Category Archives: healthcare

Two Americas, Addict/New Mom Edition

Two Americas. In one America, we arrest new mothers whose newborns test positive for drugs and charge them with assault (even though in this case, the drug our new mother used is not covered under the law through which she was charged. Weird, that.)

In another America, affluent moms hire “sobriety coaches” to help them stay clean and sober:

Once consigned to Hollywood entourages to keep celebrities on the straight and narrow (and out of rehab), sobriety coaches, also known as sober companions and recovery therapists, are being hired by well-heeled mothers from the Upper East Side to the beachfront homes of Boca Raton, Fla.

Blame the rigors of being an urban mother. “Raising kids is stressful to begin with,” said Mary Karr, the best-selling writer who lives in Greenwich Village, who related her grueling recovery in her 2009 memoir “Lit: A Memoir.” “The new supermoms have to be thin and rich and successful, so there’s all this extra stress,” she said. “It’s loathsome.”

“Addiction is a disease of isolation,” added Ms. Karr, 59, who has a 28-year-old son (she starts “Lit” with an open letter to him). “I would have loved to have someone come over and help me not get drunk.”

It’s not just the extra glasses of pinot or rosé. Cosmopolitan mothers these days are also reaching for Adderall (the multitasker’s best friend), Percocet (the antidote to the taxing trifecta of marriage, children and career) and Ambien (that bedtime staple), not to mention a cocktail of other drugs that high-strung mothers also have at their disposal.

And by the time these mothers realize they need help, they don’t exactly have the time or wherewithal to check into rehab or attend 12-step meetings. In addition, they want more privacy, the better to avoid the judgment and stigma that mothers with addiction face.

It is worth noting that the story of Mallory Loyola appeared in the news section of TV station WBIR. Mary Karr’s story appeared in the “Fashion & Style” section of the Sunday New York Times.

In one America an addicted mom is arrested and charged with assault, held on $2,000 bond, with her picture plastered all over the news. In another America well-heeled moms who “don’t have time” for rehab and 12-step meetings and need to avoid the stigma of drug addiction to preserve their social status hire “sobriety coaches” to hold their hands and tell them it’s okay to be stressed-out about having to be thin and beautiful. Such an impossible standard, who can blame them for reaching for the Percocet now and then? Poor things.

I honestly do not want to hear from another one of these Special Snowflakes who melt under the stress of their privileged lives. If Mallory Loyola has to have her face plastered across the news and now has a criminal record and is charged with assault, then so should Tamara Mellon, Mary Karr, “Jeanne” the anonymous Fortune 500 marketing exec, and all the rest. Alternately, if Jeanne et. al. get the compassion, understanding and personal attention that comes from hiring a coach, then why shouldn’t Mallory Loyola?

Says “Jeanne The Fortune 500 marketing exec”:

“I was my daughter’s age when my dad came out as an alcoholic,” said Jeanne, a marketing executive, who spent her youth going to Alateen, an offshoot of A.A. meetings for teenage family members. “I never thought that would be me,” she said. Rehab was not a viable option. “What working mom can be away for 30 to 60 days?” she added. “And how would I explain it?”

So she hired Natasha Silver Bell, 38, a sobriety coach on the Upper East Side, who is a divorced mother and former addict. Jeanne has been seeing Ms. Silver Bell once a week for the last four months, paying roughly $2o0 for an hour sit-down session, which also grants calling or texting privileges. “I liked that I could do it without disrupting my schedule,” Jeanne said.

And yet, we expect the Mallory Loyolas of the country to make time for it, explain it, etc., nor do we afford them the anonymity and privacy that Jeanne so cherishes.

Forgive me if this injustice rubs me the wrong way.

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Filed under healthcare, Tennessee

Your State Under Republican Rule

Hey, Gov. Bill Haslam: you might want to rethink that whole “we can’t afford the virtually free Medicaid expansion” deal the Feds are offering:

Crews were called to the Advance Auto Parts on Nolensville Pike after the robbery occurred around 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a release from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

With a black mask concealing his face and a semiautomatic pistol in hand, he demanded money from a cash register. He allegedly repeatedly told the clerk “my girl’s got cancer, I need this money,” police said.

After the cashier complied, police said, the suspect fled on foot near the Full Gospel Mission Church.

I swear to God, Republicans have no clue how to run a government. On the other hand, I guess they’re wishing/hoping that cashier had been armed so he could “stand his ground” and shoot and kill the guy. Problem solved!

Republicans don’t care about people, plain and simple. They don’t care about black people, poor people, sick people, or anyone who’s either not a fetus or or a person of the “corporate” person.

Looks like it’s time for me to amend my “Top Signs Your Healthcare System Is Broken” list and add #6: when people rob you at gunpoint to pay for their girl’s cancer treatment.

I’m sick to death of Republicans driving people to desperation because they’ve never had to wonder where their next meal is coming from and assume everyone who does is just lazy. Fucking fuckers.

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Filed under healthcare, Nashville, Republican Party, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Religion Is Dead

That will be the upshot of today’s completely outrageous Hobby Lobby ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court has effectively killed religion.

I know, it looks the opposite, but what have I said here a gazillion, bajillion times, folks? When religion gets forced on people by government or corporations, religion always dies. People don’t want this shit foisted on them. As I’ve said a thousand times before, the surest way to kill off religious belief is to declare a “state religion.” The bigger religion’s role in the secular aspects of life, the more people run away from it.

And in this ruling SCOTUS said some corporations can impose the beliefs of some religions on some employees, effectively legalizing discrimination against women and certain religions. If you’re a company owned by Jehova’s Witnesses, sorry, you have to pay for blood transfusions. No out for Scientologists who object to psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. Christian Scientists who don’t believe in most healthcare at all still have to pony up. But if you’re a Christian fundiegelical who believes completely erroneously and incorrectly that IUDs cause abortions — even though they don’t! — you can refuse to offer a healthcare plan covering that form of birth control to your female employees. That’s what SCOTUS just ruled.

The debate wasn’t even really about the Hobby Lobby peoples’ religious beliefs, it was about their completely erroneous, counter-factual scientific beliefs cloaked in religion:

Hobby Lobby already covered 16 of the 20 methods of contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t cover Plan B One-Step, ella (another brand of emergency contraception) and two forms of intrauterine devices because of aforementioned ideologically driven and not medically based ideas about abortion.

“These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation,” Dr. Petra Casey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times in a piece on the science behind emergency contraception. “They don’t act after fertilization.” As the Times noted, emergency contraception like Plan B, ella and the hormonal IUD do not work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb. Instead, these methods of birth control delay ovulation 0r thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, meaning that fertilization never even occurs. That said, when used as a form of emergency contraception, the copper IUD can interrupt implantation, but this still does not mean a pregnancy has occurred.

This ruling was stunningly ham-fisted on so many levels. In a nutshell, in “going narrow” SCOTUS picked a religion — the fundiegelical Christian kind — over the rights of female employees who may not be of that religion, and also over the rights of every other religion out there. This is going to have repercussions, people — and not good ones for the religious folks. It’s gonna get messy, and I think it’s gonna smack religious people on the ass so hard they won’t sit for a month. Stories like this one are going to ripple across the workplace in every state. It’s a ruling that basically legalized gender discrimination and religious discrimination. When it all shakes down it’s not going to be pretty for the people currently doing a happy dance.

In the meantime, folks calling for a Constitutional Convention to repeal corporate personhood just got a little more ammo.

[UPDATE]: ThinkProgress agrees with me.

[UPDATE] 2: Charlie Pierce at Esquire also agrees with me. SCOTUS just perpetrated an act of religious discrimination while professing to do the opposite. WTF is up with that, people?

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Filed under birth control, corporations, healthcare, religious fundamentalism, religious right, Supreme Court, women's rights

Those Who Do Not Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

This is what happens when you restrict women’s access to abortion services:

As policies restricting access to abortion roll out in Texas and elsewhere, the use of miso is quickly becoming a part of this country’s story. It has already made its way into the black market here in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, where abortion restrictions are tightening, and it is likely to continue its trajectory if anti-abortion legislation does not ease up and clinics continue to be closed.

The Texas law which sparked Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster has already shuttered 12 of the state’s 40 abortion clinics, and counting. It was predicted that the law would keep 23,000 Texas women — one third of those who seek them — from getting abortions. Meanwhile,

Many of these women can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, where the admitting privileges provision forced both of the county’s abortion clinics to shut down. Now, the closest clinic for the region’s one-million-plus residents is 150 miles away. For many poor, uninsured South Texas women, that distance is beyond feasible. Few have access to a set of wheels for the long haul, and others lack the right paperwork to cross immigration checkpoints on highways that run through the state.

Meanwhile, the flea market is close to most people living in the Valley, and the massive Alamo pulga looks like just the kind of place to pick up miso. According to several of my local sources, the drug is sold here and it’s not difficult to get—you just need to know who to approach and what to ask for.

God, stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Like we don’t already know that women will do anything to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Like we don’t have a gruesome history of coat hangers, knitting needles, women throwing themselves down stairs, etc. etc. etc. Jesus, but pro-lifers are stupid. Closing a Planned Parenthood clinic doesn’t stop abortion. It stops safe, legal, clean, compassionate abortion care. It makes women criminals for doing what the Supreme Court has said is legal.

Meanwhile, forcing women to seek out black market medication for a perfectly legal procedure puts vulnerable, poor women at risk:

One woman I interviewed at a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville told me her good friend nearly died after taking pills that her husband bought in Mexico. Instead of ingesting four of the 12 pills every three hours, as is recommended by the World Health Organization, she took two pills under her tongue, then four pills vaginally, then two more under her tongue, then four more vaginally. She began to bleed profusely, doubled over in pain. But because she was undocumented, she was afraid to seek medical help at a nearby hospital or clinic. Instead, she crossed the border to Mexico with her five children—all the while hemorrhaging—in search of medical assistance. She has since recovered but is still in Mexico with her children because she can’t cross the border back into the United States.

Women will always find a way. Always. It doesn’t matter what the law says, desperate people will go to any lengths to get what they need. This is something we women know deep in our bones, because pregnancy is something that affects our bodies and our lives, while for men it’s a mere abstract concept. Men don’t get it, they will never get it because it’s not the same issue for them.

The fetus-fetish crowd are true monsters.

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Filed under abortion, healthcare, women's rights

Is This A New Healthcare Scam Or What?

As you may recall, I recently went for my annual mammogram, which was quite an adventure. But now, dear friends, the adventure continues!

We’ve got really good insurance from BlueCross/BlueShield, so my annual exams of this type have always been covered 100%. But this time, for the first time ever, the hospital’s billing office called me prior to my appointment to “pre-check me in,” and also to let me know the cost would be “around $150.” I let them know my insurance has always paid for this in full and asked if they were sure about the charge? The woman on the phone sounded unconcerned, like this is something they routinely tell people without checking what their insurance plans call for, just a heads’ up of what they might need to expect. Or not, as the case may be.

I found that totally weird. If I hadn’t been doing this every year for a while and knew I was never charged, I might be a little freaked out. I’d especially be panicked if $150 was a make-or-break amount of money for my monthly budget, which it easily can be for a lot of folks. Especially the kinds of people not accustomed to shelling out large amounts of money on regular health services like mammograms. For example, people new to the healthcare market, thanks to Obamacare. Just sayin’.

As it happens, I get my mammogram and there’s no charge, as usual. The office said they’d file with insurance, as usual.

So imagine my surprise when about 4 days later I get a bill from the hospital! Again: this has never happened before! I assumed it was a bill I could ignore because BlueCross/BlueShield typically takes months to process claims. But the bill showed a discounted amount of around $143, and I’d had that phone call saying I should expect to pay around $150 … so I was a little confused. Again: if I hadn’t done this before and known not to be worried, I’d be in a panic.

So I called the hospital’s billing office and asked WTF is this thing I got in the mail. And get this: she says, “Oh, we just send that out in case you want to pay it. You don’t have to, but if you want to.”

Whaaaa…???

I asked her to clarify what she meant. “You mean, pay it and then have you pay me back when the insurance company pays?” Yes. That is what she meant. If I wanted to. But I didn’t have to.

People, I ask you: who the fuck would want to do that?

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that this service was performed at the for-profit HCA (now TriStar) hospital in Nashville, Centennial. And I just have to wonder again if this isn’t some kind of scam they’re running trying to get money out of people who are new to dealing with hospital billing departments and insurance, now that ObamaCare has brought thousands of newbies into the system.

It just seems a little sleazy to me. I absolutely would not be surprised to learn that staff at Centennial are given a bonus for every “early payment” they coerce out of patients.

Meanwhile, BlueCross/BlueShield has started sending me a stupid newsletter it calls “Healthy Options,” filled with recipes and coupons for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, Minute Maid Light Lemonade and other crap made out of toxic waste I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork. I don’t know when my health insurance company got into bed with ConAgra, ADM and the rest of our Big Food Overlords but I find this an ominous sign and I’m pretty sure it can’t be good for anyone. I just really don’t want to be marketed to by these people. Seems like there might be something better to do with that money.

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Filed under HCA, health insurance, healthcare, Nashville

“She Didn’t Ask”

Tennessee Gov. Haslam, who refuses to expand the state’s Medicaid program, preferring to let the state’s poor get sick and die (I suppose), while also claiming to have some kind of super-secret non-existent Tennessee plan that he’s supposedly “negotiating” (wink wink), and who recently was in the news asking HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “to come up with a proposal that would give Tennessee more flexibility to expand Medicaid coverage,” could have asked Sebelius for an update on said plan today. Because today, Secretary Sebelius was in Nashville urging people to sign up for ObamaCare:

Sebelius was joined by Amy Speace, a 46-year-old singer-songwriter who was able to find insurance on the exchange for $30 a month with a $500 deductible, thanks to a tax credit. Speace said she did not at first think she would be eligible for insurance on the exchange because she already was covered by a high deductible plan through a musicians group. Despite that coverage, she nearly had to declare bankruptcy a few years ago when she developed laryngitis and ended up owing $5,000 in medical bills. She was only saved from bankruptcy by the help of a charity.

So, did Gov. Haslam meet with Sebelius for an update on that counterproposal? What do you think?

The governor told a reporter that he had no plans to meet with Sebelius when she came through Nashville on Thursday.

“She didn’t ask,” Haslam said.

I guess he just doesn’t give a shit.

Every day thousands of Tennesseans who lack health insurance face bankruptcy and worse. Gov. Haslam certainly doesn’t seem unduly concerned about those folks.

Good to know.

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Filed under Gov. Bill Haslam, health insurance, healthcare, Nashville, Obamacare

Best Healthcare In The World, V. Eleventybillion

Have you seen this video making the rounds?

When it comes to wait times for healthcare, I would just like to point out that not only is it correct that until Obamacare, millions of Americans died or sickened because they couldn’t get insurance and access the best healthcare system in the world, but also even ordinary, well-insured people such as myself have to deal with wait times. For example, today I called my doctor and was told her next appointment was at the end of May, over two months away. However, if I want to see her daughter, who is not a doctor but a nurse practitioner, I can get an appointment in April. That’s still a few weeks but it’s not a few months.

Let me remind everyone what happened last time I had to go to the doctor (and yes, I’m starting to think she’s avoiding me, foisting me off on her non-doctor daughter.)

Our system is not wonderful. Anyone who uses it knows that. My insurance company is now sending me quarterly marketing materials that look like warmed-over Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire magazine articles, reminding me to eat my vegetables and to exercise and get enough sleep. They even include recipes, as if the internet hasn’t been invented and I can’t find a damn recipe on my own.

This is what BlueCross BlueShield is spending its money on. But I don’t need that. I already know that stuff. I’d really prefer they stop with the patronizing PR/marketing bullshit. Let me be clear: the absolute last thing I want is a “relationship” with my insurance company. What I really want is for them to just basically do their jobs and otherwise leave me the fuck alone. That shouldn’t be too hard.

19 Comments

Filed under healthcare