Archives for category: Health Care

We’ve been practicing social isolation, but that is a lot like our rural lives in any event. As we watch from the sidelines, it is increasingly frustrating to observe behaviors that endanger us all. And I’m not talking about the idiots who insist that it’s all a hoax and refuse to adjust to new conditions. After all, those idiots got their information from other idiots–idiots in power.

Yes, it’s the idiots in power that have me frustrated. Folks who were told this would be bad–and instead of preparing, instead of educating the populace, they denied it all, and called it a hoax, blamed others and, in some particularly despicable cases, kept it all hush while they dumped their stocks on the market. Yes, while they should have been making preparations, some were making profits. (Worse yet, some actually invested in sectors that would be benefit from the tragedy.)

This virus is the gift of globalism. Brought to us in America by wealthy tourists and business travelers. In a more perfect world, we’d have been diligent. We’d have been ready to treat the afflicted before this got into the general population. Part of the surprise is in who gets it. Most epidemics are bottom up. They fester in the undernourished, the poor and those forced into crowded conditions. But corona virus is well-named–the crown. It came to us on the heels of international travel, not exactly the bailiwick of the unwashed masses. And those who’ll suffer the most are older people, with a particular emphasis on men. Go figure. You’d think that, with odds like those, the folks in power would sit up and take notice. In this country, this viral infection is the ultimate (and perhaps the only) ‘trickle down.’ Over time, we’ll all be exposed. But wealth may well determine who gets the testing, the ICU beds, and the ventilators.

Don’t get me wrong. In the end, we’ll all pay for it, in suffering and deaths and taxes. Even as we should be focusing on solutions, our government is proposing bail-outs to big business. Not that we don’t need to cushion the blows to the economy, we do. But once again, it’s about who gets it. Who reaps the rewards of the pandemic. While the true victims pay with their lives, the folks in power are parceling out the benefits to their friends and patrons. Believe me, I get it.

Here we are, facing a potential pandemic with our pants down. Over the past two years we have disassembled our domestic epidemic capabilities, at the same time that we dismantled our international assistance for disease control. If this were Star Trek, we’d have lost our warp drive at the same time our shields were down.

But here’s the good news. At this point, we’re looking at an illness that only kills 2 to 3% of it’s victims–maybe less with good medical care. We’ve had the good fortune to have our shortcomings pointed out in a dry-run epidemic. (I do not, in any way, want to undermine the suffering of those afflicted in a serious way.) But, from a national perspective, this is a slap on the wrist for our failure to remain ready for the threat. We can learn from this.

Of course, there are ugly lessons out there. The first round of flu in 1918 was relatively benign–before it mutated into the lethal form. And so, we should keep our eyes open. But the lessons of 1918 should not be lost–keep the public informed. Tell the truth. If you’re going to ask folks to participate in minimizing risks, you need to be honest about what the risks are. So far, we’re not rising to the occasion here. It’s not a good idea to call the pandemic a hoax–while at the same time, congratulating yourself for handling it well–when, in fact, you’ve done nothing. Less than nothing.

We can do better, even without quality leadership. We can educate ourselves about the risks, we can take steps to avoid the spread of illness. We can be ready to self-isolate if necessary. We can assist others if there’s need. Who wouldn’t be willing to drop off some gatorade and a casserole for a neighbor? Flex our community muscles and we may just discover that we actually have a community.

And, we can avoid the ugliness that comes with any epidemic. If infected, self-isolate. If exposed, don’t expose others. You cannot outrun a virus. Exercise that ancient Ring-Around-the-Rosy wisdom and resist the urge to run, and spread, the illness. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Drink plenty of fluids and get adequate rest. All of us can engage in common-sense self care. And, stick to science.

Bent

A.V. Walters

My sweetie, Rick, is in a funk. I understand; I was, last week. There’s very little I can do to help. You see, Rick and I are in the process of divorce. The situation is really bent. But I’ll have to back up a bit to explain.

Things are bent when circumstances can only make sense in the context of some larger idiocy. Rick and I find ourselves in the category that the New York Times calls “The Undivorced.”

Up until recently, we actually considered ourselves to be a happily married couple. You see we are happy. We are a couple. And we are married…just not to each other. Perhaps now, you’ll begin to understand. And that’s what’s bent about it, that it only makes sense in the larger picture of lunacy.

I left my marriage six years ago. I was suffocating and the only way I could find air was to leave. I left with almost nothing—I was so broken, so guilt-ridden by my failures, that I fled. It’s not like my ex was generous in the process. I have stories that would curl your ears. I found refuge in Two Rock, and have been here ever since.

Rick has a similar story. He, too, fled an unhappy union. He found a safe harbor in a little apartment near his home, so he could maintain relationships with his children. Three years ago, we found each other. It was dicey at first. We’re both a little roughed up, and battle shy. But we share common values and humor and… well, we both like Scrabble. Neither of us felt we were in a position to end our marriages.

I am self-employed. I didn’t pick the best of economies in which to launch my freedom flight. Married, I share in health care through my husband’s retirement. Those rights were earned during our marriage, and so long as I remain married, I have coverage. I also have a pre-existing condition. It’s not serious—I’m fine so long as I watch my diet, but it’s enough that I would not be able to procure health insurance, independently. So I’ve remained legally tethered. That’s bent. My husband didn’t mind—it’s put him in the catbird’s seat. So long as I needed health insurance, I couldn’t squawk about the fact that he’d kept all of the marital assets.

Rick is a cancer survivor, and self-employed. He also has kids, which meant that maintaining “the family unit” was important to the health insurance picture for his whole family. My pre-existing condition pales next to his, yet we both enjoy relatively good health. His business dried up in the bust of the housing bubble, and we’ve shared that it took every ounce of our combined ingenuity to make ends meet during tough times.

The much-heralded American health care reform means that, soon, insurers will not be able to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. While I’d much prefer a sane single-payer system, I can finally see a horizon where health coverage needn’t dictate my life choices. In January, I steeled myself, and filed for divorce. My ex is not happy that he’s finally being asked to share what we built together. He has a short admonition for why I should walk with nothing, “But you left.” As though that explains everything that happened in a failed, 28-year union. There’s acrimony and accusations and unreasonable demands. We both have lawyers. It’s a bit ugly, but it’s not surprising.

Unexpectedly, things changed in Rick’s family dynamic, too. He filed shortly after me. I don’t think he expected his ex to be as much of a jerk as mine but life provides many revelations. So we’re divorcing. Simultaneously.

In the long run, it’s a good thing. We’ll get through this. In fact, we can really empathize with each other—it’s common ground. Under the microscope, though, there’s an insanity to it. Lives should not revolve around some insurer’s definition of health, or family or coverage. As a nation, we’ve handed the reins of our lives over to corporations that care more about profits than about the services they render. Health care, eh? And that’s just totally bent.

NYT’s The Undivorced: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/fashion/01Undivorced.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0