Health insurance and mental health

One of the supposed hallmarks of the U.S. system of providing health care is choice. “Don’t let the socialist boogeyman come and force you to see a doctor trained in Guatemala!” You may not realize it, but that’s pretty funny (not the bit about Guatemala… the part about choice). Well, it doesn’t quite rise to the level of expelling fluids through your head’s secondary and tertiary access points, but it’s still funny.

Come on, ask me why it’s funny. You know you want to. You think you may know, but your dying to know if your right (yes, I’m nothing if not a little presumptuous).

My mother is on the verge of being sent back to the (medical) hospital again. She’s gone back to not eating, drinking, or taking her meds. One of the nurses says she’ll probably have to go back (possibly as soon as tonight or tomorrow). In the mean time, they’ve scheduled a hearing (again) to decide on long term commitment at one of the state psychiatric hospitals. A couple of the possible facilities (there are three where she might be sent) are the same place they send people who are unfit to stand trial (for all sorts of things). My dad asked the social worker if there were any choices.

“No, not if you don’t have insurance coverage.”

See, that’s when you were supposed to laugh. By U.S. standards, my father is not wealthy, but he’s well above average (in terms of salary). He’s highly paid, highly trained, and employed by a large company with loads of lucrative defense and aerospace contracts (among other things). If anyone was going to have good health insurance (besides a government worker), you’d think it was him – and it always seemed like he did – until now. My mother was in the hospital for just under two months earlier this year, in a locked-down psych ward… and that ate up all the benefits for the year. There’s no more coverage left until next February.

So here’s the choices, under the U.S. system of health care:
1. Accept a commitment to the state mental hospital.
2. Sell the house, cash in the retirement savings, borrow from the kids, sell some organs on the black market, and go to a private hospital.

I hate to be down on a state run operation, but experience tells me that facilities in this country which are operated for the benefit of those who can’t pay are rarely top notch, and have the reputation of being substandard. After all, politicians get elected in this country for cutting back on welfare, not for maintaining the status quo (or – gasp – expanding it).

I could be wrong. I pray I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.

You gotta love those choices.

Give the gift of words.