My Exploding Head

August 11, 2009, by Carine Fabius

Untitled, Keith Herring

Untitled, Keith Herring

Carine Fabius is experiencing strange symptoms—her blood is boiling and her poor head…

Last month a photo in the Los Angeles Times showed a bunch of North Carolina protesters lying in wait for Obama as he headed to a town hall meeting on healthcare. Their handwritten signs shouted the following inanities:

“Free Market not Free Loaders”
“Obama-Care is Not For Us”
“No to Socialism”
“Government is Not the Solution to our Problems”

No wonder my head wants to explode.

A couple of months ago a visit with my gynecologist went like this: After a generous 20 percent discount (since I only have catastrophic insurance), I pay $232 for the office visit, which includes having blood drawn to check my hormone levels. I also pay $28 in advance for the lab work on my pap smear. Three weeks later I call to find out what the deal is with my hormones and am told that I need to make another appointment to go over the results with my doctor. And what will this cost me? $175, they say. I complain loudly at the fee and the need for another visit. Can’t we talk on the phone?

A phone consultation is arranged, and since I bitched, the ten-minute phone conversation costs me $75, which is still an outrage, but I pay it. What am I supposed to do with those mysterious numbers called test results? One week later I receive a bill for $363 from the hospital, which ran the blood panel. When I call the doctor’s office to ask if this is a mistake, I am told how fortunate I am that the bill is only $363. When I had mine done, the woman informs me, I got a bill for $800! My little adventure has cost me $698, and that’s only because I bitched.

On the heels of this sordid little escapade I hear a report on MSNBC that Republican Congressman Peter King of New York thinks healthcare reform is “not a major issue” for Americans. And the North Carolina sheep (along with the ignorant sheep from all the other states), who must think a $698 visit with a gynecologist is eminently affordable, fall all over themselves telling pollsters that healthcare reform is not a major issue. It is these very sheep who are responsible for the statistics that show weakening support on the matter.

No wonder my head wants to explode.

Added to all the other Republican shenanigans against healthcare reform are no less than the “Blue Dog” Democrats who will stop at nothing to derail substantive changes to the folly that passes as our current healthcare system. First of all, why do they get to call themselves Blue Dogs? That term sounds far too hip to be associated with those greedy, no-campaign-contribution-is-too-small, sellout mutha fuckas. My head wants to explode every time I even hear that term.

August is designated as PR month in the fight for significant reform. Now is not the time to get all inevitable on how this thing will play out—even though big Pharma has already won dramatic concessions from the White House, as in no importation of cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe; and the fees that doctors and hospitals charge are not even being addressed. Obama was always going to need his constituents’ help to get this thing done. Yep, that’s you and me (unless you fit in the sheep category).

Hit the streets, protest, make phone calls, sign petitions, send emails, write letters to the editor, give: $1/day or $30/month to the DNC for important ad campaigns. I’m pulling out my “Where’s the Outrage?” T-shirt—the one I bought back when George W. Bush dragged this country into war with Iraq.

My head wants to explode but I won’t let it. Don’t let yours explode either. Let it explode into action.

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18 Responses to “My Exploding Head”

  1. Ande Richards Says:

    Having lived in England as a young adult I cannot tell you how comforting it was to be able to go to the doctor to maintain my health and get birth control pills! Now that I’m older health care issues are more complicated. Will I have to go to England if I have a real medical issue? I work hard and pay taxes and believe that good, affordable health care is the earmark of a civilized society. There seems to be no issue with using tax dollars to kill and maim our young soldiers and “enemies” but to hear some talk the world will fall of it’s axis if we have basic health care insurance provided to all members of our community. Where do I get an outrage t-shirt?

  2. dearpru Says:

    In today’s NY Times is a piece on how young people are deciding not to have children because they cannot get heatlh insurance. And guess what? It’s not the po’ folks and the dark folks who are deciding this. It’s mostly young, white people. Translation: No grandchildren for Granny Grumps-a-lot! No bouncing blue-eyed baby boy for Grandpa McNastypants!

    This is the ultimate revenge on on those old angry, white people who are so filled with hate that they wish for nothing more than to see Barack Obama fail in his quest to give every American the right to health. Their hatred blinds them from the ultimate end-game. They don’t get their grandkids. Or, if they do, their grandkids will be surrounded by a sea of brunettes and black-eyed beauties who will, no doubt, marry into their lily-white families. Hah!

    Normally, I’m not vengeful, but after seeing on the media the same creepy scenes that you have, Carine, I’m all for these rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth placard-carrying folks’ DNA ceasing and desisting forever.

  3. Conz Says:

    Could all those town-meeting, tea-bagging, birther, first cousin marrying, anti-health care reform A-holes be on the insurance industry lobbying payola list? There must some money in it for them to be against a simple, fair, comprehensive health care plan for all of us. I want Medi-care for everyone. I want what all federal employees get. OK? Pretty simple. And I want it before I’m dead.

  4. Wendy Says:

    Thank you Carine,
    I was drawn to this post because my head just wants to explode in general, but when I got to the meat of it, I realized that I was letting the nastiness of the tactics dissuade me from jumping in to the dialogue. So, in my case, it is working. I felt like the last line was written directly to me.

    I remember seeing “Sicko” with my late cousin, who had the misfortune to get diagnosed with lung cancer after she had lost her job and health care, and she wasn’t able to get the care she deserved until it was too late. I remember sitting in a room with her for 8 hours waiting for an oncology appointment that she had scheduled ahead of time. The room was packed with others who all had similar stories.

    I could go on and on, but the bottom line is, there are two health care systems in America, and if you don’t have insurance or money, the care and facilities you receive are reminiscent of being in a developing country, if you are lucky enough to get any care at all. Her story could happen to any one of us.

    We must FIGHT to change this system!

  5. Cathy Says:

    Ok, I have to admit it. The Crazies, the Birthers and the Coulters are scary and make me want to run away, but you’re right Carine, it’s time to turn fear and anger into action. I’m battling my insurance company right now about a gene test. Who has the strength and energy to do this, I ask you? Especially those that are older and sicker or English is not their first language? Geez. It’s so inhumane. And what happened to manners? Everyone is allowed to protest, but why can’t they be civil? Town Hall madness makes me wonder, have Rush Limbough and his ilk written new rules for discourse? I don’t envy Obama today when he goes to a town meeting aka circus. Okay, breathe everyone breathe and then do something! has got the tools.

  6. Carine Says:

    Okay, so here’s an update: I went to a healthcare reform rally this morning. It was attended by legislators in the area and took place on the sidewalk in front of a church, which hosted the event. There were around 200-300 people in attendance, and except for two or three people hoisting pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache, all went well. As I stood out there in the hot sun, listening to people tell horror stories from the frontlines of the healthcare war, I kept asking myself why I was there. The nagging voice in my head kept whispering: Isn’t this just about preaching to the converted? And then it dawned on me that all those people passing by in their cars honking and waving were seeing energized, motivated and engaged citizens standing up for their moral right to access to healthcare with dignity. And I bet a few of them went home and signed a petition or something. It all helps!

  7. Phoebe Says:

    We are not going placidly along with the resistance to real health care reform. I have to beleive this or else I feel as if my head will explode. We are not lambs(sheep) to the slaughter, I have to beleive this, otherwise I feel as if my head will explode. After working for 22 years as a small business owner, who was able to pay for “key” employees health insurance “read our family” , I finally succumbed to the need to “eeeck” out a systematic plan for health care and maybe a little bit of a pension. I have now been a member of a health care system. To insure my husband and myself as “small business owners” today it would cost $1550.00 per month as part of my benefit package it now costs $13.60 per month for both of us. I am grateful for this fact, however there is something very wrong with this pictue. Why would any state employee complain about a benefit package like this? Does this disparity create apathy? or maybe callousness in those who have, these benefits the moment they are employed and can retain them “for life” if they dutifully pay their dues. Small business people all over this country dutifully pay their dues and are not rewarded with this kind of benefit plan.. Will we ever start talking about the fact that these baby boomers retirement packages were unsustainable at conception and having us head towards the abyss in a motorhome.

  8. Dorothy Says:

    This dialogue concerns me greatly. Not because it’s not heartfelt, compassionate and concerned about the well being of the people in this country. Because, it is clear that is the bottom line. And, that is the bottom line for me as well. But, I believe that a whole dimension underlying dimension and perspective on health care reform is being missed, overlooked or not put in proper perspective.

    The North Carolinians are not the problem, the Republicans are not the problem, the President is not the problem (yet), the problem is the “system” of healthcare that has been allowed to grow unchecked. We do not need heathcare reform, we need health insurance reform and laws restricting drug companies from advertising to the public once again, and putting stricter limits to payouts in malpractice suits. It is not the cost of insurance, or the cost of health care itself that is causing the problem, it is the enormous amount of money that all these “middle men” demand.

    If you take insurance out of the equation (they are making huge profits on our misfortunes), have only catastrophic health care insurance, this alone would eliminate reams of paperwork, employees, “middle men”, who have driven up the cost of a doctor’s visit. The doctor is not getting rich. She is having to pay a minimum of ten more employees than she otherwise would have to pay. You don’t think that would cut the cost of a doctor’s visit? Every aspect of the health industry is littered with extra employees because of health insurance. Not to mention the entire insurance industry itself who simply plays on our fears. They are making a profit, they are paying employees and all of this is rolled into our health insurance policies.

    Then you move on to the drug companies who are also paying more employees to do all of their advertising and who are spending huge sums of money on advertising to a public that should not be the ones who are making the decisions about what medication they are taking. Eliminate all of that excess and you’ve taken a huge bit out of the cost of drugs.

    And everyone knows that malpractice insurance is driving physicians away from practicing medicine. Fear. All based on fear. and greed. If physicians didn’t have to pay out huge sums of money in malpractice insurance, again, our doctor’s visits would be much more affordable.

    So I am against the government stepping into the mix and adding another layer of “middle men” to the situation which will not solve the problem. The government will not be paying for health care reform — we will be, in raised taxes. Unless I’m missing something, which is entirely possible, we need to look at this problem from a different perspective than we have been doing.

  9. Debra Stokes Says:

    I am glad you’re able to vent your frustration and encourage others to take their similar frustration and put it into action.

    Clearly, the systems needs to be fixed, but to quote Dorothy, here’s what we have to deal with – “All based on fear. and greed.”

    Figure out how to get a handle on those two – problem solved.

  10. Dorothy Says:

    I’m not sure I want to start a riot, but I am sure that as things currently stand our government is headed once again in the wrong direction. The pendulum has swung so far so suddenly, “my head is exploding”.

    The first step to dealing with fear is quite clear – we all need to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves.

    It is very clear to me that we got into the economic problems we are in through excessive spending, excessive credit, excessive borrowing, greed and our total inability to save and delay gratification. The steps being taken to fix this situation are just more of the same. The answer to our economic problems is not to borrow more money and give it to those who have been irresponsible. A quick and easy solution is what Americans always want, it is not what we need. The only way out of this problem is through it.

    If an individual files bankruptcy, they must go 7 years without credit, living entirely within their means. This is as it should be. If you do not have it, you cannot spend it. Borrowing does not fix the problem. Sure it’s painful. But it provides an opportunity to learn how to save before spending. We continue to have it backwards. There is a reason for the pain and pain is not always bad. Much good can come from pain and suffering.

    It is no different when it comes to operating this country. Borrowing money is not the answer. Yes, people will be unemployed. They will suffer. Dreams will be shattered. But it is as a result of our propensity for excess. There is enough in this country for everyone. We should not be asking the government for handouts, we should be helping our neighbors. The excessive borrowing which is taking place now within the government is not only postponing the inevitable it is going to make the inevitable much worse.

    Have you ever known of someone who had a credit card bill they couldn’t pay and so they rolled it over onto another credit card? This eased the strain for awhile, but ultimately with mounting interest the problem was only compounded. Where with discipline and suffering they once might have been able to pay off the first card, they ultimately created a situation that was impossible to get out of without filing for bankruptcy. So it is with government borrowing that seems to ease the problem today but tomorrow will create bigger problems that will be more difficult to deal with.

    Americans have proven themselves to be creative, resourceful and caring individuals, especially when their backs are against the wall. It is time for us to realize our backs are against the wall. We will not do this as long as the our elected officials continue to throw fake money at the problem.

    Perhaps some of you have seen the news clip of the WW II Veteran who is training dogs to be companions for war veterans when they return home. He is trying to raise money for this expensive but very worthwhile cause because the government can’t do it. The outpouring of generosity he has received for his project since the news report first aired has been overwhelming and he has raised a significant amount of money. If the government were spending money on this project, our taxes would be paying for it and the bureaucracy that goes along with it would cut into the funds. More importantly we would be deprived of the meaning and joy of giving to and supporting a worthwhile cause.

    It is time to encourage our government to quit borrowing and to let this country find its economic balance as it surely will and can given the creativity and imagination of its people. We do not need and cannot benefit from a government that we require to fill our social, ethical and moral obligations to one another as human beings. The government was never designed to rescue the needy when we are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves but are too self-centered to see it as a viable option.

    We all seem to want our government to be our savior and protector instead of relying on our own strength and ability to take care of ourselves and each other. The government was created to maintain order and structure to our society, no more, no less and to protect our interests in the world arena. The rest is up to us. We have become like children who do not want to leave home and stand on our own two feet. This applies to health care reform as well. The government cannot be our savior. We must save ourselves.

  11. dearpru Says:

    Excuse me, Dorothy, but good healthcare for all citizens is the number one requirement for a nation to be strong in mind, body and spirit so that it can serve its people with the structure citizens need in order to live safe, healthy and productive lives. And part of this structure is healthcare and incentives to stay healthy.

    When children are suffering from poor dental hygiene, when citizens have malnutrition from poverty and from eating fast food, when one-third of all Americans are obese (which they are), you cannot expect them to be contributing citizens. They’ll be too busy lugging their oxygen tanks around and shooting themselves up with insulin.

    And I’m not quite sure of what you are proposing–that Carine do her own pap smears with a hand-mirror and a popsicle stick? What is this “we must save ourselves” about? If I get cancer again, am I supposed to whip out a kitchen knife and guess where the borders of my tumor are, then stitch myself up with dental floss? Catastrophic insurance only? Are you kidding? I need to get checked once every six months. Talk about death squads–your way of thinking would condemn me to the equivalent as I wouldn’t be able to take preventative measures.

    And where do you get off saying government doesn’t need to “rescue the needy?” Are you going to drive over to my friend’s home and clean the trachea of her CP child once an hour all through the night, then gleefully put on a pair of pantyhose and traipse off to work for nine hours, then come home and do intensive childcare all over again? Because that is what it takes to handle a disability of this nature. Are you against the government stepping in and investing the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to keep this child alive?

    Clearly, you have been blessed with either excellent health or excellent healthcare insurance–which someone pays for. Who is it, you, your partner, or the government?

    And where do you get off stating that “And everyone knows that malpractice insurance is driving physicians away from practicing medicine. Fear. All based on fear. and greed. If physicians didn’t have to pay out huge sums of money in malpractice insurance, again, our doctor’s visits would be much more affordable.”?

    This is baloney and aimed at creating a mental picture of a big welfare mama cruising around in a Cadillac after suing the doctor for some imagined slight. My son suffered brain damage after a doctor and hospital damaged him at birth.

    Guess what, Dorothy? The maximum I could have won in litigation is $250,00–or about what we spent on his care during his first five years of his life, with no insurance reimbursement because the friendly insurance company bureaucrats claimed he wasn’t damaged enough. Imgagine that, he wasn’t damaged enough.

    Restrictions against suing doctors are iron-clad. The error has to be so egregious–death or complete, visible disability, not some kid of damage deep in an infant’s brain–before the arbitration agreement you must sign prior to treatment gets tossed out and you are allowed to go to court. So, again, you are wrong.

    And guess what the attorneys said to me? “Either you can sue and get two-thirds of the maximum, or you can put the energy into your child over the next five years, which is how long it takes for these cases to wind through the court system.” Guess which I chose, Dorothy?

    I don’t know who you are or where you get off, but you seem to be mouthing the same rhetoric I’ve heard on AM Talkradio. I find your ramblings profoundly disturbing, not simply because they made no sense, but because they are so divorced from real life.

  12. carine Says:

    I agree that fear and greed are the main culprits but how exactly do you fix that? Those are spiritual pursuits that people have to undertake to address their personal problems–and yes, if we all did that the world would be a perfect place. In the meantime, fear and greed is what’s driving those opposed to real reform; so, like abolishing slavery and signing a civil rights bill, this thing is going to have to be shoved down people’s throats. If we waited around for human beings to do the right thing, blacks and whites still wouldn’t be able to marry.

    I agree with many of Dorothy’s points but I think it’s naive to think that without government intervention, healthcare reform would happen on its own. Republicans are not ashamed to say that they vote for their pockets (ask any of them); and they have a really hard time with the government stepping in to help those who are poor. The thinking is, Hey, if I can do it, so can you! Except that if you were born to a single mom on crack and attended a school with overcrowded classes, sorry, but you are not starting out on a level playing field (just to use a cliche as an all too real example).

    I have catastrophic care and because my deductible is so high, I have put off having a colonoscopy and bone density exam. Catastrophic insurance is BS. Plus, they keep raising my rates! And my gynecologist has many reasons, I’m sure, for charging the fees she does, but why is it that all the doctors I know in France are living very well, with long summer vacations and summer homes without charging the outrageous rates we have here in America? (My husband is French so I am knowledgeable on the subject; and no, their system is not perfect but it beats the hell out of ours.) Plus, French people have free healthcare, which is one reason this worldwide recession hasn’t hit them as hard as us. But God forbid we should look at what other industrialized nations are doing ’cause we’re America and we’re so big and strong and everyone wants to move here!! If we keep sticking our heads in the sand, I fear for this country.

    Lastly, waiting for all our nice neighbors to step in and help us out when the going gets tough is fairy tale land.

  13. Dorothy Says:

    Well, I guess you disagree with me Dearpru! I’m glad I gave you an opportunity to vent. You have much to vent about and I don’t blame you for being rip roaring mad. I, however, am not the enemy. The system we have created and allowed to be created is the enemy and it will take all of us working together to fix it.

    If there is one thing I have witnesses throughout this debate, is that EVERYONE, across the board is interested in having the ill cared for, and cared for well. That is not the issue. The issue is how will the care they receive be paid for.

    My family of four has been without health insurance for almost six years, since our monthly premium topped out at $1200 a month, being charged by an insurance company that made record profits that year. We are self-employed and always the first to be hit when the economy slows down. We pay as we go and often do not go. That is why I take this issue to heart. I know how difficult it is to receive necessary medical care and how impossible it is to pay for it.

    But, what I am saying is the medical care is there and it is excellent care, although not as good as it could be if there were not so many middle men involved. I simply feel that adding another middle man to the process would not fix the problem for the average person. Insurance is not the answer, care for the sick in all instances is the answer. As it is now, I have never been turned away for care by the hospital or the doctors because I didn’t have insurance. I believe that is the case across the board.

    I would like to see us go to work on eliminating the health insurances part in driving up the cost of care and eliminate the drug companies part in driving up the cost of medicine. This would drive down the cost of health care, and a low cost health insurance policy would cover extra-ordinary expenses with a reasonable deductible. From a business, economic standpoint it would work to provide everyone with health care for all medical conditions and well care. Those who cannot afford it would be covered as they are now by Medicaid and Medicare.

  14. carine Says:

    But what you’re talking about is regulation of those industries, which means government stepping in to do that, which would drive the right absolutely mad. Even the smallest steps being taken to regulate their practices are being fought like crazy. And to your point about never being turned away by a hospital, that’s true, but the bills do arrive, don’t they? And if you can’t pay, you go into bankruptcy (my two nights in the hospital for a burst appendix cost $23,000, and that was without the bills from the anesthesiologist, radiologist and surgeon!).

    Personally, like you, I would also like to see a LOT more emphasis on curtailing big pharma and the insurance industry. Write to your legislators! Write to Obama! Keep the pressure on!

  15. dearpru Says:

    Dorothy, yes, we do disagree. But please do not patronize me with the “v” word when your previous statements left so much that needed to be clarified and challenged, such as your assertion that “We all seem to want our government to be our savior and protector instead of relying on our own strength and ability to take care of ourselves and each other.”

    Huh? What could this possibly mean to a family dealing with a child who needs heart surgery and whose insurance refuses to cover the surgery, as happened to a friend of mine? I offered to bring her to and from the hospital, but I wasn’t about to take care of the six-figure bill.

    And about just showing up at a hospital when you need care–this is not a solution either, despite what former President Bush opined. I’m happy for you that it has worked for you, but this kind of care is rationing. Every time you or someone else shows up in the ER, someone else who needs the services you are using is going without. And we all are stuck with the bill of millions and millions who use the ER as a medical clinic because they have no other choice.

    I do agree with you that we need healthcare insurance to go the way of the buggy whip. We also agree that Big Pharma is preying upon consumers. Bush passing a six-billion dollar Medicare prescription drug plan that he didn’t plan to pay for also was a bad idea as he didn’t make the drug companies compete or lower their prices, making this yet another of that moron’s corporate hand-outs.

    So we agree on the small points, but I would like to see a single-payer government-run insurance program that puts all the others wither on the vine. I think the Post Office and Medicare work just fine. And my mother-in-law’s social security check arrives every month on schedule.

  16. beezersmom Says:

    The insane profits that publicly traded healtcare companies earn are the chief problem here. The CEO of an average healthcare insurance corporation earned $14.5 BILLION in 2007. Average.

    For more on how sick this profit-driven system has become, see Robert Greenwald’s SICK FOR PROFIT, a five-minute or so film about how we are all getting screwed by these filthy rich bastards who pretend that they’re offering their customers healthcare, but are really busy stuffing their pockets with greenbacks and enjoying the high life:

  17. Phoebe Says:

    Thanks for the tip. I will watch it.

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