Monday, July 16, 2007

A Therapeutic Blog

I need to write a therapeutic blog today. I saw the movie "SiCKO." I'm generally anti-Michael Moore. I'm not into shock journalism. It's just not my thing. That said, I currently work as a benefits-specialist at a non-profit public interest law firm. I thought it would be interesting to see a big-screen take on the issues I see every day, and the firm bought us tickets, so going to see it on our "field trip" this afternoon seemed like a no-brainer.

I wasn't surprised by the story of the man who had to choose which finger to put back on because of the cost. I wasn't surprised by the mom who recounted the death of her daughter that resulted from her seeking ER treatment from a hospital outside of her network. I wasn't shocked when he discussed the length to which insurance companies go to avoid paying benefits to people who are sick, the ferocity of lobbyists and lack of political action. I've seen all that before.

The tear-jerking stories are the ones I hear every single day on the phone. Every single day. I've heard insurance companies lie over the phone about what the law says, abuse their unsophisticated clients and put their health in jeopardy. I hear Medicaid workers tell me that their caseloads are going up and their budgets are slashed, and how aggressively they will pursue a poor mother who was three dollars over the income limit last month. I even sometimes get to tell people what they are too used to hearing: There's nothing I can do to help you.

There isn't help for everyone. There are little kids who get leukemia and can't afford treatments. Yeah, and they even die. Little kids die.

Seeing it on the big screen was different. I watched the stories of the 9/11 rescue workers, how they aren't being taken care of. I watched their faces when, during a trip to Cuba, they finally were told not to worry, that it was all going to be ok. Cuba doesn't charge for medical treatments, by the way. Incidentally, Cubans have a longer life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate than Americans.

And no, I'm not saying that Cuba is without it's problems. I'm not saying France is perfect, or England or Canada either. They all have problems, some more serious than ours by a long shot.

But their faces. They cried. They were without pain for the first time in years. They could breathe. They finally knew what was wrong with them, and how to treat it. And I cried. They had happy endings, they got their medicines and dentures and treatment plans.

And I can't do that for the people who call me.

And I just think about how horrible it is. How heartbreaking. My clients aren't moochers. They're hard-working people, trying to get by, but facing premiums of $1,000 or more per month, and deductibles of $7,000 per family member. And yes, some have "health savings accounts," but when you're poor you don't have things like "savings." You don't have things like a car or bread sometimes either.

And why are they poor? What about a mom who gets her daughter treatment the doctors say will save her life, even when the insurance company says they won't pay? What single mom, even one working three jobs, can afford $30,000 in hospital bills? And what mom would put a price on her daughter's life?

What about the families who aren't broken, but are working for themselves. Small business owners "living the American dream," right? But they don't qualify for a group plan. They buy private insurance, but private insurance can refuse to cover you, or can raise your premiums by over 200% to drive you away. They don't qualify for COBRA after that. And they're not quite bad enough off to qualify for a government program. Aid from Red Cross is a one-time thing. They're a family, with several young kids.

So many people assume that there is someone out there who helps these people in need. A church, they think, or maybe some sort of charitable foundation. I used to think that, too. I've learned better. There is no help out there for these people.

I know them. I talk to them.

And after a while, it doesn't even phase me. It doesn't surprise me or shock me or make me angry. I don't cry. But I get migraines. And I get depressed. But hey, I have insurance. I earned my way into the land of the insured by marrying a man I loved and would have married anyway, if several months later than I did. I can afford the therapy and drugs, at least for now. At least until he switches jobs and we lose insurance. Or until one of us becomes seriously ill. Paying 20% of your medical costs is nothing until you need a million dollar bone marrow transplant.

And so it was good to watch the movie while I wasn't in "professional" mode. I remembered what it was like to be on the outside of all this mess, the devastation, and look in. It was good to cry.

It was also neat to watch a movie where I knew that the facts he was citing were real. Yeah, we have the worst infant mortality rate in the industrialized world. And yeah, 18,000 US citizens die every year simply because they don't have insurance. I can cite those figures if you want to see them.

Tomorrow I go back to my "professional" mode, back to the clients, back to telling people to call their legislators because there's nothing more I can do for them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's in a Wegistry

Wove, twoo wove... Name that movie!

Registries are funny things. I mean, you are sort of telling people to buy you presents. I don't really think of it that way anymore. You get married and people want to give you stuff. I know I want to give stuff to people who get married. I think it's just a "thing." I suppose registries are better than getting six single-settings of china in different colors, or 12 microwaves. Twelve microwaves? That's just silly!

Mike and I have worked hard on our registry, which sounds strange, but it's a lot like shopping for things in all the bad ways including deciding colors and patterns, without the fun actually-getting-things part. Well, not yet anyway.

I digress. We were working on our registry tonight because Mike confessed to me that he secretly loved my old flannel sheets (that don't fit our current bed). Of course, the only thing to do was register for them! As we were perusing our registry, we noticed that there was a spot where we could see what has already been purchased! Crazy! So, being curious, we looked. As was expected, nothing was purchased yet, because the wedding isn't for a few months. Nothing...

... except a cheese grater.

I just find that really funny. Is that strange?

Mike, by the way, coined the term Wegistry tonight.
Wedding + Registry = Wegistry
Only a rocket scientist, I tell you!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Go see my wedding website!

The invites are out, and the site is up! At you can read about me and Mike, learn more about the wedding location, find a hotel room and search our registries. We will continue to develop the site as time goes on, including details about the meal choices, our engagement story, and construction information.

I have to say, getting those invites out the door was a big relief, even though it was Mike who did most of the work. We've even gotten a few RSVPs back already, which is pretty neat. All the big things are done now, so it's just little things like buying shoes, reserving tuxes, finding a hair salon and finalizing the menu that are left. No problem!

Also, I'm officially being sworn in on July 18th here in Madison, which is rather exciting. I've also received notification that I am now in the pool of potential hires for the Wisconsin State Public Defenders office. Now all that needs to happen is for a PD to leave and create an opening in one of the four or so counties where I've agreed to work. :) I'm not holding my breath, but it's still nice to know I'm employable!

That's all for now. Cheers!