Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Death Panels? Please

I read of what Sarah Palin is up to, and I conclude the woman is insane:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

There is of course no such system, nor will there ever be, because it would indeed be downright evil. Euthanasia is illegal in the USA, and that's not going to change. But frightening old people with Soylent Green fantasies is also evil. The more so if it distracts from the fact that we're already there:

You have no idea [Sarah Palin,] what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.

If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

Now, I'm pretty lucky. Yes, I'm caring for Alden who is 76 and pretty much an invalid because of his back, plus lesser issues. But Medicare and UCLA health insurance covers him and lets him go to the best specialists there are. I've had a major health scare myself, and take a lot of daily medications to keep things calm, but I'm covered under Alden's plan through spousal benefits.

Alden's mother, Mariana, died three years ago at age 94. If she even had health insurance she exhausted it, but used her wealth -- not extreme, but comfortable -- to pay for the care she wanted. It was sad to visit her in the last few years and see how she had declined, but at least she was able to stay in her home and die peacefully asleep in her own bed.

Which makes me painfully aware of just how lucky I am. When Alden was hired by UCLA in 1969 universities were competing to attract hot young faculty prospects with spectacular, iron-clad, locked-in benefits packages. As his spouse under California Domestic Partnership laws I share in those benefits.

But if we didn't have that coverage, or didn't have the money to just pay for the care you want like Mariana, I know we'd both be two pretty scared puppies. But even with that coverage I'm uneasy, since we all know now that having what you think is great health insurance doesn't mean, should you get really and expensively ill, that your insurance folks won't suddenly say, "Well, we have this little problem......."

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