Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bad Post

February 10, 2009

So, it's been a few weeks since I blogged. I apologize for my absence. My goal to blog twice a week has turned into once a week. Unfortunately, I haven't even kept that commitment. I've been focused on work and retaining my job in this ludicrously harsh economy. You see, the salary is nice and necessary but the health insurance is essential. Without health insurance, I would be completely broke within a few months.

Let me dimensionalize this for you. Life sustaining dialysis costs over $10K a week and in the past year, I've rolled up about $800K in medical costs when you include surgeries and hospitalizations. Most dialysis patients average two hospitalizations every year. So, this is pretty common for my situation and for the foreseeable future. When you routinely rip open bills that have a $60K bottom line that say "not covered," well...you shit yourself. Then you spend hours on the phone with your insurance company who routinely tests your mettle and will to live with a ticker tape parade's worth of bureaucratic paperwork. It's a freaking part time job keeping them paying, getting approval for meds, etc.

Here's the secret. Insurance companies don't make it easy for you, not because they're grossly incompetent, as is the widely held view. No, it is because they would prefer that you die. At a minimum, they want you to give up trying to get them to reimburse. At best, they want to pass the expense along to someone else, preferably the government, your employer, the doctor, the medical facility, and especially you. Why aren't health insurance companies more efficient? Because there is no monetary incentive in it. There's no profit in streamlining the process. Make no mistake, the vast majority of health insurance companies are profitable.

Why do I tell you this? Why tell you that I'm working for the health insurance, how I'd be completely screwed without it, and then bash it like an electronics store window in a riot? It's simple; the system is broken and must change to benefit ALL of us. I don't like being a drain on the medical system and the economy, but I know something you most likely don't. It's only a matter of time and circumstance before you end up in my shoes, or worse, in some uninsured person's shoes. It's a part of the human condition, living a mortal life. Despite what you tell yourself, you will grow old (if you’re lucky), suffer an unspecified amount and die. It's all much closer than you think.

I urge you to hold President Obama and your local senators and representatives accountable for their campaign promises. The medical system must change. Your life and dignity depend on it.

Good Post

February 10, 2009

It was my birthday last Friday. I’ve never been a big birthday celebrator. I know some folks revel in the attention and turn their birthdays into weeklong celebrations. However, I never enjoyed the attention. That’s odd, isn’t it? This comes from a guy who devoted twelve years of his life to acting. Everyone knows actors are yin-yang swirls of raw, untenderized insecurity and mammoth delusional ego. The only way I can explain this contradiction is that the attention I received as an actor was always for playing a role or inhabiting a character. I’m actually fairly shy in my Jon persona. Every year on my birthday, I slink into the background and pretend it is like any other day until the queasiness passes.

However, this year was different. This birthday had the effervescence and sweetness of warm spun cotton candy. What changed? Friends, there were a couple of times last year when it wasn’t a gimmie that I’d have another birthday. Sheesh, that sounds melodramatic, doesn’t it? The truth is I spent a fair amount of time in the hospital. Between dealing with kidney failure and then later discovering a giant blood clot that spanned from my right jugular to my elbow, there were a couple of times...let’s just say it was more serious than my wife and I let on to friends and family. It’s such a cliché, but there’s nothing like a little glimpse into the abyss to make you appreciate life. So, I’m very happy to celebrate a birthday and grow older. It feels damn good.