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Health care IS an anti-racist issue.

Health care IS an anti-racist issue.

(And feminist, and anti-classist, and pro-GLBTQI, and anti-ablist, and so on. It’s a human right.)

Apologies for being so quiet lately, ya’ll. I’m up to my ears in writing books and writing grants to help me keep writing books and writing resumes to help me get the grants to help me keep writing books. But I’ve also been dealing with some bullshit.

See, I’m one of the 25 million Americans who are underinsured. I have health insurance — pay $350/month for it — as part of a new policy that I switched to back in January when I quit my 9 to 5 to become a freelancer/fulltime writer for awhile. I’m pretty healthy and only in my thirties, but I have a family history of fibroids (like 50% of black women). So every year when I get my annual physical, I also get an ultrasound to check for those. This year the test showed small fibroids — too small to worry about, really, not even requiring treatment, though I need to keep an eye on them in case they grow. No biggie, I thought; my doctor’s efforts at preventative care had done what they were supposed to do, and detected a potential problem early enough that I can fix it easily if necessary. Health care at its best.

Except, not. See, because I’ve been on my health insurance policy for less than a year, my fibroids are automatically considered a preexisting condition — even though I didn’t have them on the last ultrasound I got, less than a year before. It doesn’t matter if they actually are preexisting, see; what matters is that they were discovered before I’d paid 12 months’ worth of premiums. For some insurers, it’s 18 months. This is a common feature of health insurance policies; even if you’re paying your premiums during that time, even if you can prove you didn’t have the problem before the 12-month period, if you come up with anything worse than a head cold, you’re fucked. Which is why I’m now looking at a bill for $3000 for the preventative ultrasound.

Like I said, bullshit.

I’m fighting this, of course, and hopefully will succeed in getting them to cover my care. And I’m praying daily that the fibroids don’t grow and nothing else major goes wrong with any part of my body in the next few months. Because even though I’m paying through the nose for health care, I now know I’m not really covered.

Now, multiply my situation several million, because 25 million Americans are underinsured and I know full well I’m not the only brown one of those. Consider the number of us who are disproportionately affected by poverty, and compare that against the fact that health insurance premiums keep rising by as much as 150% per decade while wages remain essentially flat (note: PDF). Consider how little media attention, medical research, and government funding is accorded to health issues that primarily or disproportionately affect people of color, like sickle cell anemia. Consider also how the intersection of race with gender or other factors, and the lingering effects of colonialism, cause literal epidemics of poor health care, addiction and/or violence in some PoC communities, like ongoing rape and involuntary sterilization among American Indian women. (See also unusualmusic’s insightful linkspams on women in prison, intersexed women of color, and more.)

This is killing us. It is killing us. The current health care system of the US kills people across the board, yes. But it’s killing more of us. And it’s leaving a greater proportion of us in abject poverty or lifelong trauma if we survive.

So we, especially, need to fight back.

I just joined this group, which along with similar groups is trying to organize protests in support of a single-payer plan. They recently sponsored a series of protests in New York at the headquarters of several insurance companies. They’re using the techniques of the Civil Rights Movement — sit-ins, civil disobedience, etc. But I couldn’t help noticing that all of the protesters’ faces, as shown in videos , were white.

WTF? I don’t know if this was yet another case of a white-dominated progressive group neglecting to reach out to PoC or what — but fuck it, we need to be out there. Whether you’re for single payer or a public option or just some kind of reform that doesn’t suck, whether with the group I mentioned or any other, we need to be the ones storming the gates at Blue Cross and United Health. We need to be writing to our representatives and Senators, and even President Obama. We need to be in the fucking street. We are dying, and as usual, it’s up to us to save ourselves.

So do something. Join a group, donate some money, write some letters, march in protest. Seriously. Fight back.

30 comments to Health care IS an anti-racist issue.

  • Good luck with your battle against the insurance company. I’m in New Zealand and the sentence damn, I can’t do anything was just forming in my mind when I re-read ‘donate some money’. So, hey. I just donated something to your group, and thanks for nudging me into it.

    Do you think letters from overseas would count for anything?

    • nojojojo

      I don’t know. I’ve seen the media focusing on some letters from Canadians and Brits defending Republican slander of their health systems, but I don’t know if senators and representatives would listen to that. Could even backfire — “them furriners is trying to tell us what to do!” or something. So ultimately, I think this is an American fight. =( But I’m sure the protest groups are more than willing to have your non-American money. =)

  • Momsomniac

    Thank you for the link on involuntary sterilization of Native women. Far too few people know about this outside of certain communities and attempts to speak out about it are dismissed and ignored.

    I wish you good luck with your medical needs, and as I have nothing else to offer, I hope you don’t mind if I keep you in my prayers.

    • nojojojo

      Yeah, everybody that comes to ABW should read Andrea Smith’s CONQUEST. It’s heartbreaking and eye-opening, highly recommended. I’ll do a review of it when I get some free time.

  • unusualmusic

    I hope that you get coverage and that your fibroids are successfully healed. God that’s frustrating, you’re sick, and you get a whole new level of stress over paying to be healed, when your defenses are already under attack.

    If it weren’t for a last resort government program, I’d be totally out of health insurance while I go to school, cause I had to quit my job. (And then the company closed down 2 months later.) Holding one’s health insurance through their jobs is fucking ridiculous, too. And the underfunded last resort program is now absolutely SWAMPED with desperate people who have lost their jobs. We have so much money to waste in trying to take over the Middle East, and none to spend on our own people.

  • Huelo

    Excellent post, I want to link to this on my facebook page.
    And Jessie, thanks for your concern and donation. I think voices from overseas can make a huge difference, especially if Americans hear stories of health care done much differently and much better than it’s done here. People are afraid of taking risks, and hearing about different strategies that work might break through that fear.

  • HoneyBear

    I work for a major employer and my family’s health care cost is over $400 a month ($200 per paycheck). We are a family with one child. It would be nice for the government to focus on my family instead of the fat-cat insurance/doctor lobbyists.

  • uu

    I have a question, albeit possibly a stupid one but, if you pay your premiums for health insurance and they drop you because of what ever outrageous preexisting condition clause that they have in they policies, would it make since for them to try and refund the premiums you’ve been paying them since before being dropped? I would think that is only fair especially if a person hasn’t been going to the doctor or hospital for any reason and their insuranced dropped them.

    • nojojojo

      Just to be clear, I haven’t been dropped, and there’s no hint that I will be. From what I’ve researched, people who get dropped are those with chronic conditions that are likely to require expensive treatments in the future. For the moment I have a potential problem, not an actual one.

      I have no idea if a refund is a possibility, but I suspect it’s not.

  • Robin

    $3,000 for an ultrasound?? Why?? That pisses me off. Why do these procedures cost so much in the first place?

  • tina johns

    this is bizarre. No MD should do ultrasound screens just to see if a fibroid is present. this is a complete waste of money. Screening should only occur with symptoms and only require action if symptons are so severe that surgery is needed to remove them. many many many women have fibroids and live nicely with them until they begin to shrink post menopause.

    The US health system is the best in the world. What is ironic is you are getting over-care and over tested b/c you surely give off an i’ll sue the hell out of you vibe. It the single payer system you wish for you’d never ever ever be given yearly ultrasounds to put your mind at ease. Which is good. Bad part, you’d have to wait years for sugery if the fibroid got to the point you wanted it out. I can hear it then: racist motherfucker’s with their single payer system won’t ultasound my uterus every year because i’m black.

    • nojojojo

      tina,

      How fascinating to know that not only do you have an MD, but you also magically know my medical history, my family’s medical history, my symptoms, and while we’re at it, my unspoken thoughts! Somehow, miraculously, you’ve read my mind over the internet, and correctly sussed out that I happily put myself through an annual ultrasound for no reason whatsoever! Obviously I enjoy taking time off from my part-time job (with no pay, since I’m hourly), getting semi-naked in front of a complete stranger, ice-cold probes, etc., purely to get my jollies. How intuitive of you to figure that out! You win the psychic internets.

      Also good to know that you, stalwart type that you surely are, wouldn’t bother taking care of a medical problem until it caused you to bleed out of several orifices and forced you into emergency surgery! (How manly!) Especially considering you could’ve taken care of it with a (cheap) hormone shot if you’d caught it early. Of course, your surgery would cost as much as ten ultrasounds and might kill you, plus cost you even more in lost productivity and followup medications and complications, but hey — at least you’re not getting over-tested! That’s the important thing here.

      Whatever. You want to show the world you’re an idiot, that’s your business. But I think you should probably quit with the telepathy and clairvoyance for now; you’re not very good at it. (Guess they didn’t cover that in medical school.)

    • Kanika

      Actually, ultrasounds for fibroids are not as uncommon as you think and are a medical necessity. When I was diagnosed w/uterine fibroids, I had an ultrasound taken to check the amount and size of my fibroids every year to see if they’ve grown or whether I needed surgery or not. I’ve even gone for a second opinion and that doctor gave me an ultrasound.

    • kitrona

      “The US health system is the best in the world.”

      Bullshit. That is flat-out bullshit. If it’s the best in the world, please explain to me why it can take YEARS to get properly diagnosed for anything besides a cold, all while being sneered at and told you’re a hypochondriac because THEY can’t find anything wrong, and if a doctor, who we all know are GODS, can’t find something wrong, then nothing’s really wrong and it’s all in your head.

      Best in the world, my ass.

      • Momsomniac

        Kitrona,

        Indeed – I spent YEARS in my 20s having doctors basically tell me that all my pain was because I was a whore (yes, I was actually called that, and no, I was just a college student, not a sex worker *nothing against that, but it wasn’t at all a helpful attitude for a doc to take simply because he couldn’t find a problem*). Turned out I had endometriosis, which was a fairly new “thing” to doctors at the time. I have been wary ever since. I am not sure I would ever have been

  • tina johns

    ah, exactly why i am glad you are not in my office. you frighten me even over the internet. I can smell your suit a mile away. yes, I would test you every time you asked. yes, you can break the piggy bank of our medical system. yes, you can!

  • HoneyBear

    In response to Tina: A person’s health care is determined between a patient and their doctor, not just the cost. A human life is more important than just what a piece of paper says. I would feel sad for you if your doctor wanted to do further tests but your insurance decided you weren’t “worthy” enough to warrant them. I developed fibroids while I was pregnant with my daughter. Thank God my doctor listened to his medical training instead of just what my insurance approved. Nothing serious developed and I delivered a healthy little girl, but if something had occurred, I would have wanted the best that medicine offered to bring her safely into the world! A doctor has malpractice insurance to protect his/her patients, not just his/her bottom line. If all doctors worried about was being sued, no one would practice medicine at all!

  • tina johns

    my comments have nothing to do with “a piece of paper.” this post demonstrates very very clearly that patients themselves drive up costs.
    and, trust me, ALL doctors worry about malpractice suits. and the writer of this post has shown many behaviors that are big red flags of i’ll sue you ass off. “bleed out of several orifices” Several? really? hysteria red flag! big time. better to order the unnessary test than deal with this. smile. when you get the healthcare of single payer i can only smile when you demand overtesting from your md.

    • nojojojo

      the writer of this post has shown many behaviors that are big red flags of i’ll sue you ass off.

      Which would be what: talking, thinking, and being black? Whatever, dude.

      You do realize they have preventative medicine and diagnostic tests in countries with single-payer health care, right? Those systems are built on the notion that prevention saves money in the long run.

      Cause, well, it sounds like you didn’t know. Anything. About that.

  • But America does have the greatest health care system the world has ever known. Sure, some people can’t afford to go to the doctor at all, but we have the luxury of not going to the doctor immediately and the freedom to choose which doctor we don’t go to. You don’t see that kind of choice in a socialist country.

    *sighs*

    I can believe that Tina Johns has an advanced degree. It clearly takes some kind of specialized knowledge to look at a diagnostic test that caught the exact problem it was screening for and caught it early and decide it was a waste of money.

  • tina johns

    oh dear, what is it you don’t understand about the fact there is NO reason to test for fibroid unless you are having symptoms. your post made it clear you wanted tests for peace of mind. that is not prevention that is hand holding my dear.
    there is no preventive med for fibroids, only treatment once they occur and, then treatment is only indicated if they are symptomatic. you made it clear you have no symptoms. just a family history that makes you demand an US every year.
    this over testing costs the system billions. but as i said, woe be it to any MD who did not do as you wish. not worth the hassel. test her that she so demandith, so she will not sueith:-)

    • Trufax! And think about how many hours of productive time are being lost to self-examinations for breast, testicular, and other forms of cancer. If people spend even five minutes a month on a self-exam, that is 25 million person-hours of work lost in the United States alone. No wonder our economy is in the toilet. Selfish, panicky people wanting peace of mind have bankrupted our labor pool when they could be waiting for their cancer to be a problem instead of going and borrowing trouble.

    • nojojojo

      Actually, I didn’t say diddly about symptoms one way or the other, Ms. Mindreader, much less “make it clear”. You made that “no symptoms” shit up, because it suits your “preventative medicine is de debbil!” agenda. But for the past few years my doctors have recommended the annual tests, for reasons including but not limited to my family history. Yes, including symptoms. So again, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      (Now you’ll say they still did it out of fear, because I’m an angry black woman and we’ve all got lawyers and Al Sharpton on retainer, or something, or more likely because you have this lovely stereotype-filled narrative running in your head. My finger is hovering over the “moderate” button on you, note, but you haven’t shown your ass quite enough just yet.)

      To bring this back on point, I think you illustrate the biggest problem with people opposed to healthcare reform — so many of them love to shout at the top of their lungs about stuff they know very little about, or know solely from insurance-company-sponsored shill reports. Either they don’t care that they sound like idiots, or they’re getting paid to make a stink, however incoherently. Which are you?

  • LDR

    patients themselves drive up costs.

    Yeah, by getting sick. Stupid bastards.

    If it were my blog, I would have moderated this person already. I admire your restraint.

    • nojojojo

      Our policy is to moderate/prohibit personal attacks and behavior that’s offensive to categories of people. But while I might find stupidity offensive, that’s a personal thing, not necessarily a group trait. =) And I actually thought it might be useful to illustrate for everyone following this thread just what kind of batshittery we’re up against in the healthcare fight. Tina’s no different from those people shouting at the town hall meetings back in August, insisting that healthcare reform is socialism and socialism is bad but Obama had better keep his Nazi hands off Social Security!!!1!!elevenone! How do you have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent? All you can do is point at them and laugh, and hope their example keeps smarter people from following their path.

      • kitrona

        “Tina” is being absolutely offensive to anyone who has health problems that require more complicated treatment than “here, have an antibiotic”. More specifically, she’s extremely offensive to me, and a perfect example of the bigotry and willful ignorance displayed towards people with disabilities.

        I know, I probably shouldn’t give her the satisfaction of letting her know I’m angry. But I most definitely am angry, and her attitude is both widespread and exactly why people have trouble getting adequate healthcare (aside from the access issue); unless it’s something that can be quantified and measured, it’s not real, even though pain can’t be measured.

  • Miles C. Smith

    I read your post and was very intrigued by it. As a healthcare reform agnostic, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate here. This country suffers from a massive problem of over-treatment when it comes to healthcare because the service recipients (i.e. the patients) are not the same ones paying for the treatment. Given that an ultrasound apparently costs at least $3000 (by virtue of the fact that’s how much you were charged), don’t you think tackling the problems of the underinsured (in addition to the uninsured, whose problem, I think, is clearly more pressing) would be a very expensive undertaking? And given that we can’t currently afford the high levels of treatment we already have in this country, wouldn’t this reform be fiscal suicide?

    Again, not expessly disagreeing. Just want to see what your thoughts are about the drawbacks of inviting even more people into the “all-u-can-eat” buffet that is American healthcare.

    • nojojojo

      I’m not sure there can be such a thing as a healthcare reform “agnostic”. It’s one thing to doubt the existence of something unprovable, like the divine; another thing entirely to doubt the existence of uninsured and underinsured people, and the relative average poor health of Americans versus other nations with socialized healthcare, and other facts that aren’t just provable, but undeniable. It seems to me that there should be another word for those who doubt the undeniable. Several choices come to mind.

      But to address your points — the problem is that ultrasounds don’t cost $3000. When you talk to ordinary people in countries with socialized medicine, you find out they’re paying 1/10th or less of that for ultrasounds. Across the board, other countries pay 1/2 to 2/3rds less than we do for the same procedures and pharmaceuticals; if the price of an ultrasound were an incontrovertible baseline thing, then this difference would not be possible.

      But those countries keep the price low through a combination of price controls or single-payer bargaining, limiting malpractice to discourage “defensive medicine” (the problem of over-treatment that you’ve mentioned — much of this comes not from patients demanding too much, but from physicians trying to cover their asses to prevent lawsuits), reducing the cost of administration and paperwork by simplifying the system. And some other things. None of which our country is likely to do because our legislators are owned by healthcare companies.

      And at the moment, those companies are setting the prices at pretty much whatever they can get away with charging, because American citizens have no other choices. That’s the whole problem with a monopoly — or oligopoly, in this case.

      Backing up –

      This country suffers from a massive problem of over-treatment when it comes to healthcare because the service recipients (i.e. the patients) are not the same ones paying for the treatment.

      I don’t understand this statement. The underinsured are service recipients; they’re paying for treatment, just not getting treatment. I’ve basically given my insurance company about $3000 since I started my current policy, and gotten nothing in return. If I hadn’t bothered getting insurance at all, I’d be better off, at least in the short term — now I’ve got to pay another $3000. How is giving people like me what we pay for “a very expensive undertaking”?

      • LDR

        You may have seen this article already, but it’s pretty interesting. One of the things it describes is doctors ordering unnecessary tests/services . . . perhaps to avoid lawsuits, but also because they get paid per test and in many cases get kickbacks for referring patients.