Mad as Hell: Good Insurance

My name is Katherine Temple Ottaway and I am a Mad as Hell Doctor!

I am a Family Practice physician. I live in a rural town of 9000 and I take care of people from birth to death. I have delivered babies for 18 years.

I am Mad as Hell because people are suffering and 30% of the money spent on health care goes to administration and profit, not to health care. 60% of bankruptcies in the United States are triggered by medical bills.

As we crossed the United States, doing town halls on single payer health care, I thought that we cared for our roads better than our fellow citizens. Rest stops and all.

My sister has “good” insurance, through the state of California. Four years ago, at age 41, she was diagnosed with stage IIIC breast cancer, advanced. Each year she pays a deductible of $500 and then a maximum copay of $3000 and then a maximum prescription copay of $1000 dollars. Last year she also paid a second deductible for her family, an additional maximum of 3000$ and the prescription copay for her family. Her cancer recurred in October of 2008 and the chemotherapy rolled over into January, so she is paying all of it again this year: at $4500 per year, that comes to $22,500 dollars over the last 4 years. And remember, she is lucky enough to have “good” insurance and she is lucky enough to have a boss who values her, so she hasn’t lost her job.

She was nauseated with her latest chemotherapy. Only one antinausea medicine worked. It was very expensive and the insurance refused to pay for it. She called them. They said, “95% of people on that chemotherapy have their nausea controlled with the other medicines.” “But I am in the other 5%,” she said. “We will not cover it,” they said. And they are lobbying Congress with $1,400,000 dollars a day. Where, exactly, do they get THAT money? My, they must have some really nice profits to protect.

My sister said to me sadly, “I wish I could save more for my daughter’s college.” Her daughter is 11. They rent and wish that they could buy a house. My sister said that she has nightmares about losing her job and them living on the streets.

And that is happening. People are making choices. They told us as we crossed the country. When a job is lost and the cobra insurance is $700 a month, it is often lost too. And then a cancer patient has to choose: treatment and my house will have to go to pay for it? Or do I preserve the house for my children and choose not to be treated? And possibly come to the emergency room at end stage, deathly ill, be treated with extraordinary measures in the emergency room and ICU. The house may still go.

I am Mad as Hell that we spend 16% of our GNP on health care, twice as much as the second most expensive system in the world, and yet are ranked 37th for over all health care. Our system causes deep suffering and horror for families. I am a Mad as Hell Doctor. Blessings on everyone that took Oct 15, 2009 to sit at health insurance companies. Peaceful social activism, to mourn the 45,000 Americans that now die prematurely from lack of medical care. Fight back.