Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speaking of Avedon Carol, Two

The second of three things I picked up on via The Sideshow.

Writing at The Lipstick Chronicles, novelist Sarah Strohmeyer tells of her friend Melissa who died unexpectedly because the chest and back pain she was suffering was not, contrary to what she thought, a pulled muscle. It was a failing heart. "Melissa died," she wrote, "because she couldn't afford to see a doctor."

So instead of having the EKGs and blood work and other tests that might have saved her had they been done in response to her symptoms, Melissa was found in her house, dead, alone except for her beloved pet dog Daisy.
Melissa worked hard. She owned a home. She paid her taxes (late, but paid). She was trying to live a dream - the American Dream - that supposedly we as citizens are promised - the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. For her, that couldn't be achieved in a traditional job that came with the perks of health care.

But does that mean she had to die? ...

[At a time when so many have so much they simply waste it,] is it fair that Melissa Hall should lie suffering and in pain in the home she was afraid of losing by risking a trip to the emergency room?
Should fear, financial fear, ever be a deterrent to health care? Strohmeyer referred to health insurance for the self-employed Melissa as "a luxury she simply couldn't afford." In comments, Ramona wrote:
Here's the definition of luxury from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.
2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.

Neither of those should apply to seeing a doctor.
Damn straight. And note well and note clearly: The sort of health insurance reform we saw last year will not stop the creation of more Melissas because even when fully in force assuming it gets that far, there will still be those without insurance and still be those - indeed likely more of them than now - who have insurance but with deductibles so high that it will be of little use and the fear, the hindering financial fear, will still remain. Because - and I will keep saying this as long as I have breath (or a keyboard), the issue is not access to health insurance. It is access to health care.

And as long as there are still Melissas we have failed.

Footnote: Also in comments, Nancy Martin links to an article in The New Yorker which describes programs in places including Camden and Atlantic City, NJ, and Boston which are succeeding at reducing health care costs by preventive care focusing on the most vulnerable (and most expensive) patients.

Footnote Again: My wife nearly died from a heart attack. She, too, ignored her chest pain, chalking it up to stress and concealing it from her doctor and from me (we were dating, but not yet a committed couple, at the time). She now gives talks on women and heart disease, encouraging them to not ignore their symptoms and to be aware that the symptoms of heart disease in women can vary, sometimes significantly, from those for men. She recommends the book Women Are Not Small Men.

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