Mental Illness Strikes Home. Again.

Funny we should be having this conversation about skepticism and mental illness now. I called my mother for her birthday today, and it’s clear she’s on her way to another psychotic break.

We’ve been down this road a thousand times. She’s severely bipolar, and her medications frequently stop working. She ends up anxious and paranoid and confused. It’s painful to watch. There’s nothing you can do except ensure she’s getting treatment. They’ll probably hospitalize her soon to stabilize her, and for a while, she’ll be okay. Then the vicious cycle will begin again.

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Grab Some Tissues and Watch This. Then Take Action.

JT Eberhard, my darlings. One of the bravest fucking human beings I know. Watch his Skepticon IV talk and read his post.

I’ve got nothing much to add to this. I wrote up a whole big post on it once and then never posted it, because honestly, my occasional tussles with depression are stubbed toes compared to what others go through. It may not always be like that. Bipolar disorder runs in my family right alongside the heart disease and cancer and Alzheimer’s. I’ve learned to watch the highs and lows with minute attention, because it’s off to the doctor the instant they cease to be within normal range. I refuse to go through what my mother did, descending into a hell we didn’t know enough to rescue her from until it was almost too late.

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It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Neil Gaiman tweeted a link to this article recently.  It’s about a young woman who died, alone and in pain, of a heart attack, because she didn’t have health insurance.

As imperfect as the Affordable Care Act is, it’s a step closer to ensuring that people like Melissa don’t die so needlessly.  And I’d rather see us take that step forward than make no move at all.  I’d rather see us make progress toward the day when there are no more tragedies like this.  We need to start somewhere.

It’s a matter of life and death.

It’s Not That Easy Addendum

Saw this at Digby’s after I’d written the previous post:

All over TV today, I’m hearing the gasbags fret about the fact that Obama hasn’t brought up gun control. It’s a good question, but they know the answer to it very well: the Democrats have given up that issue, the only problem is that the Republicans refuse to accept their surrender. They have nothing more to say about it.

I’m more curious about why they aren’t all over this:

Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to roll back state Medicaid coverage would leave thousands of Arizona’s most mentally fragile without health care. 

An estimated 5,200 people diagnosed with a serious mental illness and thousands more who qualify for other behavioral-health services would be among 280,000 childless adults losing health-care coverage under the governor’s plan.

But, Jan sez, she’ll allocate $10 mil or so to cover psych meds.  Well, that’s nice, Jan.  Too bad you’re cutting out all the other services that go along with the meds.  You don’t seem to realize that it’s not just a matter of chucking pills down people’s throats.  Meds have to be prescribed, they have to be monitored, they have to be adjusted, they stop working and have to be changed, above all they have to be taken.  Funny thing about mental illness, paranoid people often won’t swallow the pills you hand them.

Without intensive monitoring, without counseling appointments, and without a support system that will help these poor ill people get well enough to achieve some level of function, you might as well be hosing them down with homeopathy for all the good it will do.

Just like with transplants, Jan Brewer doesn’t get it.  Jan Brewer doesn’t care.  That’s the takeaway lesson here, people: do not get sick in Arizona, because Jan Brewer doesn’t care if you suffer and die.  She and her merry band of fucktards do not believe the great state of Arizona needs to waste its money on you.

Suzanne left a comment on the last installment I want to make sure all of you see:

very well said dana. in the past, i’ve had to try to navigate the california mental health system for family and friends in addition to my experiences on the pd.

even before the draconian cuts that have happened in ca, the cops had to determine that the person was (1) a danger to themselves (suicidal); or (2) a danger to others (homicidal); or (3) gravely disabled (ie dementia/alzheimer) in order to place an involuntary 72 hour psychiatric hold. the patient would then be transported by ambulance to the county contracted mental health facility where the docs would either agree or disagree.

more times than i can recount, if ya didn’t have good insurance, that 72 hour hold was ignored the patient would be discharged early — many times later that same day.

it is heartbreaking what is happening to our safety net in the country.

its not that easy — and it is being made harder and harder each and every day.

And that was in California, which according to some was a socialist paradise.

If you want to see what the Republican ideal of health care is, watch Arizona.  And consider carefully whether that’s what you want for this country the next time you go to the ballot box.

Imaginary Death Panels vs. The Real Deal

I’ve been trying for several days now to figure out how to capture my outrage in words, but it’s impossible to do it.  Let’s just say that if I ever get a chance to do it, I will gladly punch Arizona’s political overlords in the face.

The same pieces of shit who have no problem going on and on about imaginary death panels in order to defeat health care reform also have no problem with creating death panels of their own (h/t):

The only political effort to implement death panels since Obama got his health reform bill passed has been in the state of Arizona. There the Republican-controlled legislature with the approval of GOP Governor Jan “there are headless bodies turning up all over our desert” Brewer has told 98 people waiting for transplants that they must die.

Those 98, who are either poor or uninsurable by private insurance due to pre-existing conditions, need bone marrow, lung, heart, and other forms of transplants. They were told by the state’s Medicaid program—Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS—that they qualified for coverage. But, this October 1, AHCCCS said it could not in fact pay for their transplants. Facing a billion-dollar-plus budget deficit, the Arizona legislature cut out all state funding for transplantation retroactively!

This means that people who were told they had a chance at life had the rug pulled out from under them without any warning. The Republican legislature not only acted as a death panel; it chose to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest and most desperate of Arizonians by welshing on a promise.

Just to be clear, the legislature and governor did not say there would be no more transplant funding going forward. They said they are telling those to whom coverage has already been promised to drop dead.

I hope Arizonans have the decency to realize just what kind of murderous assclowns they’ve elected, and remedy that the next time they go to the ballot box.  Otherwise, my old home state will gain a deserved reputation as the worst place in America to live.  Jan Brewer & Co. seem intent on proving that when it comes to treading on the poor and immigrants, nobody stomps harder than they do.  Once suspects she and her cronies rather enjoy the sound of bones breaking under their boots.

This, America, is what it looks like when the modern Cons get their way.  This is what they think this country should be.  If it doesn’t horrify you, then there is no trace of morality or decency left in your shriveled little soul.

A Shout-Out to Evergreen and Union-Negotiated Health Insurance

Wednesday was fun.  About half an hour into my shift, the mild discomfort I’d been feeling announced itself as a full-blown kidney stone.  I’m prone to the bastards, and apparently the one that had announced its existence a few months ago didn’t so much pass as await a better opportunity.  Anyone who’s had these before knows it’s an exquisite form of agony.  Sometimes, it’s only moderate torture, and you can ride it out with the proper swear words.  But since I can’t scream profanities at work, I decided a trip to the ER for some nice happy drugs was in order.

Now, I’ve been to a lot of hospitals for these stupid things.  I’ve had to wait in the waiting room for hours before getting a doctor, and been put through the excitement of having to register before being seen.  The last thing you want to do while your kidney feels like it’s simultaneously imploding and exploding after being blowtorched is answer questions about your insurance.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.

But when I got to Evergreen Hospital‘s ER, a gentleman zipped out to meet me, whisked me back for a blood pressure and temp check, slapped the plastic bracelet on, and said they’d call me right back.  I don’t think the whole thing took more than five minutes.  I had time to call my intrepid companion and alert him to the fact I’d need a ride home, and then they were ushering me right to an exam room.  I’d barely gotten the gown on before a nurse was there – with bad news.  They had to check for blood in ye olde urine before they’d start the good drugs.  This, I thought, would take ages.  But no – about fifteen minutes after producing a sample, she was back with the great good news that I did, indeed, have a stone, and it was time for the blessed relief.  Wasn’t her fault that just as she was putting the IV in, the damned thing passed.  All that drama for naught.

The ER doc, who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, decided we’d best ensure the little bugger wasn’t just playing possum, so we waited a bit.  He sent me home a little over an hour later with a prescription for the good stuff and an apology for taking so long with the discharge papers – they were horribly busy.

You never would have guessed it from the speed with which they handled my case, start to finish.  That place is amazing.  I wish every hospital could have an ER that functioned so smoothly.  And it’s one of the only hospitals I know of that sends someone in to get you registered only after you’re no longer in agony.

In fact, they left me feeling so good (even without drugs, hee hee) that I went back to work for the rest of the evening.

They did a fantastic job, they’ve got a wonderful hospital with an exceptional staff, and they deserve recognition for the tremendous work they do.  So, my dear Evergreen: thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my kidney)!

And there’s another reason I’m telling you about my ridiculous little medical woes: it points up the value of good health insurance.  Everyone in this country should be able to have the experience I had.  When the pain hit, I didn’t have to suffer.  My union-negotiated health care’s got me covered (theoretically, anyway).  So well, in fact, that when I checked out, there wasn’t even a copay. 

Now, single-payer would be a fuck of a lot better – I wouldn’t have had to do that frantic little do-I-or-don’t-I-have-my-insurance-card-on-me check.  But having good insurance is certainly the next-best thing.  We’re on our way to that with the Affordable Care Act.  No, it’s not going to be perfect at first.  Yes, insurers will kick up a fuss and try to wriggle out of their obligations and in general make this as miserable as possible.  Cons will try to tear the law down rather than building it up, and too many “moderate” Dems will be more than happy to help them with the wrecking ball.  But if we, the sick and those who could get sick without prior notice, keep the pressure for a better health care system on, it won’t just be the union members and other suck lucky folk who have good coverage.  We can take this Act and build on it.

So, thanks to my union for ensuring I’m well-insured.  And thanks to those who had the courage to vote for the first steps to ensuring the whole country’s well-insured.  That’s the first skirmish won – keep fighting for more!

Finally, huge thanks to my intrepid companion, who stood by ready to drive my loopy self home if they’d had to pump me full of painkillers, and who even cleaned out his car, and let me ruin his afternoon plans, just so he could be told his services weren’t necessary.  Friends like that are solid gold.  I can’t ever express in words how much he means to me, and I suck at performance art, so a simple “Thanks, man” will just have to symbolize the whole.

Health Care in America: “They Were Being Treated In Animal Stalls”

I applaud Stan Brock and Remote Area Medical for bringing health care to those who can’t afford it. I’m appalled a program originally intended for isolated populations in third-world areas is necessary in America:

President Obama, I hope you’ll go see this for yourself – and drag the inhumane Blue Dogs along with you:

AMY GOODMAN: As debate continues in Washington over healthcare reform, thousands of Americans in neighboring Virginia are preparing to line up this weekend to receive free healthcare provided by a group called Remote Area Medical.

The charity was originally set up to provide doctors and medicine to isolated communities in the developing world, places like the Amazon jungle, where medical treatment is hard to come by. But the group quickly found itself having to set up in communities across the United States, where medical care is a right millions of Americans cannot afford.

Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical is a non-profit, volunteer relief corps that provides healthcare free, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance. It’s based in Knoxville, Tennessee, but the group frequently travels to set up relief centers, what’s called “expeditions,” across the country. This weekend they’ll be once again back in Wise County, Virginia.

Stan Brock is the founder of Remote Area Medical, joining us on the phone from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Stan, welcome to Democracy Now! Now, you are the Stan Brock of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, that show that was on Sunday nights for I don’t know how many years?

STAN BROCK: Yes, Sunday evenings, 7:00 p.m., as I recall, on NBC.

AMY GOODMAN: And what brought you from that, and what were you doing there, to founding Remote Area Medical?

STAN BROCK: Well, Remote Area Medical history goes back to many years when I lived in the Upper Amazon, and this is before Wild Kingdom. And I was living with a tribe of Native Americans called the Wapishana Indians, and we were—well, it was a very remote area on the northern border of Brazil in what used to be British Guiana. I had a nasty accident there with a wild horse. And while I was being pulled out from underneath the horse, one of the Wapishana said, “Well, the nearest doctor is twenty-six days on foot from here.”

It was about that time that I got the idea of bringing those doctors just a little bit closer. And that’s what we did many, many years later when I formed Remote Area Medical, but subsequently found that there were a lot of people like those Wapishanas here in the United States that didn’t have access to healthcare. And so, 64 percent of everything we do is now right here in America.

But, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our current system, right, Cons? You don’t see any problem with the fact that Americans are as cut off from proper health care as people living deep in the Amazonian jungle. You don’t feel one iota of shame that people have to be packed into animal stalls on a fair ground to get the medical attention they need:

WENDELL POTTER: I was very isolated, along with most insurance company executives who deal with numbers all the time—profit margins and medical loss ratios and earnings per share and how many millions of members you have, or things like that. It’s just—they’re just numbers. And I didn’t really associate that with real people as much as I should and as much as most insurance company executives should, until I went to visit my relatives in Tennessee.

And while I was there, I happened to learn about a healthcare expedition that was being held at a nearby town across the state line in Virginia. And I was intrigued, borrowed my dad’s car and drove up to Wise County to see what was going on there. And this expedition was being held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and it was being put on by this group called Remote Area Medical that got its start several years ago taking volunteer doctors from this country to remote villages in South America, where people really don’t have any access to medical care. The founder realized pretty soon, though, that the need in this country is very, very great, and he started holding similar expeditions in rural communities throughout the country. And this one was nearby. I decided to check it out.

I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming. What I saw were people who were lined up. It was raining that day. They were lined up in the rain by the hundreds, waiting to get care that was being donated by doctors and nurses and dentists and other caregivers, and they were being treated in animal stalls. Volunteers had come to disinfect the animal stalls. They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care. It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers.

Virginia’s not far from DC. Maybe Congress should take a field trip. I’d dearly love to see Cons defending the status quo on camera in front of those stalls. Maybe they can talk to us about rationing and the horrors of socialized medicine while they point out that everybody in America has access to health care – as long as they have a bus ticket and don’t mind waiting in line in the rain so doctors can treat them in livestock stalls. While they’re standing in the midst of something that looks like a war zone, they can boast about America having the best health care system in the world.

Somehow, though, I don’t think they’ll show up for that photo op. I can’t imagine why not.

Hunter’s Health Care Letter – Plus the Long-Awaited Con 10-Point Plan!

Hunter at Daily Kos writes a heart-felt letter to President Obama, begging him not to “fix” a perfectly good system:

Dear Mr. President: I am writing you today because I am outraged at the notion of involving government in healthcare decisions like they do in other countries. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself and my doctor.

Well, that is not strictly true. I believe healthcare decisions should be between myself, my doctor, and my insurance company, which provides me a list of which doctors I can see, which specialists I can see, and has a strict policy outlining when I can and can’t see those specialists, for what symptoms, and what tests my doctors can or cannot perform for a given set of symptoms. That seems fair, because the insurance company needs to make a profit; they’re not in the business of just keeping people alive for free.

Oh, and also my employer. My employer decides what health insurance company and plans will be available to me in the first place. If I quit that job and find another, my heath insurance will be different, and I may or may not be able to see the same doctor as I had been seeing before, or receive the same treatments, or obtain the same medicines. So I believe my healthcare decisions should be between myself, the company I work for, my insurance company, and my doctor. Assuming I’m employed, which is a tough go in the current economy.

Read on as Hunter discovers yet more layers between patient and doctor that the government just shouldn’t mess with.

Meanwhile, Crooks and Liars’ Jon Perr has finally obtained the Cons’ health reform plan:

In a nutshell, the GOP is proposing to extend the status quo for a nation gripped by a collapsing health care system.

Here, then, is the Republican 10-Point Plan for Health Care:

  1. 50 Million Uninsured in America
  2. Another 25 Million Underinsured
  3. Employer-Based Coverage Plummets Below 60%
  4. Employer Health Costs to Jump by 9% in 2010
  5. One in Five Americans Forced to Postpone Care
  6. 62% of U.S. Bankruptcies Involve Medical Bills
  7. Current Health Care Costs Already Fueling Job Losses
  8. 94% of Health Insurance Markets in U.S Now “Highly Concentrated”
  9. Dramatic Decline in Emergency Room Capacity
  10. Perpetuating Red State Health Care Failure

For the details and data behind each, continue reading.

With a system like ours, who needs reform, right? Aside from, y’know, the uninsured, the under-insured, and small businesses crushed by skyrocketing benefit costs. Oh, and those families that will get hit with a $25,000 annual insurance bill if things don’t change:

Another new study, conducted by the progressive Center for American Progress looks at the potential costs for American families if the system isn’t reformed.

Health care costs are expected to grow 71 percent over the next decade, which will in turn drive premium increases for health insurance. Unless we take serious steps now to reform our health care system—in particular to reduce the rate of growth in health care costs—health insurance coverage will slip out of reach for even more individuals than the 52 million Americans who today are uninsured.

This analysis shows that without health reform, average family premiums will grow to more than $22,000 by 2019, up from $13,100 today. In some states with higher-than-average premiums, family premiums will exceed $25,000 in 10 years. Of course, a family’s total health care costs will be even higher once co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses are calculated into the total.

But, y’know, aside from all that, we have a perfect system. All of the people rich enough to afford good health care assure us it’s the best in the world.

The Next Time Some Dumbshit Scaremongers About Canada…

…show them this:

Our friends at Sadly, No! take a look at the actual outcomes between the US and Canada. I don’t think it will surprise you to see that the U.S. system doesn’t measure up so well:

Circulatory disease deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 219
  • United States: 265

    Child maltreatment deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 0.7
  • United States: 2.2

    Digestive disease deaths per 100,000:

  • Canada: 17.4
  • United States: 20.5

    Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births

  • Canada: 5.08
  • United States: 6.3

    Intestinal diseases death rate

  • Canada: 0.3%
  • United States: 7.3%

    Proability of not reaching age 60:

  • Canada: 9.5%
  • United States: 12.8%
  • Read more at Sadly, No!

    Then entertain yourselves by asking them how a country with such a no good, very bad, horrible health care system ends up creaming the United States in every single metric.

    Spines Developing Among Dems

    I don’t know about you, but this comes as an absolute fucking shock to me: Harry Reid’s apparently located his spine somewhere deep in the detritus of his garage, and he’s gingerly trying it on:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.” Roll Call reports:

    According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans. …

    Good on yer, Harry. Keep that spine on – it becomes you.

    Meanwhile, Arizona’s got at least one pol it can be proud of:

    Update: And the progressives in the House weigh in:

    The Honorable Barack Obama
    President of the United States
    1600 Pennsylvania Aye, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President,

    I read with alarm and dismay the article in the July 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal, “WhiteHouse Open to Deal on Public Health Plan”. In particular, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated in the article that one of several ways to meet your health care reform goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own.

    I want to be crystal clear that any such trigger for a strong public plan option is a non-starter with a majority of the Members of the Progressive Caucus (CPC). As the CPC has repeatedly stated, its Members cannot support final passage of any health care reform bill that does not include a robust public plan option, akin to Medicare, operating alongside the private plans.

    Public opinion polls show that 76° o of Americans want a robust public plan option and I will stand in solidarity with them. Moreover, I consider it unacceptable for any of the cost savings that you are negotiating with hospitals and other sectors of the health care industry to be madecontingent upon a robust public plan option not being included in the final legislation.

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.


    Raul Grijalva

    And Raul has Rahmbo running for the hills:

    After initially indicating his support for a public plan “trigger,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel reassured House Democrats tonight that he strongly backs a public plan. Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said she told Emanuel that support for a “trigger” would cause health reform to lose Democratic votes:

    “We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game,” Woolsey said she told Emanuel. “People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives.”

    Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said Emanuel reassured him that he “doesn’t stand by that trigger.”

    Nice shooting, Rep. Grijalva and fellow progressives. Nice work, AZ’s 7th. Keep that fellow around, would you?