Friday, July 31, 2009

Reader from Canada: Health Care Story

Hi, Rosaria:

I've heard so much philosophical yattering about American health care reform, and how "BAD" Canadian health care is, that I decided to share a personal story. You're free to share this if you think it is useful.

At Christmas, I fell, hit my head, and suffered a concussion. My wife took me to one of the hospitals in our city. (In Canadian health care, the patient gets to choose the hospital where she or he receives care.)

Over the space of about six hours,
• I had an initial workup by an emergency physician, which included a number of tests.
• I had a much more detailed workup by a neurological resident.
• I had two CT scans -- a "regular" one, and one after having been injected with a dye, so the radiologist could get a better look at some things. (The radiologist concluded that I did not have a "Natasha Richardson experience," though that might have been the case.)
• Then a further workup with a very experienced neurologist -- who followed up with the resident on the resident's work, and the neurologist's work, and ultimately gave me some recommendations as to what I should do. NO, he didn't give me a prescription for pills.
• And the hospital even gave me a sandwich, apple sauce, and a drink for lunch (since I was there over lunch time).

All that, and I didn't pay one penny.

That is typical Canadian health care, as I have experienced it as a patient, and read about it. That is how it is supposed to work. Sometimes things don't go as planned, but that "difficulty" happens in American hospitals, too.

So, what was "BAD" about my experience in Canadian health care?



Thank you, Rob-bear, for sharing your life history with us.

An open letter to Congress from an Oregon Grandmother.

Dear Congressmen:

You are in Washington to speak for us. We want you to know that every word you speak against universal health care, every stand you take to change the conversation, to muddle the waters, to create theater, may be the difference between living and dying for many of us.

Life is already difficult for many seniors. I retired on the beautiful Southern Oregon Coast where there are no pharmacies, and we all must travel by car 28 miles to refill our prescriptions. During our wet, windy season, roads are often icy and interrupted by downed power lines and debris. In the last six years, two of our doctors retired or moved, and we had to go farther to find adequate care.

There are many towns without doctors, hospitals or pharmacies. This situation is difficult enough. When you add the cost of these services, and the cost of insurance, many people in rural and isolated areas are being ignored. The cost of doing nothing is a death sentence for many of us who cannot afford to move, who cannot afford the price of medicine, who cannot afford annual check-ups, who cannot afford hospitalization.

I'm beginning to tire of all the talk in Washington. An enormous amount of my fixed income pays my insurance premiums and covers prescription medications. How much of your income is dedicated to health care? Whom are you representing besides the interests of lobbyists that have bankrolled your election bid? I never expected, after a lifetime teaching children, that my health care in my golden years would swallow up my hard-earned pension.

What we need from Congress is a program like Medicare, for all citizens. How is it possible for Canada, England, France, Italy, to have universal health care? What do we have to do to keep our priorities straight? In the richest country in the world, people are bankrupted by their medical bills.

Insurance companies are providing nothing for free. Their bottom line is profit. Nobody is covered adequately. If we provide health coverage the way we provide education, police and city emergency services, we would have a healthier nation.

Regardless of your political affiliations, you have the responsibility to represent the wishes of the citizens you represent back home. Do you know how people suffer back in your district? When was the last time you discussed the cost of health care for average folks in your home district?

I hope you get to know who we are and what our stories are. I'm sure, with that knowledge, you would commit to solving the health care problem in America.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health Care: Who needs it?

I received the following email from Rob-Bear and wanted to share with you. Thank you Rob-Bear for taking the time to share with us. Lakeviewer

Hi, Rosaria:

Lorna at *Southern California Woman* (conservative Republican that she is) has posted an item on health care reform:

You might want to take a look at that video, and my extensive response (which I'll also include below as well).

Feel free to share my ideas. (Yeah, I know; damn these medical ethicists and their inconvenient truths.)

Best wishes,

aka Rob-bear


Lorna, you've given people a very interesting video, which raises a number of key questions.

1. The video makes a mistake at the beginning by saying there are no simple answers to the question "Why health care reform?" Because it answers its own question, which seems peculiar. The answer: there are 46 million Americans without health insurance. And lots of them (and others) die, because they cannot afford health care. That's the answer, and it is SIMPLE.

It is important to remember that the inability to pay medical bills is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy (by a wide margin) in the United States. One major illness, and you lose everything -- everything you've worked for over your lifetime. That's why ordinary Canadians demanded, and got, universal, single-payer health care insurance.

Because without that kind of insurance, the costs of treatment are beyond what most people can afford. And health care insurance, at $1,000 a month, is beyond what many people can afford.

Cost also means that many people, because they cannot afford care, put off seeing doctors. Often they wait so long that, by time they get to seeing a doctor, a small cancer has become untreatable, and they die. The video recognizes that, and I have already noted that.

It is also important to remember that a lot of your health care premium money goes into corporate profits and lobbying (i.e., buying) politicians. That is money not spent on caring for people.

But as long as the "profit motive" rules health care in the US, there will be no change. If health care companies were to become "non-profit," that might change.

2. Indeed, the video is right when it says (basically) that when all of us pay into the system, that allows costs to be spread out. We figured that out in Canada about 60 years ago. That's why we have a single-payer system, to which everyone contributes.

3. Technology can make the system better. But technology is very expensive. And technology companies (including those who make drugs) basically "hold people hostage" with high costs until someone with a lot of money comes along. Like, say, government.

And while electronic medical records are effective, and provide cost savings, they are also vulnerable to unauthorized access ("hackers"). Do you want your health care history made public?

4. I was surprised by the statement that 70 per cent of diseases are preventable. I'm wondering about the use of the word "preventable."

One of the major problems North Americans are facing is the rise in childhood asthma, mostly among children growing up in smog-filled cities. Is that preventable. Yes, if you take all the cars of the streets. Will that fly? Like a lead balloon. Which raises the question about what is actually "preventable." But I agree with the theory.

In Canada, doctors are reimbursed by medicare for lifestyle-improving patient counseling. I don't know what happens in the US.

This is not an easy situation. There are powerful vested interests which believe that profits are more important than peoples' health.

I wish my American friends (all Americans, really) well in trying to sort out the mess.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Health Care Reform-we are still talking.............

Dear Friend,

If you’re like most Americans, there’s nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.

Given the status quo, that’s understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees – and sometimes isn’t there at all if you become seriously ill.

It’s time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:

No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
No cost-sharing for preventive care
No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
No gender discrimination
No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
Extended coverage for young adults
Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
Learn more about these consumer protections at

Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.

It’s time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the White House: Health Reform Update

Dear Friend,

As you read this, we are closer than ever to passing comprehensive health insurance reform that benefits American families and small businesses. Despite all the back and forth in the news right now, it is important to understand just how far we've come in this challenging process.

That's why I'm holding a press conference tonight at 8pm ET, and writing to let everyone know where we are, what's ahead, and why health insurance reform is so important.

Let me be clear: although Congress is still debating parts of the legislation we have achieved critical consensus on several key areas:

If you already have health insurance: reform will provide you with more security and stability. It will limit your own out of pocket costs and prevent your insurance company from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. You'll also have affordable insurance options if you lose or change your job. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

If you don't have health insurance: you will finally have guaranteed access to quality, affordable health care, and you can choose the plan that best suits your family's needs. And no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Now, I realize that the last few miles of any race are the hardest to run, but we can't stop now. There's no dispute about it: we cannot control our long-term fiscal health as a nation without health insurance reform. American families and small businesses understand that the health insurance status quo is taking away those things that they value most about health care. The stability and security that comes with knowing that you can get the treatment you need, when you need it. Without reform, we are consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits.

We have to seize this opportunity and pass health insurance reform this year. You can help by forwarding this email to your family and friends and letting them know what's at stake in this debate.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

P.S. Tune in to tonight's press conference on health insurance reform at 8pm ET on

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

National health care debate.

The United States is the only developed nation that does not have universal health care. The arguments against it are supported by insurance companies. Our media is sitting around not getting involved.

What is wrong with that?

Who is speaking for the common folks? Our elected officials should; but, most of them have not had to shoulder the price of health care for their families.

Why aren't the bloggers speaking out?

Who is benefitting from a lack of universal health care?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Living past 100!

"....The first thing I want to tell you is that no matter your age now, you will be old, you will be infirm, you will have fewer resources than you have now, and you cannot avoid that state."

We started our conversation knowing that our life is a limited one. Today, the oldest man died at 113. Count your days ahead. If I live that long, I still have another sixty years ahead. A lifetime in my father's days. I have not planned that far.

I read somewhere that we should live as though we'd die tomorrow; and we should plan to live to 100. And planning is a noble, and human activity. Animals plan too. Squirrels,bear, salmon, plan to fulfill their potential, to live and procreate, each according to their basic nature. Animals may dream too. If you study bees, they plan to support the hive until the bitter end.

We plan for some things quite well. We plan our financial future-except during this economic meltdown. We plan our children's future. WE even plan our recreational and social activities. Most of you who have retired are enjoying good health and relative freedom to do all the activities you enjoy. Those who didn't plan and consumed more than they made have no one to blame. Of course, there are exceptions for those who have been struck by debilitating illnesses, and other circumstances beyond their abilities to control, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, famine, pestilence, war.

Our ignorance, our naivete, and our own inability to accept responsibilities have played major roles in our life course. We didn't get ice-cream for breakfast from our parents, how can we justify poor eating habits now they we are adults?

We don't do so well planning the future of our communities. We stay wrapped in our own problems, fail to stay involved. We live with blinders on: as long as a problem doesn't touch us now, who cares?

"I don't have children in school, why do I have to pay school taxes?"

In the traditions of many native tribes here in America, decisions and planning were made with an eye to future generations. Seven generations, to be exact. In seven generations, all of our children would be related to all of your children.

So, today, our conversation should be about planning to live to 113; and to support the efforts of seven generations hence.

p.s. The folks above are my daughter Pia and her husband Jason, and his folks during the weekend of the 4th, plus my hubby. When we get together, we share music and merry making. I was taking the pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

To be, or not to be....

A couple of days ago, a famous conductor and his ballerina wife from England, a devoted couple, decided to take their lives. One was ill; the other was not. Together, they traveled to a clinic in Switzerland where they could receive assistance for their decision.

Here in Oregon, just a few months ago, we voted for a law that allows people, at the end of their lives, to make decisions about dying. It passed with a good majority.

This state will also fine you stiffly if you hit an animal on the highway and drive off. It will fine you heavily if you step on grassland that protects snowy plovers. It will fire you from public office if you hunt or fish without a license, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It has more protection for wild life than most other states.

When life is coming to an end, what is there to do? I want to make that decision if I'm conscious. If I'm not, I want to leave directives so my family doesn't have to fight over what is the best thing to do. At a point when my life is not worth living, I want to give my goodbyes to the world and go peacefully into that dark night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"When I get older, losing my hair...many years from now...

First, a big thank you to David at authorblog for selecting my last post as PTD on July 13th, and to Braja, at lostandfoundinindia who nominated my post for this award. Thank you Braja; your words are most inspirational.

Then, sixty+ people showed up to comment. I had no idea the topic would be of such interest to young and old alike.

As Paul McCartney asks in his song,"... will you still love me,.. will you still feed me when I am sixtyfour? ...doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more....",his words resonate with us even more as we approach the sixties, and the seventies, and the eighties. Yes, we ask the same questions, but we are asking for more than he did.

We age, but still want to look as young as we looked in our prime, as active as we were in our teens, and as ardent as we were on our honeymoon. And pharmacies are providing us with our wants. In a few years more of us will be reaching retirement age, and we have great expectations for those years.

Last week, the Associated Press medical writer Lauran Neergaard reported on Diet and Aging in our local paper, relaying a study conducted on the effect of a reduced calorie diet on the life of rhesus monkeys. The results showed that the primates on the diet lived longer and healthier than those not on the diet. The results of this study may have application for us humans. (Science Journal).

Who knew?

When we were little, our mothers worried about having enough food to feed all of us in the family. We were always hungry, never truly full. We dreamed of banquets, tea parties, and growing up with jobs that paid enough to purchase all the food we wanted.

When I became a mother, I worried about what to feed my children. The baby food section in the supermarket displayed beautiful healthy babies on powder milk and on little-bitsy jars of fruit and mashed vegetables. None of the food tasted appetizing. But, I wanted my children to have the very best. Though I prepared baby food many times in my kitchen, I never felt it was as nutritious as the food Gerber sold.

Each generation has worried about nutrition. But today, we are obsessed about our bodies, about dieting,about looking thin.

And while we worry and fret and go on diets, more and more people are diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, various cancers. We are bombarded on television with an array of possible diseases for which there are pills, I might add, diseases that we never heard of. Did you know about restless legs syndrome?

Our understanding of how our lifestyle and health are interrelated is still in the Middle Ages.
Am I the only one confused out here?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What you didn't know.

Old age has been portrayed in a variety of ways. Most of the time, we saw the two ends of the spectrum: the part of old age when sickness and diseases take away dignity; and the part when people have extra time to travel, play with the kids, have sex with new partners in Miami, and look better and feel happier than ever.

Old age is on a continuum, just like other stages. We are just as prepared to grow old as we were to be adults, or parents. Some of us had models around, big brothers or sisters, uncles and aunts, people who divulged inner secrets about the life we would encounter.

The fact is we are all afraid of growing old, feeling old and degenerate into invalids. We are even afraid to entertain the idea until...

The first thing I want to tell you is that no matter your age now, you will be old, you will be infirm, you will have fewer resources than you have now, and you cannot avoid that state.

Remember when you wanted to become a singer? Or a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor? You looked for a mentor, a model to guide you through. You studied the people you wanted to be like, and you adopted attitudes and strategies that helped you achieve your goals.

So, come along for the next few posts. Add your suggestions about attitudes and strategies that helped you or someone you know navigate this passage of life.

The more we know about the voyage, the easier it will be.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July, America.

Highway 101, also known as Oregon Street in the downtown area, was closed to traffic for about an hour today. Everybody who was in town came to sit and watch the smallest parade open to anyone and everyone: children rode bicycles and horses, adults manned fire trucks, and all entries were home-made and simple. My favorites: the contra-dancing couples dressed in western garb dancing the whole time; and the geese-chicken coop, animals parading with their pets.
Every float threw candy and stopped long enough to have little ones pose with Uncle Sam.
Visitors will shuttle their little ones to a bunch of activities in town including a jerry can race, a sand golf tournament, a dingy race, sidewalk chalk painting, horse-shoe tournament, a fish-fry, a hot dog/burger/all dessert eating competition, and an original play called Fool's Hill, a boyhood in old Port Orford.
If everyone is still awake at sundown, which happens late up here, they can sit on the beach, cuddled in a blanket, and watch the fireworks courtesy of the local fire-fighters.
Got to run now.
Sorry you can't be here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Go west young man...

We Americans, Westerners, are on the road all the time. It is in our original mission statement, way back with some immigrant ancestor who picked up his papers, and told everyone he was leaving, never coming back.
The conversation might have gone something like this: "Sorry, mom and dad, I can't live in this pig-mess any more, no prospect for me here; I'm going out to search my fortune in America. I'll see you in Heaven." Perhaps, it was more drastic, as:" you're not going to have me to kick around anymore. Asta la vista, baby."
If you follow your way west, you'll end up on US 101, the westernmost highway, taking you up and down the coast from Alaska to the tip of South America. (Frankly, I have never taken the trip; my map, however, shows a continuous highway.
Once, in our early married life, my husband, baby and I drove our Volkswagen out of California, north to Washington, across to Idaho, Montana and zigzagging all the way to New York, and then south to Florida. Six years later, (after our studies) we returned to California taking the southern route to California. That trip was a benchmark for us, a blissful and stressful trip that allowed my new husband to show off his America to his immigrant wife. The trip took us over a month, driving continuously, breaks for meals, for sleeping, and for letting our toddler run around.
On the road is our idea of ultimate bliss. On the road, discovering new places, getting lost, communing with nature, is our idea of American freedom.
If you don't believe me, watch Western movies.
On Saturday, we will celebrate our Independence Day. We'll all drive to the parade, drive in the parade, drive to the fireworks, and then drive back home.