these actions to result in something very different from what is happening now.

The legal definition of a defective product is: "A product is in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user, when it has a propensity or tendency for causing physical harm beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary user, having ordinary knowledge of the product's characteristics commonly known to the foreseeable class of persons who would normally use the product."

Part of the legal definition of health insurance is: "Protection against loss by sickness or bodily injury, in which sense it is synonymous with accident and health, accident and sickness, accident, or disability income insurance."

Interesting, eh?

As far as I am concerned, waiting for some half-baked health insurance regulation or reform to kick in sometime in 2013 is insufficient in the face of the direct assault on my personal security - both my physical and financial health.

I would like to see a Medicare for All system to blow up this whole reform mess for those who continue to abuse my rights and do so knowingly and at my peril - not their own. But I suspect we'll see something very different from the wealthy folks who sit in Congress and the President who isn't yet internalizing the risk at which he is leaving his nations' citizens.

So, for now, I will personally notice them. In writing. I purchase health insurance. I try to be responsible seeking care. And when I am denied and delayed as I am now, the risk of those failures to provide service and care will now be placed directly where the risk belongs - on the insurance companies and the providers who are complicit.

And should the worst happen to any one of us - if we should die because we are denied or delayed - we must leave with our loved ones a trail of legally enforcement communications if we are ever to truly challenge and change this awful system. The loss of our own humanity is apparently not enough to compel our leaders yet.

If our lawmakers will not make laws that protect patients, we must take matters into our own hands and create and enforce accountability. It's time. It's past time. Until we have a just healthcare system, we simply cannot just grovel for care and beg for payment plans and the like when our insurance leaves us bare for financial trauma. This has been a one-sided and abusive business arrangement so far, and we need to protect ourselves.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith Donna Smith is the national chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign for Progressive Democrats of America.  She was featured in Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, SiCKO.

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