Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Irony of "Affordable Healthcare"

Upon discussing my tax situation on Facebook, one of my friends agreed that the system is totally fucked up and rigged to keep people in poverty.  Another friend said, “I don't think the government is fucked up, most of it makes perfect sense when you work through the details.”  To which I replied, “yeah if you’re fucking rich it makes perfect sense, otherwise not so much.”

Whenever people tell me the system “works” or “makes sense” I have to wonder whether they are speaking from experience - like, did it really “work” for them?  If so, well, good for them. I wish I could say the same.  Or, are they just voicing an opinion based on political philosophy ungrounded in reality?  At least when I advocate anarchosocialism, I admit my ideal is unrealistic.

I will say that the ACA did in fact work great for my husband, who had a life-threatening hernia that he acquired on the job, not covered by Workers’ Comp because he was an independent contractor.  He could not obtain surgery due to making less than poverty-level income in Florida, a state that did not expand Medicaid.  After he finally found an employee position that paid just barely enough to qualify for insurance, Obamacare literally saved his life.  The surgeon said if he’d waited any longer it would have been fatal.  The insurance covered everything, although not without a huge fight.  The hospital billed the insurance company $39,900 for an uncomplicated hernia repair which should have cost $6000, and then the insurance company denied the claim and tried to make my husband pay the $39,900.  It cost me nearly $1000 in lost time at work while I played “lawyer” and had to take the case to the State Insurance Commissioner.  We ultimately won the fight and, more importantly, he lived, so this would be an example of when the system “works” although the details certainly did not make perfect sense.

As for myself, I’ve previously described my own experiences and how “the system” in general has not worked for me personally: Why I am Not Thrilled with Government.  That was written before the bankruptcy limbo and tax fiasco.  But more specifically, I would now like to describe what I find incredibly ironic about my current situation with regard to disability, medicine and health insurance.  

At first, I was excited to finally be able to get real insurance to have “just in case,” because before the ACA nobody would cover me.  The only insurance I could get was an accident policy which cost $59/month and would pay $5000 towards emergencies.

While living in California I was diagnosed with CFIDS, an “incurable illness” according to mainstream medicine.  I tried to keep working part-time but got worse and went on CA State Disability, (the only time the system has ever worked for me!).  When State Disability ran out, the doctors said, “You will never work again, we need to put you on SSDI.  Don’t worry, you will certainly be approved.”  My SSDI was in the preliminary stages of approval in CA when I moved to Florida at my dad’s suggestion to be near family and because, “you won’t be able to afford living on SSDI in CA.”  This was probably true, as I have several friends on Disability in CA who are really struggling to survive.  Upon moving to FL, my SSDI was denied despite having a great lawyer because even though SSDI is a federal program, the states get to decide who is approved and for what reasons.  So friends, if you are disabled while living in a state like CA which offers good social services but has correspondingly high rent, all you need to do is move to a state like FL and your disability will magically disappear!

I had lost my previous insurance along with my job, not that allopathic medicine could do jack shit for my condition anyway.  All the doctors were able to do was give me more and more antibiotics for the recurrent infections which in retrospect was ultimately a bad idea, leading to resistant bacteria and massive candida overgrowth.  Having no other alternative, despite my initial skepticism I turned to holistic and herbal medicine which, to my surprise, was effective.  In fact, my health improved even more after I stopped seeing mainstream physicians [as a patient] altogether about 10 years later, although I continued to associate with them on a professional basis until 2014.  Thanks to holistic medicine I have recovered sufficiently to be able to work almost full-time and make a decent living.  However, now I am facing unaffordable taxes and mandatory health insurance through the “Affordable” (?!) Care Act which I cannot afford and hope to never use, reserving it for major emergencies like broken limbs or being kicked in the head by a horse.  

Furthermore, this insurance that I am being forced to buy, at the tune of about $180/month with the $4500 deductible, does not cover the herbs and supplements that actually make me healthy enough to work!  I looked into HSA (Health Savings Accounts) because I seemed to recall that in the past HSA could be used for vitamins and supplements, but the current rules say, “you will need to submit a Letter of Medical Necessity, signed by your doctor, to verify this expense is a medically-necessary treatment for a known medical condition.”  Obviously, it is highly unlikely that a mainstream physician would sign such a letter, given that the FDA does not recognize herbs and supplements as legitimate treatment for any disease.  The only local doctor I know who would do this for me is an M.D. turned-holistic physician who is not on my plan and who, in fact, had her insurance privileges revoked due to curing an advanced-stage ovarian cancer patient using Issels therapy, which while legal in Germany where she studied, is not an approved therapy here in the U.S.

After doing my taxes, which included a $500 fee related to underpayment of premiums, I panicked, wondering how on earth am I going to pay my outrageous new taxes, now that I am above the poverty line for the first time in years?!  But, I’m pretty good at math.  So after a couple of sleepless nights doing math in my head, and then on the computer, I calculated how many additional hours I would have to work to pay my taxes in 2016 - keeping in mind, of course, that any “extra” money made will also be taxed, and that I’m an “independent contractor,” i.e. “de facto employee without benefits” and my income is variable.  I came up with what seemed like a reasonable estimate, took a deep breath and said, “whew!  Ok, it won’t be easy, but I can do this.”  I then went to, updated my income figure, and was surprised to see that my premium and out-of-pocket maximum had nearly doubled, and my deductible had jumped from $0 to $4500.  Upon further investigation, I learned that the ACA bases your deductible on your income.

I suddenly realized that my insurance will now be completely useless for the purpose I would want to use it:  riding my horse.  I’ve been riding for 50 years, since age 2, been bucked off, bailed off, kicked, stepped on, even had my horse fall on top of me and knock me out cold for a moment, none of which ever sent me to the hospital, but there’s “a first time for everything” and I can’t afford to pay $4500 on the chance of breaking a limb, especially at my age.  Not having anticipated that my ACA insurance deductible would go up to $4500, I had previously cancelled my $59/month accident policy, believing that I was now fully covered under the ACA, and I couldn’t afford both.  So I guess I won’t be able to ride after all, and I’m paying these premiums for nothing.  

I had the nagging feeling that I was overlooking something and woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible realization.  When calculating the additional hours I would have to work to make enough “extra” money to pay my taxes, I had failed to take into account my new insurance premiums!  Now I would have to actually work even more hours to be able to pay that as well.  But, if I make more money, my premiums will increase correspondingly.  If I were to work the number of hours necessary to make enough money to actually pay everything, I would definitely need insurance because I’d end up in the hospital.  It’s simply not doable. 

Holistic medicine has improved my condition from being too weak to take a shower, to being able to carry a 5-gallon bucket of water (50 pounds) in each hand while walking through deep mud, throw hay bales around, dig ditches, shovel concrete, and many other farm-related activities that many “healthy” people my age cannot do.  It has enabled me to teach yoga and pilates and to work (at home) nearly full-time, or maybe even full-time if I totally neglect my house and everything else, but it didn’t turn me into Superwoman.  No matter how I try to manipulate the numbers, there is no way I can earn enough money to win this game.

Again, I am convinced the system is rigged to prevent us from clawing our way up out of poverty.  People on SSDI are especially in a catch 22 because SSDI doesn’t give you enough to actually live on, but if you manage to work and get close to making enough money to survive, you may lose your disability payments, despite the fact that you aren’t well enough to work a regular full-time job.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

This Blog is Censored

I was in the midst of working on Part 2 of "How I Became a Medical Heretic" when, to my considerable surprise, I discovered that my comments in online discussions were being censored!  This is the most excitement I've had in some time.  On the one hand, I am quite flattered that anybody would find my blog important enough to censor and as they say, "bad publicity is still publicity."  At the same time, needless to say, it is quite disturbing in terms of 1st Amendment rights.  I read about this new Orwellian policy in an article at Natural News, "FBI conspiring with National Science Foundation to linguistically surveil the social media posts of 'anti-vax' activists and health freedom activists."

Note, I would not call myself "anti-vax" because I haven't yet been able to find enough conclusive evidence to be entirely convinced either way.  Frankly, in the absence of double-blind placebo-controlled studies which are not performed for ethical reasons,* and without large-scale studies of potential long-term health consequences including autoimmune disease, it is difficult to reach a definite conclusion.  However, I have been accused of being an "anti-vaxxer" in the past merely for mentioning, e.g., that the acellular pertussis vaccine has turned out to be less effective than hoped due to wearing off quicker and, more importantly in terms of "herd immunity," failing to prevent transmission of the disease, or pointing out that the oral polio vaccine causes polio in a small percentage of people (which is why it is no longer used in the United States and why India still has polio despite being declared "polio-free"), or that the flu vaccine is effective only about half the time at best.

I will say that vaccination is a fabulous idea in theory from the standpoint of homeopathy, where introducing a tiny amount of a disease-causing substance allows the body to mount a defense against that disease.  The difference, of course, is that the ingredients in true homeopathic remedies are so diluted as to be undetectable and therefore placebo, whereas vaccines do contain a measurable, albeit small, amount of disease material - which is fine as long as you're not squeamish about violating the principle of hygiene, namely, to avoid pathogens, rather than purposely introducing them into the body.

But, we must keep in mind that germs, like drugs, are bad ["umkay"] except when they are given to you by a doctor, in which case, they are good.  For example, amphetamines are "bad" if you take them even occasionally without a prescription to combat fatigue, to study, or to lose weight, but are "good" when your doctor prescribes them to you for the exact same reasons, or to your very active child on a daily basis to make him behave.  In the same way, while germs are normally thought to cause disease, when injected into your body by a doctor they stimulate your immune system, making you healthier.  Doctors have this power to change the very nature of a thing due to their having attended medical school, where they learned the magic incantations in Latin and obtained the White Coat of the High Priest.

So, while I am equivocal about vaccines, I am absolutely a "health freedom activist" in that I fully support the crazy, heretical notion that individuals ought to have the final authority over what happens to our own bodies including what we choose to eat, drink, smoke, snort or inject.  In addition, we should be free to openly discuss those decisions and publicly express our opinions and the reasons for our choices without censorship.

At this point, no doubt someone will object that vaccination is in a different category because if a person refuses vaccines and/or encourages others to do so, they are endangering the public, whereas what you may choose to eat or drink is harming only yourself.  First of all, if vaccines work and you are vaccinated, you have nothing to worry about.  Then the argument shifts to, but what about immune-compromised people (such as myself) who depend upon herd immunity?  Thank you for being concerned about my well-being.  BTW, if you have recently received a live-virus vaccine, please stay away from me for about 3 weeks, because while you probably are not contagious to a healthy person with a normal immune system, it is possible that I could catch the vaccine virus, which is why you are also not allowed to visit the children's cancer ward.

Secondly, especially now that we have mandatory health insurance, a person's poor dietary and lifestyle choices do in fact affect everybody else.  If you are smoking cigarettes and subsisting on junk food and sugary snacks washed down by soda pop, the premiums that I am being forced to pay for something that I will rarely if ever use are helping to pay for your treatment for diabetes, heart disease or lung cancer.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful that I finally can obtain health insurance just in case of emergencies like serious trauma, because before the ACA, nobody would insure me due to CFIDS.  All I am saying is that healthcare costs due to unhealthy lifestyle are a burden on society as a whole.  If "the public good" takes precedence over our freedom of choice, then let's outlaw junk food and soda pop.

While we're at it, we might as well forbid all sports that are inherently dangerous, like horseback riding, bull riding, cheerleading, gymnastics, mountain climbing, football, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, mountain biking and motocross.  And we must ban swimming pools!  About 3500 people die per year from drowning, and it is the number one cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4, with 700 children drowning in home swimming pools every year.  In addition, many illnesses can be spread through pool water despite chlorination.  Is our freedom to enjoy these sports - my personal favorites being horseback riding and surfing - worth the high cost to society from the resulting injuries including sprains, fractures, concussions, brain damage, paralysis and even death?!

People die every day from a lack of blood and organ donors.  Donating blood or bits of tissue won't hurt you and you can survive with just one kidney.  Is your bodily sovereignty more important than the interest of the public good in saving lives?

And with regard to mandatory medication, why stop with vaccines?  We could make everyone take psychiatric meds to ensure docility and prevent sociopathic behavior such as crime and religion.  For that matter, if we are going to forcibly medicate people with anything (and I'm not saying that we should), in the best interests of society, IMO it ought to be birth control.  The government would make science-based decisions as to who may breed, how many kids they would be allowed to have, and which pregnancies should be terminated based on fetal abnormalities.

This may sound awfully reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and it is.  But to give credit where it is due, the Nazis had a very orderly, productive society with a strong emphasis on family, public health and safety, and also advanced medical research which gave rise to the modern pharmaceutical industry.  The people were kept on a short leash and those who objected sent to concentration camps, but it was for their own good and the benefit of society, just like the censorship described in the Natural News article.  Under that article I posed this comment, which was deleted by Disqus:

Not to be paranoid, but - I wonder if this is already happening. I've had some strange new experiences online the last few days. I have been a reader of Natural News for many years and participated in the discussions regularly, without incident until recently. I write a blog called "Medical Heresies by Metalnun" in which I discuss many of the same topics as Natural News and describe how my initial blind belief and enthusiasm in mainstream medicine gradually turned to disillusionment over the course of my 22 years working in the field, and why I turned to holistic wellness. I included the link in a comment on a relevant article here and it was flagged as Spam and my subsequent comment in that thread was deleted! I make every effort to be polite and reasonable in my comments and my little blog only has about 3 readers so it shouldn't be a great threat to anyone, LOL... Also deleted was a comment in which I included a link to another site regarding meth and amphetamines. I inquired of Natural News, "Why are my comments being labeled as Spam and deleted?" and they replied that if somebody reports your comment, Disqus will label it as Spam. Why on earth would anybody "report" these comments? At first I suspected it was due to including links - which is problematic if we want to document anything! - but my subsequent deleted comments did not include links. Is it possible that pharma trolls and/or FBI/NSF employees are monitoring Disqus and "reporting" comments that put mainstream medicine in a bad light? Has anybody else had this experience lately?

When I subsequently went back and removed the title of my blog, I was able to post the comment.  Several of my previous posts on Natural News which contained a reference to my blog had been likewise deleted.  At first I questioned whether Natural News may have deleted my posts, but they assured me they did not and it must have been done by Disqus.  I am inclined to believe them, because while I don't always agree with everything they say and I feel that sometimes they may exaggerate or go a little overboard, we are in agreement more often than not.  Also, in the past I have occasionally posted comments that were critical of something in a Natural News article, such as a factual inaccuracy or nit-picky medical terminology error, and they have never deleted those posts.

As mentioned in the above comment, I've been participating in online discussions at Natural News and other sites for years, without incident.  I have had just one previous post deleted when I commented, "The flu vaccine is at best around 50% effective and last year was only 19% per the CDC," and a very rude person responded, "Your comment proves that you are a moron," to which I replied, "Your comment suggests that you are an @sshole."  The @sshole post was deleted.  Otherwise, I've never been censored before.

Upon reflection, this recent mysterious disappearance of my online posts began after I watched the Frontline episode "Supplements and Safety" and commented there.  I didn't see my post but thought nothing of it at the time.  Shortly thereafter I came across an article on Forbes entitled, "Death by Dietary Supplement" in which the author says, "the body count will continue to rise."  I posted a couple of comments on that article pointing out that contrary to the title, it was unclear who, if anyone, had died and what the alleged "body count" was, as discussed in my blog article, "Rising Body Count Results in Supplemental Hysteria."  Both of those posts on Forbes disappeared.

Then after I posted "How I Became a Medical Heretic, Part 1" on February 22, my comments began disappearing from Disqus.  When I read the recent Natural News article about government surveillance of online discussions (referenced above), it all began to make sense.  And since my comment under that article was immediately deleted, I can reasonably conclude that I am not just being paranoid and, in fact, the assertion made in the article is true.  We are being censored.

* at least, not here in the U.S., where we are told that it would be unethical to give a placebo to any of the participants, thereby depriving them of immunity against a potentially life-threatening disease.  However, to my surprise, I did come across a U.S. sponsored study of the pertussis vaccine in 1992 in Italy and Sweden in which some children received different pertussis vaccines and the control group did not.  The rationale was that while pertussis was considered deadly here in the U.S., vaccination rates were low in Italy and Sweden because there had been few deaths from pertussis since the 1960s despite it being a common childhood disease in those countries.