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I'm beginning to feel like a patient on " House." (Hell, the doctor… - Baxil [bakh-HEEL'], n. My Sites [Tomorrowlands] [The TTU Wiki] [Photos]
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February 25th, 2007
06:59 pm
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I'm beginning to feel like a patient on "House." (Hell, the doctor I've been seeing even looks a little like him.)

... It's back.

I've been taking metronidazole faithfully for eight and a half days, as well as probiotics (though skipping a day here and there) -- and just as quickly as the intestinal problems went away, they've returned. I had to take some time off of work today to go home and lie down; I used the opportunity to call the specialist that I had been hoping not to have to see.

At this point I'm giving up. I can't get this resolved easily. It (still) could be anything ... from a persistent bacterial infection up to and possibly including colon cancer.

And that's what scares me.

... No, not the possibility of a life-threatening illness. If this means a medical intervention that forces a lifelong change in habit, fine; if it means I have six months to live, I'll try to use it well. But what does scare me is the fact that I now have run out of options for dealing with this cheaply.

American health care is great ... when you can afford it. I can't. A scary number of Americans can't. I'm working class. I'm holding down two part-time jobs while my wife is changing careers. Neither of us has had employer-provided health insurance since my hike last year.

There's a possibility that the private care we bought to fill in the gaps might cover everything after the deductible. There's a certainty that this means $3500 out of pocket; all I've gained myself is a crapshoot against a deep-pocketed and many-lawyered corporation that may or may not violate me up the nether orifice with a huge spiky stick labeled "pre-existing conditions." As much as I don't want to be sick, I am afraid to deal with this. I have already been screwed once that way.

I am afraid of the next several weeks, and the next few months. I am afraid because I don't know how deep this goes. I am afraid because the longer this drags on, the deeper in the hole I go -- while I'm still juggling the debt from my hike and my commitment to help kadyg through school.

I am afraid because medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country -- and because the GOP president and his GOP cronies just fucked America's poor, again, by tightening bankruptcy rules so that I might not even be able to dig out from whatever five-figure medical debt I might accumulate. I am afraid because I don't qualify for Medi-Cal and because California has no catastrophic care coverage (not that Washington state's, when I lived there, helped any).

I have a little credit. I have good family. I don't have any kids to support. I am in a much better position than the average workingman would be in my shoes.

But I still feel alone and helpless.

Right now, I am our household's only income. If Kady has to go to work, she has to give up cooking school; and if this illness forces me to take any more sick days, my income isn't enough to cover basic expenses. And at any rate none of the calculations take into account medical expenses, which -- again -- I just don't know what they'll be.

In any other industrialized nation, I wouldn't have to fear dealing with my insurance company. I wouldn't have to fall asleep with the possibility of an illness I can't afford to treat (gods forbid this IS something like cancer). I wouldn't have to deal with the sinking feeling in my stomach when I think about how I might be saddling the woman I love with bills for the rest of her life.

I wouldn't have to drag myself to work when I've got cold sweats and need to go to the bathroom every half hour because I can't afford to call in sick. (Well, to be fair, that could happen anywhere. But if I didn't have such panic at the big bills to come, I wouldn't be scraping furiously for every penny I could earn ... as I've said, I have a little credit, and I could afford to sit out a paycheck or two a lot easier than I could afford the $3500 deductible that now stares me in the face.)

I wouldn't have to panic about how more insured people file for medical-related bankruptcy than uninsured people -- or how their debts are on average 50% higher. I wouldn't be paralyzed with indecision about whether to keep paying the insurance premiums on the chance my condition is expensive, or let it lapse and use that extra $100/month to pay the bills.

Gods help you if you're American and poor. You're only one crisis away from the choices that are now scaring me witless. Our leaders have decided that the social safety net isn't worth paying for ... and this is the price, and worse, much worse, that some Americans are paying for their decision.

And I hate how I know the fear won't go away . Being poor in America is not just about giving up desires (like that dental work I've been putting off or that six-year-old computer I'd love to upgrade) -- it's about giving up stability, about knowing the slope down is even slipperier than the slope up. Even with a stable job, you're one crisis away from juggling bills, which then puts you one crisis away from maxing out credit cards, which then puts you one crisis away from payday lenders, which then puts you one crisis away from homelessness.

When you're poor, you learn to fear bad luck. You learn to live with that fear, all the time, because you're always looking down at the precipice, knowing that once you start sliding there's precious little you can rely on to keep you from hitting bottom.

"Dear gods, I hope this one isn't the slide that sends me there."

If you have some time today, please write a letter to your congressman (assuming he isn't some corrupt kool-aid drinker like my district's John Doolittle). Every American needs guaranteed health care. It won't solve the problems of American poverty, but it's a necessary start -- and given the country's bankruptcy statistics and the demonstrated success* of other countries' universal plans, it's the place to start.

--
* Look, I've spent an hour writing this post and I don't have the energy to go through every single one of the arguments again. Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly and John Cole at Balloon Juice have both spent a great deal of time documenting our system's comparative failure; here's a representative sample.

Current Location: ~calorg
Current Mood: frustratedupset
Current Music: Scott Peeples, "Gerudo Valley OC Remix"
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[User Picture]
From:ruth_lawrence
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:15 am (UTC)
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I'm Australian, so can't write to a congresscritter.

The situation you are in is dreadful.

I may rip a new one in anyone who thinks 'economic' ideology trumps the damage your lack of a decent health system causes.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:15 am (UTC)
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Do you have a PayPal account? I do good business selling homework answers help (http://www.studentoffortune.com), but since I refuse to use PayPal, I can't get a cent of it. Maybe I can help two people at once.

I might not be the only one wanting to help you out some with a PayPal donation link, actually.
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From:baxil
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
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I do have a PayPal account, yes, and I'm not otherwise using it.

I'm not at the point yet where I'm asking for money. It still could be the case that the specialists see me, go "Oh, your snorklewhacker is bleemed," prescribe an Entirely Different Medication, and I get out of this for $affordable. I may yet wilt and beg, but the right time for that will be once I know how bad it's going to be.

If you'd still like to talk about a deal with your SOF fund, send me an e-mail -- I'd have responded privately but your comment came up as anonymous.
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From:kshandra
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC)
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I understand completely. gridlore and I were blessed when he first got Sick; his health care costs were easily into the six figure range, and our HMO covered it all without a blink. We have never been as fortunate with insurance since then, sadly, but at least we haven't had as profound a need as we did a decade ago.

You're in my thoughts.
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From:luna_torquill
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:49 am (UTC)
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I think all the time about how indescribably fortunate I am to have parents who were able to absorb my expenses when I got sick, including the health insurance that I already had... and that Chronic Fatigue, while making it impossible to work, doesn't incur bills for hospital stays and surgeries. Despite all that I still spent my share of nights crying myself to sleep over financial stress, and living with being Broke for almost a decade. At least my debt (mostly student loans) is patient and fairly tolerant of circumstance, and I have the means to get out from under it.

I know the fear, though. All I can do is cross my fingers for you, and tell you to swallow your pride and take any sincere help that's offered. Don't hold off and say "I'll take that if I have to" -- do it up front, because it may keep your head above water in the first place. Think about taking out what loans you can, as banks are sometimes more reasonable creditors than medical establishments. And remember that you do have a good support network out here.

Good luck. Really.
From:tropism
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:58 am (UTC)
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Ugh. *hugs*

What are all your symptoms anyway?
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From:baxil
Date:February 26th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
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*hug*

Re: symptoms. See below. Currently, it's loose and very thin stools accompanied by lots of flatulence. Stool is slimy, discolored/light, and for most of the time it's been cohesive (i.e. the past week) has contained black blotches that I'm guessing are digested upper-intestine blood.

Accompanied by general malaise, abdominal discomfort, and at its peak yesterday, vertigo and nausea.

Before the metronidazole kicked in, it was two solid weeks of full-blown diarrhea along with all of the other symptoms x10. The night that convinced me to go to the doctor was dry heaves plus enough raw blood in the stool to redden the toilet water. Before that ... nothing. No hint of this before the antibiotics.
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From:heron61
Date:February 26th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
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The US healthcare system is vile and wretched - even the very concept is utterly corrupt. I've never understood how anyone except the most wacked out libertarians can think that any form of private, for-profit insurance is a remotely good idea or that mixing profit and life-saving treatments is anything other than a recipe for massive abuse of patients.

On an un-related topic - I've know other people with similar issues and had (thankfully far milder ones) myself for several years. In all cases, the cause was a food sensitivity or allergy. To milk protein in my case, but celiac is more common. For anything like what you are describing, I'd consider this as a possible cause. You could try cutting out all gluten (this is not easy) for 2 weeks - if you notice significant improvement near the end, then that's likely it, if you don't, and you been totally gluten free (tiny amounts matter) then it isn't. If that fails, try two weeks with no dairy (including whey and casein) at all, and so what that does.

Blessings and best of luck.
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From:kadyg
Date:February 26th, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)

Wife of Bax speaks, er writes

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About your first paragraph: Yes, this. I'm finding out that it's one thing to think "yes, those poor people. We really must do something about this whole health thing." It's very much another to BE one of those poor people. I'm certain that this will pass and we'll be back on solid footing eventually. But right now it's just 31 flavors of suck.

As for graph no.2 - I mentioned food issues this evening and Bax reminded me that he had no problems at all prior to getting bit by the cat and going on the eXtreme antibiotics. We both think that something ugly moved into his unprotected intestines and is refusing to let go. And it's looking pretty resistent to the usual course of meds. Joy.

Tomorrow the appointment with the specialist will get made and hopefully some answers will be forthcoming. The timing of this really could not be worse.

I don't suppose you know of anyone in Canada, NZ or Austraila willing to adopt us?
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From:lonita
Date:February 26th, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
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I wish offering you my Canadian citizenship for a while would do the trick, because I'd certainly let you to it. I wish I had something to say other than to offer good will and good wishes and remind you that if you need a shoulder to cry on ever, just give me a ring.
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From:lupagreenwolf
Date:February 26th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Until I met Taylor and we joined forces, so to speak, I was in veyr much the same position--I had crappy insurance and a small paycheck. I worried every day that the car would continue to work, that nothing would happen that could be considered a pre-existing condition.

Time for me to write to my congressfolk about this again. Unfortunately, I can't palm off a few grand to them like the private insurance companies can, but if the people raise enough hell maybe we can actually get something done in this respect.
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From:paka
Date:February 26th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
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Oh man. Um. This and your links, peg it, nicely.
(Deleted comment)
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From:elynne
Date:February 26th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
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You know how much these things frighten and anger me. And I was so happy to hear that you'd gotten out of debt... I have no answers, and I hate that, I hate the whole completely bogfucked system, and there's nothing I can do.
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From:roaminrob
Date:February 27th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)
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We already had a conversation about the physiological aspect of all this, so this comment isn't that.

I've been one'a those poor people for, uh ... about five years now, I think. Maybe six. I haven't had any form of health insurance in that long, anyway, and over those years I've often been in much more dire financial straits than I let on. This would be one of those times, too, and I'm going to mention it some not to try to downplay your own situation, but to lead up to my point at the end:

I can't afford to get my car to pass California's smog requirements. It needs too much, and even if I do all the work myself -- which I do -- and even if I use really cheap parts -- which I don't -- I wouldn't be able to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. In the meantime, I've been fined not once, but twice, to the tune of $600 apiece, because I've been driving it without a smog license. Everything else on it is in order. Exactly how I'm supposed to effect repairs on a vehicle while being fined for not effecting the repairs is beyond me.

One of those fines I've let go unpaid, because I simply can't pay it, and that's the way it is, and no amount of attending court over it will change that. As a result, I was recently served with a notice of a civil assessment.

I've been digging myself out of debt for a couple of years now, but I still can't open a bank account anywhere, because USBank has tagged me with an "account abuse" notation in the national Chex Systems network. I'm not sure what "account abuse" constitutes, but I wonder if it's related to the fact that they turned $75 worth of overdraft into over $500 debt about five years ago. I've still got a few other unpaid bills floating around, which keeps my credit in the gutter.

Having my credit in the gutter helps keep me from renting a place, and I couldn't even imagine buying one, so housing is a little difficult and that's part of why I put up with sharing a wall with horrible neighbors in a seedy area. It also prevents me from pulling off some financial sleight-of-hand to get out of the mess.

On top of which, I currently work for a corporation that is based in Pennsylvania and has only one west coast operation -- the one I work for -- and hence has decided that the very meager wages I make are too high, because they're much higher than their employees in Pennsylvania. So, nobody got any of the raises they'd been promised. On the plus side, we can continue to work all the overtime we want -- at the lower wages, of course.

I'm reasonably intelligent, skilled, and a hard worker, and I've never drawn any form of social assistance. I've occasionally leaned on friends, who I'll be grateful to forever. I'm a pretty good problem solver, and I've accepted that scraping completely out of lower middle class is ... well, difficult. Unlikely.

So my point in all this?

You learn to live a little differently. You scrape by, and keep on scraping, and when things get worse, you go through a bad spell and then you keep on going anyway. Somehow you manage. Maybe some of things that had been important to you become less important, and maybe your dreams become one of the most important things you have. But, you guys'll manage, and Kady will still go to cooking school, because it's where she belongs and that's how things work.

Lemme know if you need anything. :-)
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From:baxil
Date:February 27th, 2007 04:48 am (UTC)
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"Being poor in America is not just about giving up desires ... it's about giving up stability."

I'm not really certain how else to summarize most of your post. But obviously, I'm far from the only person that's had to learn to adjust to it.

What gets under my collar is that America is supposed to be about ... you know, the American dream. The entire point of our culture, once upon a time, was that if you had a good work ethic and made decent decisions, you could be assured of ending up at least the same economic class as your parents, and have a pretty good shot at breaking up through to the next one.

I know a lot of tech folk, so I can't say that all my friends are living lives worse than their parents. But the number of fields where you really can make enough money to live comfortably is small and diminishing. When I first met Kady, I thought she was making money hand over fist -- and that was at $18/hour, not even our society's median income. Even when we first moved in together, our combined incomes (about $60k/year) weren't even close to enough to think about home ownership in our area of the country. And once we started hitting rocky job patches ... well.

I honestly don't see how anyone in our society, except for the upper class, can do much better than "scraping by." And when better lives are the promise and that's the reality, America as we know it is broken.
(Deleted comment)
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From:nolly
Date:February 27th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
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I feel your pain. Even with a good job and decent insurance, I can barely afford my monthly medication co-pays. The co-pays from the diagnostic progress pretty much wiped out what savings I had. Ironically, if I didn't have those, I'd probably at least qualify for the assistance programs.
From:tropism
Date:March 4th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
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If you're on a medication long-term, many insurance companies will give a discount -- that is, a higher co-pay, but lower than if you went each month -- if you order a 3-month supply online. You might want to look into that.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
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From:wanderdragon
Date:February 27th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
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This is exactly the sort of thing I spent the last year knocking on people's doors about, which is why I'm so pissed about losing the job, because now I have to pay COBRA. I'd like to wish you good luck, but if you were to have good luck, you wouldn't even be in this situation, so I can only hope it doesn't get any worse for you.

You know, we haven't talked in a while. If you'd like someone different to talk to, email me, maybe I can give you a call.
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From:baxil
Date:March 2nd, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
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*offers a hug* Yeah, I saw your big LJ post ... you beat me to the punch on commenting, because I've been a poor reader lately, but definitely the sympathy is mutual.

Right now I think my big priority is just getting the damn gastro woes cleared up, but yeah, let's set aside a little time to catch up.
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