Monday, July 14, 2008

Public Healthcare

My friend Doug came down with Cancer a few months back. Luckily, he had a good job with full health insurance. He’s been on leave while he battles Cancer and the treatment is going well.

What follows is why I feel we need National Public Health Care.

Colin the business manager, called me on Monday and we set up an appointment for Wednesday morning so "we could talk business." I suspected it was about the upcoming end of my short-term disability (STD--not to be confused with STD=Sexually Transmitted Disease!).

Long story short: Colin basically said, "Your STD runs out on July 23rd (ironically, this is the date of my last treatment) and you must then go onto long-term disability. At this point, your employment is terminated and, should you wish to return to work here, you must reapply and your job IS NOT guaranteed."

Needless to say, I was pissed. First of all, Frank told me my job was secure and I had nothing to worry about. I was led to believe that Frank was the interim CEO until the new CEO was trained and fully installed. I explained this to Colin who told me that Frank had overstepped his bounds and was not, in fact, the interim CEO but was the head of Marketing and Products.
No matter what my argument, Coin kept the hard line: If I go on LTD, my employment is terminated, I must reapply and there's no guarantee I would get rehired. After I explained my last treatment was July 23rd and I could, in all probability, return to work within the two weeks following, he said, "Well, now that we know that, perhaps there is something we can do."

Shouldn't he have asked me this before shoving the paperwork in my face for LTD and threatening my job? He didn't even bother to find out any information from me before laying down the law. It was like: "This is the way it is. Tough shit if you don't like it, just deal with it and don't hate me, I'm just doing my job. Some things I have to do are distasteful and I don't like it anymore than you do. What? Another argument? Blah, blah, blah, if you go on LTD your employment is terminated, you have to reapply and your job isn't guaranteed." After all was said and done, he finally said, "Well, I can approach Maria (new CEO) and ask her for a two week extension on you STD and, if your final follow-up PET scan is normal (to be done within the two weeks following my last treatment) you can return to work and everything will be hunkey-dorey." So, here are my options:

1: The two week extension for my STD is approved. I have my last treatment on July 23rd, my follow-up PET scan at some point during the following two weeks which will, hopefully, be normal and I'm cleared to return to work and have a job to return to.

2: STD extension is denied. I've left a message for Dr. Unger to see if we can do the PET scan between treatments 11 and 12. If we can, and it's normal, I would return to work on July 24th--the day after my last treatment. Hey, if I puke at work, tough shit. I wasn't given many options and this was the best I could come up with. If I were to hork at work, I think I'd seek out Colin and puke on his shoes. I understand Colin's position, I worked in management for 5 years, but he definitely should have handled it differently. I'm not pissed about him saying what he said. I'm pissed because, instead of gathering all available info first, he went by the book, took the hard line and wouldn't budge until he had all the info. So, he gets puke on his shoes.

3: STD is denied and it's not a good idea to have the PET scan until after my final treatment. I go on LTD for two weeks, have the follow-up PET scan and, if it's normal, reapply for my job and pray that they rehire me, but no guarantees.

Regardless of which option comes to pass, I would still have all the paperwork filled out and ready to file if, God forbid, the PET scan came back positive and I needed further treatment.
Here's another kicker: If my employment is terminated so is my insurance. I could still pick it up myself, under Vermont law, for 18 months at the cost of around $100 per week, with my income being at 66+2/3% of my gross income or roughly $250 per week. So, I would earn about $1000 per month with $400 going towards insurance.

God bless the American health care system.

Needless to say, I don't feel much loyalty to My company anymore and I told Colin this. Corporations are always bringing up employee loyalty and how important it is and then they go and pull a stunt like this? WTF!!! Yeah, a great way to instill employee loyalty. I told Colin that my loyalty had to be earned and this situation certainly didn't give them any points towards helping them earn mine.

The pharmacist managers, on the other hand, are very supportive towards me and have both gone to bat on my behalf. They want me back and are doing all in their power to see that it happens. Glad someone, besides myself, is in my corner at the workplace.

Well, I'll wrap up this book now. Needless to say, I'm disgruntled and waiting to see if the two week STD extension is approved. But, after Colin's approach, I'm not holding my breath and I'm anticipating having to use option two (and puking on Colin's shoes...). Option three sucks but I'd take it if it was all that was left to me. Need the job, don't cha know.

If you are against public health care, what is Doug supposed to do if his Cancer isn’t gone yet?

If he loses this insurance, I am pretty sure he can never get insurance that covers CANCER ever again as it will be a “pre existing condition.” What good is health care that doesn’t cover something that often comes back?

This is a case (one of thousands) of someone who did everything right. They had a job, they had health insurance and now he could lose it. Why? Because he got sick? Are you kidding me?

And furthermore, anytime you are debating with someone and they say “Socialized Healthcare!” ask them how they feel about our socialized police force. Or our socialized schools. Ask them if they think it would be better if we all had to pay a fee to some for profit company for protection. Or ask them how come I, with no kids, have to pay for schools.

And lastly, this fear that countries with public health care have it worse than us is a load of bullshit. I’ve seen first-hand the health care system over here and it seems identical to what I’ve experienced in the states. Never worse, sometimes better.

And, doctors still make house calls.

On Sunday.


  1. Couldn't he take FMLA leave, it's unpaid but it does protect his job.


  2. I totally agree with you. Public healthcare is fucking awesome.

    In the UK, public healthcare is not as good as private. There are longer waiting lists, you have to stay in a hospital ward not a private room with cable, and the food is nasty.

    But - it is free to all, with no restrictions, for life. So whether you are a tramp or you earn a million a year, you will be seen by a doctor if you get sick, and treatment is free (except prescriptions, and people on low incomes still get free prescriptions).

    I remember that guy from Darktide.. Quip? His wife had multiple sclerosis and had to work even though she was in pain, because they couldn't afford her treatment without her salary. What bollocks... that sort of thing just shouldn't be happening. Doug's case is even worse in some ways cos you're spot on, he's done everything right.

    What a sack of shit.

  3. This was one of the main reasons why I left the States to live in Spain. Every time I would start a new job you get this "orientation" about STD, LTD, plan for this, plan for that... and all this bullshit that would freak the living hell out of me. Would *never* want to get sick or grow old in US.
    Best wishes to your friend Dough. I so hope option 1 pans out.

  4. One reason I can't leave this job I hate right now is that I have health benefits, and getting old and decrepit, I'd hate to think where I'd be without those :) And if Cheryl didn't have her bennies through the federal government, we'd already be bankrupt. Her treatments, before insurance, would have cost us at least $250,000. So far, we've had to only pay about seven grand out of pocket - not chump change, but better than a quarter mil.

    Maybe in the second term of an Obama administration, we'll finally see something along the lines of Eurpoean-style health care in this country. Maybe. I ain't holding my breath, and I'm keeping this goddamn job for as long as I have to.