11 April, 2009

Bring Me Government-Run Health Care

And remind me never to buy anything at Zales, ever:
In the coming debates over health care, when your Uncle Bob pulls out the old conservative trope asking, "would you really want government bureaucrats to be in charge of your health care?" give him this article:
Five months ago, Rose Camilleri was a superstar at the Zales outlet at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

In November, the diminutive grandmother with an Italian accent was flown to Dallas, home of Zales' headquarters, where she was honored with a 1-carat diamond necklace for making $1 million in sales last year.


It was the fifth diamond Camilleri had earned during 4½ years at Zales, where she received nearly a dozen commendations.

"I loved my work," she said. "I loved the people, and I loved it when people came in and asked for me."

But in early March, Camilleri developed bronchitis and went for a chest X-ray and an MRI. Her doctor discovered an aortic aneurysm, a weakness in the wall of the aorta, which, without prompt treatment, might rupture and cause quick death.

Camilleri told Zales she would need surgery as soon as possible.

"I told my manager I can't get upset because it could explode any minute," she said. "I typed up a letter asking for time off and guidance from human resources."

One week later, on March 14, she was asked to attend a meeting with a new regional manager.

"He said, 'You're terminated,'" Camilleri recalled. "I tried to keep myself very calm because I knew something could happen to me. I said, 'You're joking — you've never been in my store.' He said, 'It's the best thing.'"

It also meant Camilleri had to postpone her March 26 surgery until she could convert her insurance to a self-pay plan known as COBRA.

Two weeks later, Camilleri had not even received the paperwork.

Her son e-mailed the Times Herald-Record.

"We are told that it could take up to 45 days," Charles Camilleri wrote. "I lay awake every night fearing the worst."

Contacted by the Record, Zales would not comment. Charles Camilleri called Zales' human resources, explaining it was a life-or-death matter, and he simply needed a fax from Zales to start the COBRA process. He was floored by the employee's response.

"She said, "Well, if the surgery was rescheduled, then it's probably not a life-or-death situation," Charles Camilleri recalled. "I absolutely was blown away."
Health care really shouldn't be paid for by people who only make money by denying claims. What the fuck do you think is going to happen? But it's not just national health insurance we need - we need laws on the books that make it very, very illegal for companies to pull this kind of shit.

I have a coworker now who's fighting the company over disability claims for a neurological disorder that gets worse under stress, and another who's on the verge of losing her job because of ovarian cancer. And this, mind you, is a union company - we have more protection than most.

It's outrageous that sick people have to fight on three fronts: the illness, the insurance company, and their workplace. It's time for this shit to change. Even Republican Olympia Snowe's aware of that:
If Democrats are going to need some Republican votes to pass a major health care reform initiative, it looks like they should start with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine.

Snowe hosted a "listening session" on health care reform this week and made it clear that she wants to support significant changes to the status quo. (thanks to reader A.F. for the tip)

Speaking to the members of the group before taking their testimony, Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the committee is determined to draft legislation by June and to have it ready for debate on the Senate floor by July. The last attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system was proposed in 1993 and dissolved in "polarization and partisanship," she noted.

"I believe the climate in Washington is different now," Snowe said. Recognition is widespread that the nation's health care system is unsustainable, ineffective and inequitable, she said, and the current economic crisis is only making things worse.

"This is precisely the right time" for national reform, Snowe said.

Snowe added that she expects to see a vote in the Senate before the end of this year.

"We have a totally dysfunctional system now," she said. While like most Republicans she would prefer to see the private sector collaborate on an effective change, a government-run health care system may be the only way to get the job done, she said. [emphasis added]

Now, mind you, Snowe is sane, which puts her at odds with 99.9% of her party. But if even a Republican can clearly see how terribly broken our health care system is, it's bloody well time to fix it.

Private insurers' claims to be able to do so themselves - DENIED.

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