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First They Came For The Poor Women

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Wisconsin is imprisoning pregnant women who admit to using drugs. This is being done under the guise of “protecting the fetus.” Before we discuss how stressful and unwholesome prison life is for a fetus(!) let us be crystal clear; we’re only talking about women who admit to using drugs of which the court does not approve. We are not talking about psychotropic medication or even prescription pain medication. What is really at issue is that illegal drugs are being used. It is not clear that there is any medical data that even posits let alone confirms that illegal drugs are more damaging to a fetus than prescription drugs. But what is clear is that vulnerable and/or poor women are an easy target.

There is no ignoring, no matter how hard the media tries, that women’s reproductive rights are dissolving in front of our eyes. Bit by bit access to health care and choice is slipping away, particularly for the poorest women in this country. It might not be an organized and coordinated effort but there’s definitely a sophisticated marketing machine at work. Who is going to argue with “protecting the fetus?” It’s right up there with “it’s for the children” or the flag, motherhood and apple pie. Treacly sentiment aside, no one is interested in protecting the fetus. If they were there would be free and excellent healthcare for all reproductive aged women. Nobody would be poor and/or hungry in this country either. Every woman would have a safe wholesome environment in which to gestate and raise her children. There would be no slums, or crime-ridden housing developments. Violence against women and children would be treated like the hate crime it is. In short, it wouldn’t be such a lousy world to be a woman or a child.

We live in a society that screams on the top of its lungs about the unborn, but doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass once they arrive. Everyday children go hungry, are neglected and abused and have access to weapons, alcohol and drugs. Every year another batch of children fall through the public education cracks and don’t graduate high school, or worse, graduate illiterate. Fifty years ago we waged a war on poverty in this country and we lost. We now are in the midst of a long drawn out war against women. It is not a coincidence that this attack is occurring as women make groundbreaking progress in almost every traditionally male bastion. Women must shake off the Barbie mantel that’s been thrust upon them in recent years. We need to shift our focus from physical perfection, put down all things pink and pick up this fight. We must recognize media pandering (e.g., television channels, websites, and merchandising directed to women, as if we were a separate species) for what it is, offensive and distracting. Creating women centric genres could be positive if the ones being created weren’t so damn insipid. The “chicklit” section in your chain bookstore are not shelves filled with; Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Shirley Chisholm and Our Bodies Ourselves. Nope. It’s shelves of light romantic “beach” reading. The television channels and (the majority) of websites designed for women are not for anything remotely serious (or even good.) There has been a steady pervasive patronizing campaign underway as women’s rights have been chipped away. Color me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.

We needn’t lose our sense of humor or even stop enjoying a good An Affair To Remember viewing. But we do need to resist buying into the 1950s model of womanhood we’re being sold. We have become a serious threat to those in traditional power positions. A woman came this close to being the democratic nominee for President! If that doesn’t scare the pants off the status quo I don’t know what does. We cannot tolerate the chipping away of our progress. We may not feel that a pregnant Wisconsin woman in handcuffs has much to do with us or is a feminist issue, but we’d be very very wrong. They are coming after her because they can. First it’s the poor and disenfranchised, that’s the way it always works. Those women who do have a voice must use it. We must recognize that the Spanx, push-up bras, Botox, and body sculpting are the corsets, garters and pointy bras of the 1950s. Those instruments of torture, popularized after women took men’s jobs during World War II, are a symbol of something insidious afoot. This is not a call for bra burning (heaven forbid!) but merely an urging to recognize what we’re being sold and how it’s being used to distract us from a much more serious issue.

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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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In Good Hands?

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Everyone has a medical insurance horror story. They may differ in what end of the beast one has wrestled; (getting insurance, updating insurance, filing a claim, disputing a claim, etc.) but the blood boiling frustration is the same. It is the rare insurance experience that is summarized with; “Oh how I enjoy working with my particular carrier. I pay them and they make my life easier when I’m most vulnerable and provide much needed access to care.” It is much more likely the case that hours (if not days) have been lost trying to get answers and coverage. In the most heinous cases, professionals need to be hired to force insurance companies to pay for coverage.

Medical insurance companies are in the catbird seat. They don’t need to advertise they only need to lobby. Most coverage does not happen through individual purchases. Coverage is purchased in bulk through employers. In this way they differ greatly from automobile insurance. Which is one reason you don’t see an animate gecko or (wee wee wee) pig selling medical insurance. You’ll never see an advert of a medical emergency in which a wise soothing man with a voice like Barry White comes to the rescue. Medical insurance doesn’t need to promise (or deliver) anything except the belief that we need it to survive. And we do believe that. We have made considerable efforts to expand coverage to individuals including dependents well into adulthood. We are now moving towards insuring everyone regardless of employee plans. Somewhere along the way we’ve equated insurance with healthcare.

Insurance companies do not make money by providing healthcare. However they do increase the cost of healthcare by their very existence. There is a complex economy that exists between healthcare and insurance companies. Medical practitioners need to charge more to support the additional staff needed to process claims. Expensive tests are casually ordered if they are ‘covered.’ Insurance companies negotiate discounted reimbursement rates for pharmaceuticals and medical care, which in turn drives up the cost for the uninsured, which feeds into the notion that medical insurance is necessary.

Would it be such a radical notion to abolish medical insurance? We did not always have insurance in this country. In fact historically speaking it’s a relatively new concept. True our medical advances are quite expensive and need to be paid for in some way. We live longer now, partly due to medical interventions that cost money. But how much money does it cost to support the medical insurance beast? How much time is lost in productivity of employees pursuing claims? How many staff of every company offering medical insurance is needed to wrangle the companies and attempt to explain the plans to employees? How many medical offices could dramatically lower the price of an office visit by dropping medical insurance? But what would become of the medical insurance staff? Well the doctors and nurses whose job it is to review (aka deny) treatment for people they have never met will do just fine. Everyone else on staff has an equally transferable skill; there are no typesetters or farriers to retrain.

There is something inherently problematic with a (highly) profitable product that positions itself as non-negotiable but with which we have zero consumer input or control. What we actually need is not an inflated labyrinth payment method but healthcare. High quality, easily accessible, holistic healthcare is what is needed. What is needed is healthcare that focuses on preventative care throughout a lifetime. Adding a layer for payment processing which often gets in the way of care is not what is needed. Heralding a product whose very raison d’être is to make money not to provide care, as a panacea is not what is needed.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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A Health Care Reformation Proclamation

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Medical Insurance (or as it’s less accurately known; health insurance) is on its way to reformation. It’s not clear if the results of the reform will render the; coverage, procedures and rights of the users any more decipherable than they are right now. But what is clear is that the more something is examined the more flaws are brought to light.

We can all probably agree that good medical care should be available to all. Whether insurance is the means to that end is highly questionable. But we seem to be stuck with that particular paradigm. Anyone who has ever sought treatment, payment or reimbursement would probably be happy to swear on a big towering stack of bibles that insurance companies seem to be in the business of making money not providing good healthcare. But as we established; we are stuck with this paradigm. In the interest of making lemonade out of the soul crushing demoralizing oligarchy of the paradigm, let’s consider how government involvement might improve things. (There will be no rolling of the eyes.)

The most obvious improvement will be filling gaps in the current usage of medical care. Insured people are presumably less likely to use emergency rooms as their general practitioner. This is good for both continuity of care and preventive efforts. It is also an enormous cost savings. Insured people are more likely to visit doctors before a condition become acute. They are also more likely to take the full dosage of their prescribed (co-pay) medicines, when not compelled to ration. In theory medical insurance for all will lead to medical care for all. Whether it’s ‘good’ medical care is another issue altogether (that was less of an eye roll and more of a ‘whatever’.)

Where things potentially get exciting and sane is the possibility of payment parity. Currently medical insurance is sold in two sizes; individual and family. The individual plan is discreet and self-explanatory. The family-size is an unlimited free for all. There is nothing equitable about this framework. A two-person family is paying the same rate as a ten person family. A parent with one child is in essence subsidizing larger families. Two options of coverage (individual and family) only benefits large families (and no doubt insurance companies.) There is no other insurance plan (of which I’m aware) that operates this way. You don’t buy homeowner insurance for either one home or an unlimited amount of homes. You don’t purchase auto or life insurance in this manner either. You purchase insurance plans for each entity that needs coverage.

I would like to think that as the thinkologists are drawing up this new way of doing medical care business, they will take note of this inequity. (Can’t really see my eye rolling behind these rose colored glasses, can you?) Perhaps when all people (not covered by employers) have to purchase insurance they will balk at the two sizes fits all framework. People probably don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing each pay-stub and considering their pre-tax contributions. But it’s hard to ignore being overcharged when you are writing the check.

Sometime during the last four decades or so we’ve convinced ourselves that medical insurance is mandatory and good. It is not a coincidence that healthcare costs have skyrocketed as we succumbed to this thinking. There are too many bad medical practices and less than good doctors hiding behind insurance. There is far too much money and time spent trying to keep costs down versus caring for people. Good care that focuses on what’s best for the patient is what we need. We’re on our way to medical insurance for all. Now how about some actual health care reform?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Inheritance Allowances

According to reports, retirees are distributing (what would have been) inheritance to their children while they are still very much alive. This is not a new phenomenon; it is just going by an awkward and clumsy new name. “Early distribution of inheritance” is also known as supporting your adult children. The reasons for the life support are somewhat varied. There are adult children who come upon unavoidable and devastating life experiences, and need a hand. Thank goodness for family. But the stories that seem to bubble up, and are told rather defensively, seem to be of a different ilk.

Married retirees speak of their adult children “needing” health insurance and suggesting that it would be tantamount to eating one’s young to have these grown-ups go uninsured. Spend your money on whatever you’d like Mr. & Mrs. Retiree, but no one ‘needs’ health insurance (yet.) What your elderly children need is healthcare. Purchase hospitalization or cataclysmic insurance if you must. But they can go to doctors and pharmacists on their own. If they can’t afford those bills, chances are that they (or at least their children) qualify for assistance. Don’t confuse what your children “need” with what you or they may “want”. If you do that you might end up paying off your elderly child’s six-figure student loan debt.

Yes much of higher education is ridiculously expensive. But so are sports cars, and sable coats. Before buying sable most people would have to do a little R.O.I. exercise. “Will I miss the money that I would spend on this coat?” “Do I have a life which will enable me to get use out of this coat?” It’s pretty much a given that this exercise does not include “How high is the credit limit on all my cards?” If you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. If you live in a warm climate, or have a casual way of life, you don’t buy it. For many people, attending any kind of institution of higher education will demand incurring debt. But it never should be more than the projected career can support. The high school teacher with $100,000 in debt either had very poor advice or experienced some sort of catastrophic event. Four years of a private liberal arts education is a luxury few can afford. Two years at a community college followed by two years in an accredited college/university can be made affordable by most. Savings, grants, awards, and work-study (students do better academically when they have a job) can make a serious dent in what needs to be borrowed. For the graduate who wants to teach; you might want to look into public school systems that pay for your master’s degree.

Of course not all baby boomers are supporting their adult children with large chunks of change. Some choose a more homey approach, and modify their existing dwelling, or move to a larger abode to accommodate elderly children and their families. Many extol the old-fashioned virtues of multi-generational living. But often there is something a little less sweet simmering beneath the Norman Rockwell imagery. The retiree might not have pictured a lifetime of parenting of a seemingly developmentally typical son/daughter. The retiree might have niggling thoughts of how they might have contributed to this situation. One thing is pretty certain; these ‘kids’ are not worried about an inheritance. For an adult living with his parents, time has pretty much grinded to a halt. The relationship dynamic has not shifted yet. The two-way street of adult child/parent relations has not been paved. No one is getting older and no one is ever going to die. Chances are they’ve never even heard of Sugar Mountain.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Education

 

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