Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just So Wrong

We've started our annual health insurance review at work early this year, anticipating the usual bad news. It's worse than we expected. The premium increases haven't been posted yet but we were told to expect somewhere between an additional 15 to 30%, on top of the age related adjustments. Also, the out of pocket maximums have doubled, mental health coverage has decreased, prescription drug coverage has decreased, HRA contribution limits are cut by 50% and the HRA payment arrangement has been restructured. Bottom line - less coverage for 30% more money. It's just so wrong.

By coincidence, this bad news arrived in the same week as the SoCal octuplets. After a sleepless night worrying about our employees and their benefits, I got up to news about the medical accomplishment of a multiple-multiple birth. A birth which required 46 doctors, 4 delivery rooms, unlimited support staff, and an open ended NICU stay for 8 premature babies.

I was not planning to write about this, because I do believe in privacy rights and in the woman's right to choose. But as the details of this situation trickle out, I only have one thought: it's just so wrong.

I feel sad for the young, single mother because I belive there are mental health issues involved. Why else would a single, unemployed mother of 6 children under the age of 8 choose to deliver 8 more? It's either extreme irresponsibility or mental illness. I'm trying to be kind in choosing the latter.

But I also think it provides part of the explanation for our increasing health care costs. While my co-workers and I scrimp and save - setting aside money for the high deductibles, seeing only doctors within the network, getting our generic drugs via mail order, using a cut-rate lab where we're never sure we can trust the results, and self treating until illness is really, really apparent - while we're doing all that, one woman can be implanted with 8 embryos and then use huge amounts of health care dollars to bring fragile, sick babies into the world. The medical advances of our time have been phenomenal. But they are not always used for the greater good and situations like this only increase the burden for those of us leading boring, normal, middle class lives.

Health care premiums are strangling the company I work for and the new out-of-pocket limits will place some of our employees at high risk for financial disaster if a serious illness or accident strikes their family. It's depressing, discouraging, and complicated. We have a system which doesn't seem to really satisfy anyone - except the rare case like the one above. I only have one thought today - it's just so wrong.

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