I could go on for days about the failures of the health care system, but the problem with health in this country is SO much larger than health care coverage, diagnostics, treatments, and the like. Sometimes the problem is all-encompassing, and hits to physical and mental health are merely by-products of really unfortunate circumstances.
One example I have heard is of an elderly woman in an urban neighborhood with a diagnosis of heart failure. Every summer her condition would get out of control, resulting in calls to 911, transport to the hospital via ambulance, several days of inpatient admission to stabilize the heart failure, only to return home and have it happen all over again, sometimes up to several times per month. Each episode would cost thousands upon thousands of dollars in total. Meanwhile, all she needed was an air conditioner to make her apartment more temperate in the blazing heat and humidity, which could reduce her salt loss through sweat, and constrain her compulsion to drink more water than her body could handle. One simple purchase for a few hundred dollars that she felt her budget couldn’t handle, might have saved the “system at large” thousands of dollars in health care costs. As her care was entirely covered by Medicare (federal funding) and Medicaid (combined state and federal funding), these preventable costs did not impact her personal budget, but rather were distributed amongst society in general.
Turns out neither Medicare nor Medicaid would cover the cost of the air conditioner. So she never got it. Instead, she kept cycling through the system.
Some might say, “well it didn’t cost her anything, so she probably doesn’t care.” Well maybe she isn’t fond of the instability and terror of cycling through the hospital wondering it it might be the last time she sees her — albeit overheated — space that she calls home.
All it would have taken to prevent all that mess would have been for one person with a little bit of means to buy her an air conditioner.
Where the system fails, we as individuals and as a community have opportunity to step up and make a difference. There are countless ways to do this, but today I am proposing the plight of a specific individual who has given me permission to share her challenging situation and perhaps turn her life back around.
Knowing this person well, I can tell you that she has a long history of being a self-made woman, surviving a very challenging childhood, graduating college, and working her way through the ranks to a supervisory level at a local social services institution serving individuals who struggle with disabilities and setbacks. Meanwhile she raised two energetic boys into impressive young men — one who became a volunteer firefighter and another with a passion for auto detailing that almost matches his commitment to his parents. When she began to suffer from agoraphobia rather recently, Melissa found herself crippled without any sense of why. Her husband had already survived cancer and pushed through recovery to take back over financial support of the family through long hours at his humble blue-collar job. But because of limited insurance options through his job and delays with procuring disability benefits, Melissa’s medical needs have had to be paid for completely out of pocket for two years. The final blow came this year when Melissa’s husband was victimized by identity theft. Now they are in dire straits and at risk for eviction this month.
Health care isn’t their issue right now. They have responsibly kept up with all their medical recommendations, regardless of the cost. But if they lose their home, what will become of their health after that?
Any help that can be sent in their direction would be appreciated. If they can just overcome this hurdle, they anticipate things will turn around now that Medicare has kicked in for Melissa so she can finally maintain her health care needs while re-routing their modest income towards routine expenses such as rent, gas… you know, the usual stuff.
There are countless ways to show gratitude for our own situations during the holidays and always. This is just one, so whether you support Melissa or anyone else whom you know to be in need… whatever you do, please show gratitude by paying it forward. Thanks for your attention.