[cancer] HCR, one conservative and me

Had a very revealing chat with a conservative friend today. We’ve known each other for over ten years. He’s a very nice guy, classic Midwestern conservative in his politics, about which we occasionally trade friendly jabs.

On the back of another call he asked how chemo was going. We talked about that, and I mentioned the problems with the HCR bill, commented that the possibility of not overturning lifetime coverage and pre-existing condition limits were alarming to me.

He complained that there was nothing in the Constitution about a right to healthcare, and he was sick of liberals redistributing wealth. The metaphor he used for publicly-financed healthcare was sick people walking down the street asking everybody to pay $20 for their treatment, and why should he have to do that?

I pointed out that one of the purposes of government is to maintain the commons, that he never gets back the portion of his taxes that go to bridges or fire prevention, either. In a society as wealthy as ours, in my opinion, healthcare should be a right. We can afford it.

He said, fine, don’t take it out of my pocket. I told him that by the time I’m done with chemo, my treatments will have cost the insurance carrier about $350,000 over the past 26 months, and me about $15,000 in both out of pocket and indirect costs. That if I’d had to bear the $350,000 myself, I’d be dead now. And how is a profit-based insurance system ever going to be incentivized to pay that kind of money for me, except by Federal mandate?

He told me it was the principle of thing, that he just didn’t want to see wealth redistributed so freely. I told him I wasn’t willing to die for that principle of his, and if he got sick like I am, he wouldn’t be either. And that this could happen to anyone, it wasn’t ideological or behavioral, it was life. He reluctantly acknowledged I had a point.

I don’t think for a moment I changed his position on this. But that is what calls a “pain story,” and maybe I helped him see my perspective a little better with my pain story.

The thing that baffles me about so many of my conservative friends is that they hold high-minded beliefs with horrid, even deadly consequences. They tend to be so deeply unwilling to acknowledge the consequences of their own beliefs. This once, I got a conservative friend to acknowledge for a moment the true human cost, to someone he cares about, of one of those high-minded beliefs.

I won’t call it a win, but I will call it progress.

9 thoughts on “[cancer] HCR, one conservative and me

  1. Rick Klaw says:

    Your friend said: “there was nothing in the Constitution about a right to healthcare”

    I’ve heard that bogus argument before. The Constitution is a living document and was written to allow changes and additions. Otherwise, African-Americans would still only be 2/3 of a person, basically only landowning white men could vote, slavery would still be legal, and the state legislators would determine our national Senators.

    On top of that, the preamble of the Constitution states:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    If proper health care for all doesn’t “promote the general Welfare,” I’m not sure what does.

    As a person with two chronic, incurable life altering conditions (multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia), I live with much the same fears that you do. My main MS drug costs $8,000/month and one others comes to $12/pill, which I take twice a daily. That doesn’t figure in several other drugs, doctor visits, and other misc expenses. Not too mention that my ms-related health issues have severely curtailed my ability to make money. As you said, if it wasn’t for the Federal mandate, there would be no way I could afford any of the healthcare I need and there is no doubt that I would be in much worse shape than I am now.

    I spend way too much worrying that the time will come when due to financial restraints, that I won’t have access to adequate healthcare.

  2. Patrick Kennedy says:

    So, about this: “The metaphor he used for publicly-financed healthcare was sick people walking down the street asking everybody to pay $20 for their treatment, and why should he have to do that?”

    The thing is, that is EXACTLY what insurance does. It redistributes the massive loss on an individual by offsetting it with payments from all other members of the group, plus a little more for the insurer’s effort. And when there is a profit motive involved, that “little more” grows as the insurer seeks higher and higher profits, as is the natural (and some would say only valid) aim of the for-profit body.

  3. Jan says:

    I live in Canada and I am thankful for health insurance. Yes we pay monthly, if we can afford it, if we can’t you are still covered.

    I had cancer – I had surgery. I am lucky so far I do not need any other treatment but I will not know for sure until I reach 5 years. If I need treatment(s) in the 5 year time span I will be covered for ‘basic’ treatment as you are going though Jay.

    I cannot believe that a country that is our neighbour is fighting to not help those in need of health care. I cannot believe that people are not prepared to pay a few extra dollars on their taxes to help those that need it the most. You do it for other countries that are in need – why not your own.

    I know Michael Moore is not popular but he has it right – look to the north (Canada). We may not have it perfect (eye and dental are not covered, or special medical treatments) but at least our poor are covered by health care.

    I could say more but I just want Jay to know I am with you


    p.s. forgive spelling and grammar – this is a heated debate to me.

  4. Fred says:

    One point that is being overlooked is the “big pharma” companies! They are the ones profiting from all of the diseases out there. And do they offer cures? No! They offer treatment for the symptoms only. That way they got you hooked into buying their prescriptions for a long time. I mean really, $8,000.00 a month for medicine? What kind of a socialistic, money grabbing, piece of garbage company would charge that kind of money, and not even offer a cure? I am not blaming the gentleman for this, I am blaming the big pharma companies! They make all their money off the aches and pains of others without really helping them get better. There are cures out there that we are not being told about. As far as the HCB? Let’s form those death panels now! If you’re too old, or what they consider too sick, you won’t get treated! Look it up! Those provisions are in there! Who are they to tell us we’re too old or too sick? Not them! One thing we do need is Less government, not more! There is too much government involved in too many things as it is now! We do need to go back and follow the Constitution more closely! Lot of good things in that “ol’ piece of paper!” Lots of people died over 200 years ago for it. Wonder why? Just some things to think about.
    Hi Jay! Hope all is going well for you!

  5. Well, the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, non-establishment of official religion, right to bear arms, rights against illegal search and seizure, etc are also not in the Constitution. They are in the Bill of Rights, which are amendments to the Constitution.

    And what Rick said about the preamble.

    And frankly, he’s already paying for it. But right now it’s hidden through taxes that go into the general fund, and then allocated as bulk payments to hospitals to help them cover charity cases. But I’m sure he also feels he’s already being overtaxed and those payments should cease as well. He’s also paying for it through increase insurance premiums to cover inflated charges (to some extent, to others the insurance companies haven’t renegotiated “fair and reasonable” for over ten years) that also help cover the cost of charity care.

  6. Jaws says:

    Let’s not forget the free-rider problem, too; ask someone who doesn’t view healthcare as a public good/necessity how he/she likes the idea of working right next to people with TB, or who are carriers of any of a variety of other infectious diseases (e.g., typhoid, Ebola).

  7. Meran says:

    Oh. Man. This can of worms.
    The Medical Industry… When I asked my doc when she was retiring (she’s barely 40 but almost has 20 yrs in) said “if this health bill passes, not very soon”… In other words, in the present system she’s doing very well. Since my copay is $20, she’s paid $230/hr from my insurance. Plus whatever she gets monthly when I don’t go in.
    We were supposed to get an OVERHAUL of the system, not something else to cripple the existing crappy one.
    I, too, have FMS; in addition (or in otherwords) I have tertiary Addisons… (btw, Oregon docs don’t recognize “tertiary”- they wait till those adrenals are ~failed) I’ve cut my own meds down to one- too many side effects from the opinions of docs/meds (quote: “don’t ask me to not prescribe drugs.. I’m a dr, that’s what I DO”).. I’m better for it now. However, the one I’ve kept, tho I’m able to function on it best, makes most docs squirm.
    I can understand someone not wanting to give their $20; however, if it came down to that person paying their own med coverage, they’d be asking ME, and dumb liberal that I am, I’d still give it.

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