Wednesday, March 22, 2006

US medical/insurance industry crock

Please note: I am not a nut. Yet it is no secret that I'm becoming less and less of a fan of the US's medical/insurance (they're one in the same) industry. I'm highly suspicious of them. And thankfully, I haven't had to deal with them much in my life.

But recently, fuel was added to my fire of dissent towards this country's medical/insurance conundrum.

Obi-Wan is a diabetic and requires special shoes. Or so his doctor says (no conflict of interests there). He gets some new shoes delivered to him. Actually, there were 2 pair. First are the main set: regular black loafer-looking every day shoes with thick soles. The second set are some kind of "sleep shoes" which are just some cloth that wrap around the ankles with velcro. I accidentally saw the receipt for the shoes.

Total retail price: $268.

What the fudge? These loafers look like $14.99 shoes at Payless. And the "sleep shoes" are just flimsy little pathetic slippers that some high school home ec student could have sewed together. If Obi-Wan had to actually PAY for these out of his pocket my tourettes syndrome would be in overdrive right now. But I'm halfway there anyway since our crock of a medical/insurance universe is what inflates these ridiculous prices.

A couple of years ago I thought my wife and I were sitting pretty good financially and that our ship was about to arrive in a big way. Didn't happen (that's another story). But anyway, for the first time in my life I researched health insurance for my young family and considered buying a policy one day. I was suckered into this kind of thinking by radio show host Dave Ramsey. Oh, his debt free crusade is more than what our materialistic western world needs to hear, I'm convinced. I'm a big believer in living within ones means and avoiding debt supported facades in life. Uncle Dave would be proud of my household...except faith based living doesn't mesh with his preachings. "Baby step #1: have $1000 in the bank at all times"? Yea...good one, Dave. What G7 nation are you a part of? Tell that $1000 minimum to my boss, jackass. I'm doing good to have $100.

One of Uncle Dave's golden rules is having health insurance. best as my research family of 3 would need to pay $450 a month to only be covered in a half-assed way. $450 a month my ass. Eff your "this doesn't cover everything, 20% deductible for surgeries, only one doctor visit a year with a 25% co-pay. Don't get me started.

I'm starting to eat crow with my Canadian wife and her family's pride in their nation's socialized health care, even if Canadian's are rammed up the rear with 29% income tax and 14% sales tax and XX% every other kind of tax. At least they're not funding the wealth of a few insurance CEOs and medical professionals. They're just idolizing their government (maybe). Sick Canadian's may have to wait five weeks just to see some medical school flunky from Moose Jaw, but they're not propping up an industry built on social injustice.

I know there's far worse injustice around the world (kids forced to fight in Uganda, AIDS orphans all over Africa, etc.). But this US medical/insurance thing is one huge crock.


deana said...

As I am filling out the book for Max's medicaid I read's just crap man! I hate all the hoops we have to jump through just to get things he should get without even having to ask!

Companies slap special needs on a product and charge 3 times as much as it's worth! I actually told someone off at a company before for calling a product special needs even though it was identical to the other products, except for the straps they put in place to hold the child up more. Maybe cost them 20 bucks top to put those on there. I asked why it was $400 more than the other bike trailer and they said because it was made with other "special grade" products to meet the needs of a special needs child. Then he said that I could always get my insurance to pay for it...and there it was...$400 extra for straps so insurance companies would pay for it. Jerks! I bought a regular trailer from the store and we modify it ourselves. But that's how it is with everything for Max. We buy the "normal kid" stuff and fix it so it works for him...because insurance won't pay for things that normal kids a bike trailer...because a normal kid could sit in it...heck...they won't pay for a bath seat for him because a normal kid could sit in it...well I guess I could sit in it too but I wouldn't!

And we make too much to get Medicaid automatically so we have to fill out a ton of forms to be waived just so a child with a disability can get a freaking chair to eat in or take a bath in!!!!!!! They think because they aren't normal it doesn't matter if they have all the things a "normal kid" has...but it does matter. It is the little things that a bath chair or getting to take him on a bike ride. Or not having to take a high-chair with 2 towels to prop him up or his stroller everywhere we go and want to take him to sit and eat!

And don't even get me started on his medicine bills! We saved every bill from our hospital stays, mileage, medicine, co-pays, out of pocket medical equipment for our taxes last year only to be told we didn't make enough for that to be deductable...but we make to much to get all of that paid here we are stuck in the middle of the health care system!

it's enough to move to any country that would let us in! And believe me...that's the next step if this medicaid waiver doesn't go through!

Mike Exum said...


This is why I talk about "Empire" so much. We live in a world empire of economic globalization. Insurance companies are at the head of the spear on this.

Back when we met last month, I mentioned a little book to you, but I really did not have the time or the opportunity to suggest just how important I think it is for all of us, but especially a minister like you. It is called, COLOSSIANS REMIXED: SUBVERTING THE EMPIRE. And by the way, it is written by a couple of Canadians with some incredible insight into the way our world is ordered.

I really cannot over recommend this book. However it is expensive, retailing at $22. If you think you might be interested, let me know by email, I work in a bookstore....

The book looks at how Paul planted churches, in this case someone following his lead planted one in Colossae, and how these churches resisted the Roman Empire, and the profound self-indulgent culture it spawned. It then makes contemporary application in ways most Christians will find absolutely shocking. It calls us Modern Western Christians to change our lifestyles dramatically. And I think that you already have a head start on most of us. However, I think there is a lot that you will be challenged by as well.

Ultimately, we must challenge the world order we are under. It is not godly to charge $400 for shoes, not even diamond studded shoes. And it takes an empire to make that kind of value for a pair of shoes for one person while a bowl of beans are out of reach for another.

I hope you and your readers will take a look into this book. It has revolutionized me, and is revolutionizing the church where I am a member right now. (It also just plain revolts a lot of staunch Rightwing Republican friends of mine).

Well, I must leave the decision with you. Meanwhile, keep up the good work. Love the rant.

Many blessings....

Mike said...

paying extra in taxes for universal health care is looking better and better eh?

i mean we will be paying more very soon to pay for the 400 billion dollar war - why not pay more for obi's shoes.

miller said...

i am with you all the way on this one guys. my fam and i have lived without insurance for years now because we can't afford it. that all started when i became a preacher!

crazy isn't it? part of the reason i'm no longer in a church.

anyway, i posted to say that we all need to check this bible based "insurance" deal out. i think its a deal where they total all the med bills of all the members and divide it out equally and pay it off every month.

but i need to find out more, if you're interested here's the link


Angela said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Agent Wife said...

Finances have always bothered me and I'm the first to admit that I readily let agent B. do our finances and thus, he unfairly shoulders most of the burden due to seeing our actual state of affairs, so I'm not saying I'm an expert in the field. But I have always had qualms about storing up savings or paying for something that might, could happen (ie. insurance) and even thinking I may get really sick some day. To me, a lot of this is out of fear rather than faith. I know the scriptures talk about us learning from the ant who stores up and that often the world is smarter than us in Christ when it comes to business, but it also says our treasure is in heaven and that the man who stores up could be dead come morning. To me the question always comes back to where is the state of our heart? We are on medicaid right now for our son and pregnancy. We also felt God pointed us in this direction for help. So to us, God is the provider although it is coming through the gov. Likewise, we have felt we are to trust and have faith in Him for our health, for healing and for paying for things. I would never tell someone don't go to a doctor, or stop that medication or don't get insurance, but rather, what is God showing you? Jesus paid his taxes out of the mouth of a fish- miraculously. Women also funded his ministry and provided for him. He and the disciples had a pool of money to use (kept by a crook). The question was never IF he would have what He needed, but IN GIVING and in DOING, is it by faith and is it in love and even sacrifice?

Anonymous said...

I am a medical professional. I have medical insurance. Some details: I make less than $80,000 a year working about 48 hours a week and have 8 years of training. I try to save money for my patients by prescribing as many generic drugs as possible, where appropriate. I never, NEVER, overcharge on visits. My office is barely breaking even.

The way I see it, your situation is nothing more than the free market working itself out. Don't want the expense of insurance for your family, don't get it. That's OK. But you shouldn't have the expectation that I or anyone else will pick up the tab when you or yours gets seriously ill. And $450 a month for insurance: you didn't do enough research or you have some major chronic illness in your history. I pay $60 a month for "emergency insurance" that has a deductible of $2500 and a drug deductible of $200. Multiply that by three and double it and you still don't get $450.

Agent B, I get the feeling you don't want justice, you want a free ride. "If you do not work, you do not eat."

The real injustices: People wanting something for nothing. People wanting other people to pay for their mistakes. Fat, lazy, smoking, nonproductive people that think we, as medical professionals, can or should solve all their problems. Fat, lazy, smoking, nonproductive people who sue the pants off any doctor who makes any mistake and drives up malpractice insurance to >$500,000 a year for some doctors (notably OB/GYNs). Expensive medical school costs that mean paying in the high hundreds per month to pay off.

Don't talk to me about injustice anymore. Its the huge injustice of the elements of our system that are socialist that is dragging the whole thing down. Example: Smoker, age 68, with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and diabetes/hypertension because he is obese from eating fat,fat,fat his entire life and never exercising gets Medicare benefits, paid by YOU, AgentB. YOU are paying for his expensive mistakes. If you didn't have to pay medicare withholding, all that money would be yours to pay for your pregnant wife. The 67 year old should suffer. He should suffer by not being able to afford his medications, not being able to live well anymore, and dying an early death. He should not be allowed to take you down, AgentB, by his mistakes.

Socialism is the antithesis of christianity. It replaces God and accountability with the state and profligacy (after all, it's not your money).


PS - You lost your credibility with me when you said "Eff" - get right, brother.

Mike said...


I can only speak from my experiences. First, my mother is a nurse and Second, I have a degree in Sports Med and third, I lived in Canada for a few years and got a good taste for the social medicine system AND I served in the pastoral ministry for over a decade.

I am also poor as FUCK.

You look at your experience and you can feel comfortable saying that someone who made unhealthy choices should suffer.

I look at my experiences (and what i know of Jesus' teachings) - experience working with the insurance industry through sports med, experience working with the poor as a someone the church called out to represent Christ to the sick, the widow, the orphan and the alien (which by the way - bad health habits go hand in hand with poverty - cause bad food is cheaper and smoking and drug use are symptoms of poverty - call me a crazy lefty)and my mothers experience working as a nurse, and my own experience of living with out affordable health care and i have done my research and i couldn't get any thing for under $400 a month -- I look at those experiences and I combine that with Christs teaching to be merciful and share my wealth with those in need and I say that I don't care if the dude "deserves" to suffer for his bad health choices. I would gladly have my taxes pay for his health care. Much more so than the $400 billion we are spending on killing people in Iraq.

What really burns me about your comment was that you didn't like it that B said FUCK and he should get right. Yet you can be so cold hearted as to say that someone who made bad choices should suffer. I can only assume from your comment that you think of yourself as a "Christian" - don't you folks believe that Jesus died so you wouldn't have to suffer for your bad choices? Those who have been shown great mercy are the most merciful - so maybe you need to "get right" yourself before you set yourself up as judge.

B sorry for the long incoherent rant. Feel free to delete it if you like.

miller said...


you said, "Fat, lazy, smoking, nonproductive people that think we, as medical professionals, can or should solve all their problems. Fat, lazy, smoking, nonproductive people who sue the pants off any doctor who makes any mistake and drives up malpractice insurance to >$500,000 a year for some doctors..."

that may be the most Christ-like thing i've heard in a long time. i'd much rather hear the eff word than that...

"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness... whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him."

if making 79K a year makes me love my money more than the "Fat, lazy, smoking, nonproductive people"... then i'll just stay poor thankyouverymuch!

Agent B said...

Trey -

Thanks for stopping by the agent b files and for your extended comments. For the 7 month history of this blog, I've been jealous of my blogging friends everytime they receive, what I'd call, an anonymous jackass comment. But thankfully, you rose above anonymity, gave a name, and told your side of the story from a medical professional. That's valuable to me and all 7 people who read this. So, unfortunately, I have yet to celebrate my first anonymous jackass comment. I haven't arrived into blogging superstardom yet.

Thank you for not overcharging your patients and for seeking the lowest cost alternatives in the ridiculously priced medical product industry. I really mean that. Keep it up and encourage all of your contemporaries to do the same.

None of the insurance salespeople I contacted gave me the option of $60 a month emergency insurance. Need I be surprised?

You state that you feel I don't want justice, just a free ride. A ride to where? Self-righteousville? Agent B has never asked anyone (other than the CEO of the universe) for anything. My god meets my needs. He told me himself. He said so throughout his book. Agent B sure as hell expects nothing from his government or doctors. The government offered to pay for Agent Wife's birthing through medicaid. We didn't expect it. If the CEO wants to provide for that in a different way, he will.

And unfortunately, the most commonly quoted verse in reference to the poor is that "don't work, don't eat" one. Ahhh, good loving my brother. That Jesus...should have had a "job".

I know many of those fat & lazy smokers. They use to come for free food at the food pantry I ran. They've got issues, but who of us don't. As tempting as it is, I wouldn't point fingers at them if I were you. I hardly see how they are the root reason for the injustice of the medical/insurance lunacy. I may not have written it clearly, but my post was meant to focus on the fact that diabetic shoes that looked cheaper than something Wal-Mart would sell cost $268. If they were $14.99 like they should have been, I'd have bought them for Obi-Wan. Cut out the middle men: medical product companies, insurance companies, and you doctors.

Don't use alarmist, Republic of Texas-type communication with me ("YOU, Agent B, pay for it"). I, Agent B, don't pay jack. This gig has no paycheck and, therefore no W-2 and none of that crock system called "witholdings". Agent Wife, however, teaches a pregnant lady swim class at the Y for pay, so, yeah, I guess SHE pays for it. Sucker.

I'm no believer in socialism. Like you, I'm convinced it's idolatry of one's government. But $268 crappy shoes? What the...chef.

And my favorite: You lost your credibility with me when you said "Eff" - get right, brother

What credibility are you talking about? I WRITE A FLIPPIN BLOG. Any monkey with a computer can do it! I hang out with poor people. Some call it ministry. I call it "life". I don't get a pay check to do this. I didn't get a degree to do this. No credibility neccessary! You can be a secret Agent too! How about...Agent III? Don't like what you read? Change the channel.

And my observations of Christians and the word fuck are embedded in the February 20th post on U2. If you're going to hang out with poor people, you better get comfortable around fuck.

Thanks for reading. This was fun.

Mike said...

and the award for most pointed, articulate and funny comment goes to...

What credibility are you talking about? I WRITE A FLIPPIN BLOG. Any monkey with a computer can do it!

holy crap

now that made me laugh so hard i sharted

james said...

I was more thrown by Trey's, "Socialism is the antithisis of Christianity"

What the hell Gospel is this guy reading?

My take from Luke seems to demonstrate capitalism and the "American dream" to be more antithetical to the gospel than does socialism. But that's just me.

Brilliant response B.

Mike Exum said...

After that anonymous tongue lashing from Trey, I guess I'd like to rospond again.

I think B and the other 6 readers here probably already know that I differ enough in opinion on some matters that I must speak strictly for myself, and yet I respect the opinions here (even sharing them whole-heartedly quite often) to be an advocate for B and the life he has chosen. But for anonymous folks like Trey, I wish to articulate this position.

That said, I am stunned that a Christian would say that "the 67 year old should suffer...and die an early death" with one breath and then presume to correct another for saying "Eff". But as surprising as that is, I'm actually shocked to hear a "medical professional" prescribe an early death for patients he thinks deserve it. I sure don't want your care for my family.

How about you pick up your cross and follow Jesus in self-sacrifice for those who don't deserve it. Luke 14 says that if you do not pick up your cross and follow Jesus, you cannot be his disciple. If you do not give up all your possessions, you cannot be His disciple. Are you his disciple, Trey? Are you sure you even want to be?

I think YOU, Trey, YOU lost your credibility with me, when on the heels of such stunning unloveliness, unforgiveness, and unselflessness, you then tell B to "get right brother!" You actually might have had a case to make against his, but you blew it so hard core.

I would have given you a hearing, but after that tongue lashing, forget it. It sounds to me like you aren't even interested in the Kingdom of God, just clean language and "justice" -if you can really call it that.

I hope you'll reconsider your remarks. I think you've strained out the nat and swallowed the camel. You can disagree with B and still be welcome here. I am living proof. But you aren't likely to get anywhere with that kind of double minded invective. Just alienating yourself from any productive dialog.

As for B, I think your original post shows contempt for the system. I am not surprised that someone in the medical field reading you would be offended. And while I do not think you have swallowed a camel, I wonder if you see a way that your edgy tone is ultimately constructive or are you intending to be alienating yourself?

I am not suggesting a middle ground. I think the "system" (I call it empire) needs to be subverted and not pandered to, but love actually subverts as well as, if not more than, invective. I mean, you are in the business, ministry or lifestyle (whatever you want to call it) of caring for those who don't deserve it. And your credibility, in my estimation, stands to increase if you extend that attitude toward the those who inhibit you.

Jesus did call the Pharisees vipers etc, but he died for them as well as the publicans. The invitation was to all, and a few Pharisees accepted, especailly Saul. Therefore, I am not particularly looking for you to soften your tone, but looking for a sign that the invitation would be open to folks like Trey. Sometimes it is hard to see.

Well, that's my bit.

Many blessings....

Agent B said...

X - As always, thanks for stopping by (again).

Yeah, I have contempt for the system. And I've shared those feelings face to face with people who make the system run, complete with my edgy tone. So, I don't just hide behind my anonymous blog profile. Guess I don't know how else to communicate.

A very good friend of mine who also serves on the izzy group's advisory borad insurance agent! He makes his living on the system. His conscience can handle that, I guess. Mine couldn't. He knows my feelings quite well.

I hinted my feelings to Agent Wife's first OB/GYN from 2 years ago. He tried to act removed from the financial part of the medical world. But unfortunately, he acted removed from our own personal birthing wishes too. Don't ever sit in a OB/GYN office and mention the word "natural"'ll get put on "the list".

And then there was the woman behind the cashier's desk at the hospital who tongue lashed me when I thought out loud about using a mid-wife. Oh man...I need to learn when it's appropriate to shut my mouth.

Admittedly, I'm not the best person available to subvert the system through diplomacy. I'm not a diplomat. I suck at diplomacy. Hope guys like you will do a better job at subversion than me.

...and very glad you mentioned the "vipers" accusation from the CEO's son. I've always thought that "vipers" rip was an ancient way of saying, "you religious mofos". It was probably just as shocking, at least.

And Trey and others like him are always welcome, no matter what they comment. Funny thing though...according to my hifi secret agent internet spy tactics, this "Trey" has yet to return here since his post, not even to read my reply. Maybe he has disciplined internet usage. I applaud him for that. And I once had a woman from Amarillo ask some accusitory questions of me on this blog, and she never came back to read my response. Do people find joy by throwing grenades, then leaving?

If someone's gonna start something here or anywhere, at LEAST go back to face the music...

Comments are still welcome on this subject. But I need to move on and post something new soon...