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Boo! Happy Halloween from Our Frightening Healthcare System

(Photo: William Warby/flickr/cc)

The mail and the telephone are bringing some pretty scary things these days, so Halloween seems the appropriate day to look at what scares me and millions of other Americans on private health insurance.  While some may think Tuesday's elections are the most frightening, many believe that our healthcare system presents much scarier scenarios for our lives.  And the Republicans and Democrats are just about equal in their disregard for that.

Trick or treat!

First, there was the notice insurers are required to send letting those of us who purchase coverage on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchanges to inform us of changes in premiums or benefits we can expect in 2015.  If I stay with my same Kaiser plan, I will have co-pays that are a bit higher and that will apply to more services.

Then, came the notice about Kaiser (below) needing to catch up on premiums for the year since last year's mess in terms of the Connect for Health Colorado exchange getting information to Kaiser about premiums collected and folks who signed up was flubbed, and now Kaiser needs to make sure they've collected all the premiums due for the full 12 months of 2014.  I don't begrudge them doing that but the timing is really, really lousy for working class families -- one week after Christmas.  For us, it may as well be $10,000 as $912.  It is going to be tough.

kaiser_bill.jpgThe third mail notice was from Kaiser urging those receiving any federal subsidies to make sure they have the right income verification information ready to confirm what has been paid in 2014 and what we might qualify for in 2015.  I'd love to do that, but when I went to the Connect for Health Colorado website, they asked me to come back on November 15th when open enrollment begins -- Kaiser's notice urges me to do so earlier.  Sorry, I cannot.

So, yes, I admit it, I am scared.  After last year's experience with the state exchange and trying to find coverage I could afford that would protect me, I am worried about the sign up process and if I will be required to pay a third premium in December somehow or if the subsidy process will be screwed up of if some other notice will come between now and then.  I ended up woefully under-insured even after trying hard to fit the best plan we could afford (it made me a silver person).


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I've wondered if I should just skip it all and try to go without coverage.  Those around me get angry with me when I even suggest that.  Maybe I'll have to be a bronze person in 2015, and if that's the case, I may as well go without coverage.  I owe thousands today that I didn't owe last year at this time, and the providers are starting to turn things over to collection agencies if I cannot pay enough to keep them content.  And that happened while I was on a silver plan.  I beg people for money to help me pay off those bills, and when friends of family donate I feel guilty, awful and grateful at the same time.

Am I worth it?  Are you worth it?  Does every life matter?  Or do some lives matter more than others under our current health care system?  We all know the answers to those questions, so don't pretend.  we live in a society in which we have decided over and over again that some lives are more important than others and that we are willing to kill to keep it that way.

If we really care about this issue, we all must get scared enough to change this mess.  And too many of us just want to be right and to protect our own turf while we ignore the fear and the suffering happening around us and in our own homes.  You know what I hate most about all of this?  I am back to waking up every morning worrying about health care bills and money and how to earn more money.  And if I am doing that, so too are millions of other people all over the country.  It's no fun to do that if you are sick.

And we are doing so because there isn't the political will or the moral outrage strong enough to change this system to an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system.  Folks will say I need to prescribe a course of action to make that happen.  I agree.  So, stand up, write about it, talk support single-payer reform work with your money and time, demand that politicians take responsibility for their failure on the issue (run for office yourself, if needed), show compassion for those suffering under the current system, talk openly and honestly about how you are being "handled" as a customer and not a patient, and get your facts ready to confront those who think all is well.

Happy Halloween.  And don't worry, being an American and trying to live under a system that doesn't much care if we live or die is plenty scary.  Monsters are under the bed and on the phone and in the hospitals and in the envelopes in our mailboxes.  Boo!

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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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