Friday, September 11, 2009

Gratitude, Health Insurance

Horse & Cart Thank You Weaving

detail of Horse & Cart Thank You weaving

While the debate rages about health care in this country, I thought I would weigh in with my own experiences and a statement about gratitude. At various times in my life, often to the horror of some people, I have lived without health insurance. In general I have good health, but I have had my share of exotic illnesses, including malaria. Without insurance, my doctor in Brooklyn could not admit me to her hospital--even though she was sure I was having an ectopic pregnancy. She sent me to Bellevue, a public hospital that would accept patients without insurance. It took almost 20 hours to be admitted, but once admitted, they immediately performed surgery and saved my life. For that I am grateful. More recently we have had insurance, usually through private plans, whose costs vary greatly from state to state. The same provider, offering the same services, charged one-quarter the amount in New Mexico than it charges in Vermont. I should have asked for the name of the person working for them who told me, when I inquired about the Vermont plan, "You don't want it. It is too expensive." So we didn't have insurance until we heard about Catamount Health, Vermont's plan to provide health insurance at reasonable cost. A wonderful woman at Guifford Hospital helped us with the paperwork, and once again, insured, we feel more secure, even though we hope we will rarely need to use it. For this I am grateful. I wove the weaving above as a statement of my gratitude--thank you in several languages.

I just can't understand why this country is so unwilling to help its own people, especially since this unwillingness generates higher costs than if everyone was covered. I do hope a national health care plan passes and everyone can see a physician when they need help. Or buy the medicines they need. If my malaria had showed up in China or India, I could have gone to the local pharmacy and gotten a few pills and been fine. But it didn't manifest until I was back in the USA. Not only did I have to suggest to the doctor that it might be malaria, but it cost over a $1000 for one night in the hospital so they could observe me taking those pills. I paid that bill off over years, each month remembering the doctor who told me malaria was his specialty but he had never seen it in life before. Without insurance I had to stop taking a monthly bone density pill, because buying it as an individual would have cost more than $100 a month. What will it take for the people who are fortunate to have compassion for the less fortunate?

I have never understood the inequity of pay in different professions. Most of my friends are artists--educated, serious, professional, and hard working. Obviously I believe in the importance of creative work, that the benefits of such a life out-weigh the fact that such activity is often not paid work. In New Mexico I was able to trade weaving for dental work. That was a rare, and wonderful experience. I know that what I do is valuable, yet that value just doesn't seem to translate to money. Should I stop doing it then? I know that many artists ask themselves this question--and many do stop. I am going to write more about this, but for now I just want to say that I am grateful to live in a state that helps its population have quality health care for all.


  1. I have had brain malaria too,and that is where the similarity stops.Yes we pay 50 prosent taxes in Norway,but hospitals are free,Dentists free til 21 years old.Medicine free when you reach an amount you don't want to(for then you are sick).We are a socialist mentality country.We are also a very rich country with 4 million people.(this helps) I hope the bill of national health plan passes in the US.

  2. Here in Spain we have public health which we complain a lot about but it's good and no one goes without med. attention. We aren't as rich as Norway but taxes are well used.Having universal health care helps people be less paranoid about health as they're not going to lose their house bcse of medical bills.
    i really hope the law passes.

  3. I really hope this gets passed. I'm in Australia, where we do have a public health system with free public hospitals and subsidized medicine, and free doctors visits for those on wrelfare payments or low incomes. If I had lived in the States 7 years ago, I would be dead, but because I live here, I was transferred from a regional hospital to a major teaching hospital and was operated on as a priority, regardless of whether I was a public or a private patient - no one can ask for better than that! THAT is good medicine, and I hope your law-givers think its good for you too.