I wrote this back in August, 2009. At the time, Palin was making her big splash about death panels, and the health care debate was lost in the fracas. By December, Palin and her death panels won the Lie of the Year Award from PolitiFact, but the damage had been done: the sound and fury was too loud, even though it signified nothing.

We remain mired in health care debate. Though the smoke from the death panels has cleared, new ridiculous problems have arisen to take its place. The seed of the piece remains as true as it did when I wrote it, though the death panels have fallen to the level of satire.

Plus, my father really wanted me to post this. I have to make Dad happy once in a while.


This health care debate–I admit I haven’t been following it all that closely. I suppose that my reasoning is somewhat lazy, as is my response to it, but not my feeling about health care. That isn’t lazy at all.

I haven’t been following because as soon as there’s the kind of vitriol and spew in the media that has been involved in this so-called “debate” the issues are lost to us. There are no more examples of what would help, how it might work, who it would effect; instead it becomes about who is the most inflammatory, who can come up with the most hysterical argument, and how we can continue to be mired in the crap unchanged and unchallenged to think in new ways.

But this is about me and my life, and I would like someone to recognize that.

For example, since we are self-employed around these parts, we also have to pick up the tab on our health insurance. Do you know what it costs? Close to 600 bones a month. Do you know what our co-pay is? Thirty bucks every time we set foot in an office, no matter if it’s to take a temperature or get a splinter out. And forget our deductible: we actually had to make the choice between 2,500 dollars per year or 10,000. I think we could call this level of insurance “catastrophic.”

What about eye care? Non-existent. For us, that means that every year, though our 5-year-old son needs glasses for something considered “medical,” his glasses are not covered by our insurance. Do you know how many glasses a kid goes through? Hundreds of dollars a year spent on specs. And my husband and I who merely have age-deficient eyeballs cough up hundreds of dollars to keep the words from blurring on the page and the traffic signs in focus.

Dental: Non-existent. This despite all the studies that have shown that good dental care is one sure-fire way to keep health costs down because of all the attendant ailments that accompany crappy teeth and gums. But that aside, let’s just talk about dollars: two hundred+ bucks apiece to get our teeth cleaned and tuned up every six months. Why do we go that often? So we can avoid the much more painful thousands of dollars that result from crummy gummies. I had to pay close to two thousand dollars a few years ago for a root canal and all its attendant horrors; I would like to avoid that again if possible, so I go to the dentist.

Of course, we have other mouth woes that we both keep ignoring; my husband’s teeth have become so crunched together they’re wearing down and I’ve been missing a tooth in back since my twenties. As a result, my teeth are wearing unevenly and flopping over. But maybe we would have those things fixed if we weren’t hemorrhaging so much money down the other medical rat holes.

Back problems? Forget it; out of pocket. I have chiro coverage, but never once has my chiropractor been paid through my insurance plan because he’s not a member of their tribe or something. Mental health issues? Better to be healthy but crazy, I suppose.

And we’ve got good health. What happens if one of us gets really sick? God help us. Individual health plans are notoriously skint on their lifetime limit–we’ve got two million bucks of coverage and then–buh-bye. Talk about a “death panel.”  Seriously, what happens if they have to fix a liver or kidney, or my heart? Do we run up to the two million and then the insurance adjuster says, “I’m sorry–we were just about to plug in that heart of yours but you’ve reached your limit.”

Thankfully, there are sites like www.lifecoverquotes.org.uk where we can compare different life insurance policies. We’re truly the lucky ones. Whether by fiat or hard work we’ve been fortunate to have enough money to buy our own health insurance. Many don’t. Many of our friends, who are completely and solidly middle class, cannot afford to spend the extra money each month on their own medical insurance.

The result? Treatment for the most severe form of cervical cancer in a free clinic in Los Angeles. Pre-diabetic health monitoring that is so spotty as to be pointless. Out of pocket expenses of many-multiple thousands for a CPAP machine to keep our friend breathing through the night. Amount paid for emergency oral surgery: ten thousand dollars in cash. Two hip replacements for our friend, a young woman in her twenties, which she couldn’t pay for, and then had to claim bankruptcy. Type 1 diabetes with no insurance–a horror my step-sister has navigated partly by ducking back into school to get insured again. Otherwise, her now “pre-existing condition” rules her out of almost all other plans. What happens when she graduates?

These are ailments affecting people in their twenties through their forties. This is not a discussion about how to care for the elderly. This is about people in the prime of their life who would, with proper preventive health care and better access to good medical teams, live a long time. These same people may have their lives dramatically shortened because they cannot afford insurance.

So these discussions are an obfuscation which offend me personally. I take umbrage with these cavalierly hurled arguments because they are playing with the lives of people I love, active members of American society, taxpayers and voters, who may die prematurely because the health care system won’t care for them.

And what about my Dad?* Where is he in the discussion? The death panels apparently have him and his Stage 4 cancer singled out, but I don’t think he feels tremendously threatened by these medical bureaucrats waving their mighty pens of death over his head.

In fact, he’s relieved that his whole medical team understands in black and white terms that he does not want his life prolonged unnecessarily. That he has the choice to say no to being hooked up to machines and medical devices which may hand him a few more days or weeks, but in a manner which would hardly be called “vital.” That he may choose between that and living out his days comfortably, without strident measures, without hysteria or intubation, without medicine that is as potentially toxic as it is prolonging.

Is that last inkling of life so truly desirable, if sculpted by equipment, money, interventions, and resources that give no comfort or solace? Is the mere fact of living enough, no matter what the condition of the life? Is it life for life’s sake, or life for living?

If you ask me, and nobody did, I think this “health debate” is about a country’s unwillingness to step up to care for its citizens in a responsible way. I think it is about companies and industries so mired in bureaucracies of their own making that they cannot envision another way. I think it is about people’s lives being less important than the evolution of the pay-to-play system, and nickel-and-diming by the insurance industry. I think it is about trying to unravel the Gordian knot woven during the horrid evolution of the PPO, where codes of symptoms and ailments became more important than a holistic view of any given patient.**

We are the ones who pay the price of their inflexibility with diseases and easily treated injuries winding up in the least efficient places on earth: the Emergency Room. Or unable to save money for our retirement because we’re too busy spending it on glasses and CPAP machines, claiming bankruptcy for medically imperative operations, and insurance that is so expensive we have little left at the end of the month. So this disingenuous legerdemain being perpetrated to take the issues out of the hands of patients makes me pretty damned angry.

You can call it a death panel if you want, but I’ll take it for what it is: life and living under our own terms.

*Painting by my father Charles Moone, called “Self Portrait,” painted in 1972. His headstone reads: “Where Will You Spend Eternity?”

**Sometimes there are even articles to back up my opinions! A nice article called the “Five Myths About Health Care Around the World” from the Washington Post, which I found on Metafilter after I wrote this. Call it synchronicity.




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QUENBY MOONE used to be a graphic designer who wrote once in a while. After her father came down with a touch of Stage IV prostate cancer, she became a writer who did graphic design once in a while.

She's written a book called Living in Twilight (no relation to vampires - unless dying of cancer is a part of Edward's story) in which her design skills came in handy, and includes some of her stories featured on The Nervous Breakdown.

71 responses to “Death Becomes Us”

  1. Anon says:

    You’re right, Quenby. It’s not about us. It never has been. It’s about power and control and winning some sort of perverse pissing contest. And we all get to line up and cheer on whichever date-rapist promises to not beat us quite as badly as the last one, who had promised not to keep us chained in the basement as long as the one prior had, and….

    Man, I’ve got a freaking headache now.

    • Becky says:

      And she did sort of allude to that. Much of what I said below. Man, I like to talk. And repeat myself. And other people.

      Talk talk talk talk.

      *Fire Marshall Bill* Lemme tell you sumthin’

  2. Becky says:

    I think that’s an oversimplification.

    I think, in addition to being an attempt to shore up difficulties that the public is facing (most importantly, difficulties that they’re willing to vote about, since politicians, in my increasingly cynical opinion, are not motivated by too much else), it is a spectacular power grab.

    I mean, the political implications can’t be ignored.

    I think the reduction of the situation to one person’s surplus of compassion or another’s lack thereof is hopeful, but it hides a number of the finer points of politics. Like, it may be an issue of compassion for some voters, but to think it is for the people who craft it and negotiate it is overly optimistic–witness back room deals, “buying” the silence of pharmaceutical companies in exchange for leeway to continue THEIR business as usual, etc.

    So the question apparent is, “Who cares?” if it helps people, who cares? But the question, for me, at least, is if helping people in one area at the cost of hurting them in another (and potentially unneccesary) way is any real help at all. Whether that is by way of economy or a reduction in the quality of care, or any of the unknown variables or unforeseen (or ignored) potential consequences, who has been helped?

    Or is it more important to have or give the impression that someone, the ever-elusive bad guy, whoever he/she may be, corporations, insurers, the greedy rich, has been harmed? Like, I sometimes find myself very suspicious of people’s real motivations. Because, of course, politicians CAN’T actually harm those people if they want to continue to get re-elected. Because those are the people who finance their campaigns. So as much as politicians may talk about taking down the big bad guys, I have to assume virtually every instance of it is a lie, in some way or another.

    I mean, even if they do “take down” the big bad insurance guy, but they’ll legislate up some other bad guy to take his place. To me, this seems inescapable.

    I think it is more difficult to find conservative people who oppose health care reform in principle than you might think. In particular, the difficulties associated with “pre-existing conditions” and affordability in general. In my case, health care reform is not the problem in and of itself. It was the severity and some of the wider, non-health-related political implications of the bills under consideration and congress’ party-line vote-downs of any input the opposition offered.

    I’m not a Republican, but I am a conservative, and to me, the whole thing smacked of naked politics as much for the left side of the aisle as the right, all in a greater context of the American political power balance.

    As much as I understand it being a matter of deep personal and humanitarian import for a lot of voters, I have a hard time believing that politicians are not inclined to take advantage of that to serve their own ends, some of which may do more harm than good, which is why I have trouble seeing one’s support or lack thereof of the particular bills in question as a matter of kindness or heartlessness.

    Sorry for the novel. I can’t remember if we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Becky. I leave long comments and am one of maybe two conservatives you will find on this site (or at least one of two who will admit it). I hope I have been civil.

    Now, in the script, is the part where everyone yells at me for being a heartless fascist and a Rush Limbaugh enthusiast who needs to turn off Fox news and etc. etc. (Or not me, because they don’t want to fight, but everyone BESIDES me who happens to share my politics and opinions.)

    (I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Fox news.)

    I have a feeling I am going to regret starting whatever conversation this comment might generate.

    • Anon says:

      Holy crap. My first drafted reply was about three paragraphs and I thought, “I’ll just piss people off and politicize things.” Now I feel like a stooge. Well-played, Becky.

      I’ve been told I’m conservative by my pretentious leftist friends. I’ve also been told that I’m “what a hippy was supposed to be” (from a fourth-generation hippy). I’ve also been called “socially liberal” by my rabid rightist friends. So… whatever. I am apparently either a right-leaning Libertarian or an “anarchist lite” (somebody has to pave the interstates and protect the borders, right?). I’m not big on labels.

      One thing I find highly suspicious is how people are jabbering on and on about who’s picking up the tab yet no one is questioning the size of the check. If medical care as a proportion of income has increased that dramatically, why? And show me when it started so we can figure out what caused the increase (I have my suspicions) and then fix it with a minimum of government fuckery.

      • Becky says:

        I’ve referred to myself as a milquetoast anarchist. Full of the ideas but too accustomed to paved roads to get too giddy about them.

        I’m okay with finding a middle ground there.

        I am socially liberal (though there seems to be some confusion about what this means, since it is fashionable to call various government interventions “social” programs), meaning, I don’t care if you get an abortion (or I do; I have feelings about it, but I don’t think government should), I don’t care if you’re gay and you want to get married, etc.

        I am fiscally conservative, though, so if you’re looking for taxpayer money for either of those things, I am likely to object. That sort of thing.

        That’s the simplest answer, probably, about my politics. The “conservative” label comes fundamentally from my small government preference. I mean, that’s what that is.

      • Becky says:

        Also, I am curious about your suspicions.

        • Anon says:

          As am I (;. But discussing politics is a can of truly disgusting worms and, must as I love getting all tangential about goofy crap like alcohol preferences and body shaving, I try to avoid “seagull syndrome” – swooping into someone’s post, making a squawking racket, crapping all over everything and then leaving. Should the discussion evolve with Quenby’s blessing, I’m sure I’ll be powerless to keep my (well-proportioned) nose out of it. Otherwise, feel free to email me and we can discuss, foam, rant and foment insurrection in that medium.

        • Becky says:

          I hate politics. And by that I mean I love politics. We have a very dysfunctional relationship.

          And, yeah. I prefer to think of myself of more of a spewer than a squawker, but both are essentially correct. I don’t hope to politicize so much as I am not always in control when a thought is touched off. I always just suppose that if my input is not interesting or welcome, I will be ignored, and that will be the end of that.

          But I relieve myself of seagull status by way of my stubborn habit of NEVER LEAVING. Oh no. I will stick it out to the bitter, bitter end. Well after the conversation goes absurd, I’ll be there, sweating and shaking and refusing food or drink. At least until someone issues a death threat or cracks a funny joke.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          I don’t think I have any right to dictate where the discussion goes; you are both free individuals and this is the spirit of debate. You’re being civil–that’s what I think we should aspire to, though I know it’s tough when everyone’s on edge.

          Just nothing below the belt! We’re all so nice and I like us all so much!

        • Anon says:

          Well, I *am* heading home for the day so I suppose I’ll eat a nice dinner, put the kids to bed, strap on a cup – just in case – and come back in to see what’s what. (:

        • Quenby Moone says:

          Don’t change your hat, though. It looks fabulous.

        • Becky says:

          We are! We are all so awesome!

          Group hug!!!!



        • Quenby Moone says:

          I’ll sneak in a group hug. I’ll pretend it never happened though, when anyone asks about it. Just like I’ll deny that I was drunk at the time.

        • Anon says:

          It’s the hat, isn’t it? You’re afraid you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands to yourselves because of The Fedora of Studliness.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          Love the hat. Bogey has nothing on you!

        • Anon says:

          Gracie, Quenby. Of course, Mister Bogart is long-dead so I’m not sure it was a very high bar to surpass. (:

        • Quenby Moone says:

          Wait. Bogart is DEAD? How come no-one tells me these things?

        • Anon says:

          Oh, my God – I am so, so sorry! I would’ve broken the news more gently had I known….

      • Quenby Moone says:

        Coincidentally, I heard this on my way home today:


        It’s about doctors and the fee-for-service plan, which was put in place by Congress, before they realized that doctors were essentially writing their own rapidly inflating paychecks. We’ve been paying for it ever since.

        Genie out of bottle.

  3. Quenby Moone says:

    I’m running out the door, but you have been perfectly civil. I hope to return to the comment with proper civility. But I’ll have to do it later when I’m not chasing my kid down!

    So, I’m formulating a response, but it’ll be a while. Thanks for your patience, Becky!

  4. Quenby Moone says:

    The discussion has now continued without me through a few pretty serious comments which I’m trying to parse, but since I’m late I’m having difficulty knowing how to start.

    But Becky writes: “But the question, for me, at least, is if helping people in one area at the cost of hurting them in another (and potentially unneccesary) way is any real help at all. Whether that is by way of economy or a reduction in the quality of care, or any of the unknown variables or unforeseen (or ignored) potential consequences, who has been helped?

    And I guess my question is, who are the people going to being hurt and how? I’m not sure I’m clear on the sides your drawing. The reduction in the quality of health care seems a straw man, because as I’ve mentioned, many of the people I know have negligible health care now. I have insurance, and I have negligible health care. So many things that I go to the doctor for aren’t covered that it seems like I carry insurance more for rare but exotic accidents, like having an arm or leg lopped off. Not, as you would think, the more day-to-day complaints of being a tough but vulnerable living organism. I get charged for “Labs” because they’re not covered. That includes stupid things, let me tell you. And you can argue the point that I need a new insurer, which I’ve investigated, but they’re pretty much all the same and whittling down service year by year.

    And I’m not “conservative,” but the lines have blurred so much over the last decades, through Reagan, Clinton, Bush Mach 2, that I’m not even sure many conservatives know who the conservatives are anymore. I know there are fiscal conservatives (I’m sympathetic, but think sometimes you just have to spend money to make the majority of people safer) and social conservatives (less sympathetic, since I believe that social concerns have little business in my government).

    Taxpayer money is always an issue here in Oregon; people are rabidly anti-tax here, and because everything here is voted in referendums, our legislature is practically toothless: it can roar about policy all it wants but anti-tax activists will always bring it to a vote, and Oregonians will almost always vote any new taxes down. This painful friction has made it so our schools are limping painfully, our services are always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, our roads often of dubious quality. I’m not saying there isn’t a point in “trimming fat;” I just don’t think if the body has been picked clean that we should argue the point any more. There comes a point where there is no more to cut.

    The medical argument is somewhere hidden among all these frictions: who is spending the money? How will it be spent? Where is it coming from? What constitutes good vs. bad health care, or how much value do some medical products give vs. others? What is reasonable to spend for certain treatments and therapies?

    But I’m not a policy wonk, so I don’t know how to write these issues up and devise any plans that make sense. I just know that what we have doesn’t work, because I have empirical evidence in the form of people who have relatively pedestrian illnesses and medical needs not being met. I’m included, even with my insurance.

    I hope that I have been civil, and gracious as well. I called this piece a rant, because it comes from a piece of me so frustrated with the little mounting insults, but I know that it is not a more soundly reasoned “op-ed” piece. I would need a lot more facts and figures to hand to make it stand up as one. But I think it’s a fair rant. I’m also open to disagreement. The US is still good like that, Freedom of Speech and all.

    • Becky says:

      Well, that’s where it becomes difficult to make important.

      I mean, if I say mounting federal deficits and increased reliance on subsidized programs, increase invasion of government into the private sector has dire implications for the politico-philosophical well being of the country and potentially whatever democracy is left, in both the long and short term, I mean, who gives a rip about that?

      Who cares about that kind of thing if they can’t afford a dentist?

      It’s a valid question. Justified. But it’s true that mounting federal interventionism frightens me in ways I am only now beginning to really understand, most of which involve a nickle-and-diming march towards the kind of tyranny that simply puts the government in the role that corporations occupy now (AND the governmental role), and dentist or not, no one is actually any better for it.

      And that is where I show what most would dub my paranoid political tendencies. But I think it’s a real concern, in the 20,000 foot view.

      At street level, the quality of care argument is only a straw man for those who lack respectable coverage now. For those who do have care, it’s being asked–or told, is how they perceive it–to put themselves in harm’s way and compromise their family’s health because of a legislative/ideological game of oneupsmanship being waged by powers who are more interested in votes than anyone’s health or well being. Sacrificing to the altar of the common good when only one option, the one that requires it, is being offered.

      And that doesn’t take into account the people who aren’t insured and don’t care to be insured. Mandatory insurance is broadly unpopular. 60% + disapprove of that aspect, last poll I read. I think that if legislators were willing to look outside of the plans offered so far, if alternatives are explored in the broad sense, they’ll find that mandatory insurance may not be necessary.

      So, like I said. I don’t think it’s an opposition to finding ways to help people, to improve health care and coverage. I think it’s opposition to some of the power-grabby aspects of the current models and seeming reluctance to take them back to the drawing board, to reconsider, to bend in any way. If the Republicans are the party of “no,” Democrats are the party of “we do what we want.”

      My own personal opinion, if it’s not apparent, is that, when it comes to professional politicians, neither side has any interest in helping anyone but themselves and shouldn’t be trusted when they say they do or that it will be the largest and most important result of whatever they might do.

      I mean, the system is broken, is the overall message, and you mention that. And it’s broken on such a fundamental level that I have a serious trouble trusting that such a system can fix anything. That’s at the guts of what I’m saying.

      The solution? I, too, often fail in this regard, but in the short term, I think other configurations of bills should be considered and Obama should make good on his dual promises of eschewing corporate and industry interests (as best he can) and making the process transparent, which he screwed up in the last go-round.

      In the long term, I hope that people will start to see how similar these two parties are and start looking into other options. Make DEM/GOP less certain of their seats as the de facto arbiters of national politics. Cut them down a bit to size. I think that’s sort of happening now. I hope it keeps up.

    • Judy Prince says:

      You go, girl. I appreciate your awesome rant, Quenby.

      Soon we’ll have health care legislation that markedly improves upon what we have now.

      It still will be less humane than the health care of folk in the UK and other parts of Europe. But it’s an important landmark start for the USA. We need to wear it, walk around in it, experience it for awhile in order to move it humanely further forward.

      No reason inveterate capitalists like us USAers need to be anti-people. About time we looked around and grabbed ideas that’ve worked in other countries and helped so many others.

      Largely because of our geographical separation from other countries, for a long time we’ve felt alone and on our own. We’ve nurtured myths about our being pioneers, cowboys, strong, independent, and stoic.

      Now we are choosing differently for ourselves—for *ourselves*—and loosening the grip of years of rigid habits. Good for us!

      • Quenby Moone says:

        That’s what I’ve wondered: why does being an Americun necessarily mean we ignore the needs of the many? Weird. Maybe it’s out rather unfortunate history. But most countries have horrors in their closets, and they have health care, dammit!

        Ahem. I’m getting off topic.

        Thanks for the pro-rant thumbs up! Ranting is not my natural state of being so I feel a little awkward. I’m not a natural pundit.

        Maybe a punner. Not a pundit.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yes, Quenby, I, too, have wondered why the USA seems so set against helping its citizens in such important areas as health care.

          For some reason, I kept thinking, Canada, the UK, and other European countries have figured out what we have ignored or willfully resisted. My own sense of USA history, though, could only track back to the fabulously wealthy “Robber Barons”, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and George Pullman, and their successful efforts, teamed with cooperative Presidents and other elected officials, to break unions and other labor protests.

          Wanting to know much more, I’m currently reading Howard Zinn’s *A People’s History of the U.S: 1492 to Present*. It offers history that I never read in my high school textbooks. It’s not pretty, and it’s as biased as the high school textbooks, but it’s a much-needed “companion” to them.

          Recently I watched Jamie Johnson’s revelatory DVD, *Born Rich* in which he interviews himself (an heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company) and 10 of his super-wealthy friends, amongst whom are the Trumps, Bloombergs and Vanderbilts. They talk about money, among other things. I frankly admire Jamie Johnson’s courage.

          I feel that we’re on the cusp of helping this nation be what it thinks it already is: a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that helping includes, I believe, other nations’ people. We are, after all, and for the better, a nation of other nations’ people—and quite unlike other countries in that respect. Our grandparents have important stories to tell us.

          This article you’ve written is a powerhouse. You may not believe you are a pundit (an exceptionally wise and informed person), but I think you are.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          Thanks for the pundit plaudits! To mention Zinn in a comment about my rant is ridiculously high praise, and I’m tickled pink to even share an infinitesimal piece of the internet with him.

          I’m completely moved. Thank you.

  5. Mary Richert says:

    Yes, and yes. I will be emailing this article to several people who I think need to know about it. You are so right on. I was 100% with you the moment you acknowledged the vitriol. Anyone who’s ever studied debate or even written a high school argumentative essay knows that the moment that kind of venom enters the equation, it’s no longer a debate.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Thank you, and thank you! I don’t know if it will change minds, but it makes me good cannon fodder, so YAY!

      Thanks for your support, even though I’m in the middle of the room standing naked, waiting to become target practice.

      So far so good! Everyone on TNB RULES!

  6. Well said Quenby and Mary– it is so true that when one begins to “talk dirty” the playing field of constructive discourse has been mucked up to hell. I happened to catch a snippet of the health care hearing this morning. John McCain made a snide comment- totally uncalled for– but keeping with the political discourse that has become the “Health Care Debate”– unfortunately, totally in character. President Obama asked Senator McCain to please refrain from the rhetoric of the campaign trail — that he was trying to open a real dialogue — to which Senator McCain replied he felt like he was still on the campaign trail everyday ( snide laugh included here).

    I was so disappointed that a man of McCain’s stature could not overcome his own partisan views to refrain from slamming President Obama. Not only ( politics aside) is it extremely disrespectful and non productive to speak this way — but one would think that after all his years on earth John McCain ( and his ilk) would realize that this type of behavior leads no where. Ever.

    We need universal health care. We need to take care of everyone. I realize I hold the extreme liberal view. But in the case of life versus death– which is really what health care comes down to for so many people in the United States– it seems the only humane way to go.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      When did our politicians lose the ability to have a dialogue? It sucks.

      (To be fair, I’ve been reading a lot of political histories in the last year, and really–bickering seems to be part and parcel. Only superhero Lincoln managed to surround himself with political adversaries and make it work. Not that other haven’t tried–they’ve just come up wanting.)

  7. Simon Smithson says:

    As a total outsider to what’s going on with health care in the US, I can really say only this: this has been a fascinating process for me to watch. I pay more attention to what’s going on with American government than what’s happening in my own country.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      It’s better than the circus, isn’t it? I’d be curious what your thoughts are, being an outsider looking in. We need more outsiders giving their two cents.

      Wait. Maybe that’s a terrible idea. We’re too confused as it is!

  8. Anon says:

    Sigh. Okay. I’ve cannot honestly engage in debate on this, because, in fairness, I cannot be convinced that this is in any way a good thing and debate implies a chance of being swayed. Becky hit it on the head for me – more government is not the solution and, in fact, less is a damned good start in fixing things.

    To me, it is disingenuous to talk about a solution when we haven’t clearly defined the root cause of the problem. Why are we looking for others to “share the burden”? Because it’s expensive. Okay, why is it expensive? Insert sound of crickets chirping here. Is it the cost of medical education? Is it the drugs used? Is it the hardware? The software? Let’s identify that first and then break that down until we find out what’s really the problem before we “fix” anything – otherwise we’re very liable to make it worse. And possibly no longer have the option of turning things around. Ever.

    I don’t believe “we” need to do anything. I have never had a bill paid nor a paycheck signed by anyone named “we”. I am responsible for myself and my family, including non-relatives that I have claimed as dear to me. I have helped strangers whose story I knew personally and have donated to charities that I’ve vetted but I am under no obligation – moral or otherwise – to do so. I have chosen to do so. And that’s what this is about for me – individual choice. I am a citizen and a coworker and a neighbor but I am not part of a collective. I do not expect others to tend to my needs and I will not be told that I must be charitable to others. Inspired charity is altruism. Forced charity is coercion. I don’t respond well to that.

    Man. I really do not like talking about politics.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Heh. I feel your pain.

      But I’m interested in “less.” How do you make less government in this case? I’m not being facetious, or snarky. I’m asking genuinely how to fix the medical problem with less involvement? I’m open to the notion that it could happen; I just can’t see how it will work.

      I understand that you don’t want to pay for anything that you don’t want to pay for; taxes are a bitch that way. I’ve been paying for Bush’s involvement in Iraq for years, and no-one asked me about that even though both my husband and I were Middle East Studies majors (to be fair: there are not majors at that nutjob institution called Evergreen, but I digress). I don’t want to pay for many, many things, but there are many I feel are just the price of living in society, ANY society. This society, for all it’s faults and pesky and petty democracy, has a duty to provide certain things to its citizens. It often fails in its compact, but it must try to provide a level playing field.

      It’s not been a smooth ride, has it? I mean, people all have these different ways of perceiving the whole notion of “level playing field.” Some believe that pure capitalism should be the path by letting the market decide, but we wouldn’t know because there had never been a pure capitalism; it’s always adulterated by lobbies, contracts, price-fixing. Then regulators step in, and we’re back to something else.

      Others believe that the level playing field comes from a more socialist compact: safety net for all, capitalism for those who don’t require it. I probably line up here. Communism was, for all its nobility, rendered null and void. It was a philosophical notion that never worked. Bless them for giving it a whirl, but sorry for the millions upon millions who died as a result.

      So I’m sympathetic. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about anything really. I just feel like the argument has been fought far above the heads of the people health care would effect, which is EVERYONE.

      But for me, I pay, just like you do, for a product that fails me time and time again. Not much discussion of the FUCKED MIDDLE CLASS has taken place, not that I’ve heard. My life is good, we pay our mortgage, we kept our head down when the markets imploded. But I’ve still been personally failed, and so have people I know and love. And I’m pissed.

      Other than that, how’re things? Will you still respect me in the morning? I’m so fond of Anon, I would hate to think you will look differently at me now. And by “you,” I mean, your Anonymous Gravitar of Awesome.

      • Anon says:

        Think less of you? Nonsense! Actually, the only thing I disagree with in your response is the concept of a “governmental duty to provide a level playing field”. I grew up poor in a corrupt urban environment – there is no level playing field so learn to get good at shooting uphill and use terrain for cover. There’s not supposed to be a level playing field. It’s unnatural. “Lions of the Serengeti” and all that happy horseshit – somebody‘s gonna be the zebra. I work hard to make sure it isn’t me or mine.

        I don’t know how to come about with “less” since the only option open to us is voting the bastards out – so we can put new bastards in their place and pretend things will be different. But more cannot be the answer. We are sacrificing our freedoms and choices as individuals for the sake of security. We have been for years. That doesn’t mean “in for a penny, in for a pound” and just toss it all to be comfy, to feel “safer” – or to get vital care.

        Making matters worse as politicians always do, how much is in that bill that has nothing to do with health care? These jackasses throw out an “Anti-Altar Boy Ass-Raping Act” and tack in a bridge to nowhere for just a few measly billion. And, if you then complain about that, media pundits get to ask, “So… why are you for ass-raping little altar boys?”

        GAH!!! Like I said, I tend not to discuss politics because I rather like having intelligent discourse and anything involving politicians rapidly devolves into raised blood pressure and random stringing of furious vowel sounds in my head. Not very productive.

  9. You know, growing up I always wanted to live in America… and then when I graduated university I actually did live there for a while. Except I lived in the mountains, with no TV and no people around. It was beautiful. America’s a fantastic place…

    Except that when it comes to politics it gets a bit crazy. I know that’s a global thing, but in America there’s a quality there – something special. Something scary. I get the feeling Palin couldn’t have existed elsewhere, and that lies like that could only be forced through military action.

    I’m probably going to be living in America next year, so you guys might want to sort things out first. Y’know… tidy up the government, put the conservatives away, and dust the old economy. Because Korea didn’t remember to do that and look what I’ve done to them. I do more damage to Korea’s international image than Kim Jong-il and dog meat put together.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      We’re trying, David. I’m not going to make any promises, but we’re doing our best.

      You’ll just have to learn the maneuver of sticking your head in the sand when the going gets really tough, which is what most of us do.

      And Korea should be proud to have you! Nothing, really, can make Korea any stranger than Kim Jong-il. You merely highlight interesting things about Korea. Veeeeery interesting things. Korea needs that! We all need that!

    • Becky says:

      Well, to be fair, like any entity (individuals, for example), a lot of what makes us difficult is the same stuff that makes us exceptional in more positive ways. I’m not about to get on some rah-rah kick, but at least part of what makes us so different from much of the world (or comparable western parts of the world) has to do with the origins and particular mentalities associated with the nation’s weird genesis.

      When we aspire too much to be more like other places, I’m perpetually concerned we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      • Quenby Moone says:

        We’re not talking about becoming a parliamentary system, or resurrecting czars. We’re talking about adopting things that work other places that have been sorely missing in our country. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t embrace them.

        After all, the democracy that arose here, in this union, has spread throughout the world. “We hold these truths to be self evident,” and all that good nonsense. Not from us imposing it from the outside, like our ill-fated Iraq adventurism, but from within: small political revolutions that eventually overthrew, or simply outmoded, monarchies, emperors and czars throughout the world. They didn’t adopt our system in toto, but they adopted the pieces that worked best for them. Why should we do any less? Not everything has to be built from the ground up; if someone else’s foundation is sound, why not build on it?

        So I think this specific argument is a specious one. There are completely bogus elements of our government that no-one in their right mind should adopt; Lobbyists? Line Items? But the ones that work have been cherry picked by others and made to fit their needs. Why can we not do the same?

        I don’t see any babies being tossed about willy-nilly. I see people recognizing that something doesn’t work, but in other places, governments have made choices that did; what is wrong with cribbing from their notes?

        • Becky says:

          It’s not cribbing from their notes, it’s bald-faced xenophilia.

          And, incidentally, almost nowhere has our particular brand of democracy, for better or worse.

          Almost nowhere could.

          So why should we have their particular brand of anything and expect it to work?

          And whether or not these things “work” elsewhere is hardly a closed case. There are plenty who think they don’t.

  10. Mary says:

    As someone living in a country with universal healthcare (and bloody thankful for it) I do feel for you and your father and all those who want something better from your broken system.

    The rest of the world is waiting for you to join us.

  11. Irene Zion says:


    Please forgive me, but I simply cannot read anything to do with politics.
    When the news pops on on TV for some reason, I cover my ears and sing
    LALALALALALALALALA really loudly until Victor mutes it.
    I prefer to put my head in the sand.
    Please write about anything else and I’ll read it carefully.
    I’m pretty sure I’m going to develop a serious heart condition from the little bit of politics that slips through my fingers.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I’m so with you! I will absolutely respect your decision to not engage in the bear-baiting. It’s dangerous work. I highly recommend steering as wide a path as you can, especially when the bear-baiting is being done by a rank amateur like myself.

      I promise that most of what I write is properly frivolous and silly. That’s where I’m most comfortable!

  12. Greg Olear says:

    Well argued, QB.

    It’s really quite simple: unlike for-profit life insurance, in which both parties want the same thing — the insured to live a long, long time — for-profit health insurance presents an inherent conflict of interest. It behooves the company to deny coverage, to have pre-existing condition provisions, to have crappy customer service. If not the government, we need some quasi-governmental not-for-profit outfit to insure everyone — a Fed for health care. Right now, the system benefits only the middle man — certainly doctors would rather do away with the current system; med school applications are declining because being a doctor isn’t as lucrative as it used to be.

    Fuck the middle man.

    Also: I don’t know why Obama and the Dems don’t argue this as a pro-business thing. Being tethered to company-sponsored health care strangles entrepreneurship. How many people don’t start a business solely because they can’t afford to pay for their own coverage? For-profit, company-sponsored health care kills small business; it also killed Ford and GM. Why can’t someone stand up and tell Sarah Palin that her plan is anti-business, and, therefore, very anti-Republican?

    The government’s primary responsibility is to provide for the safety and defense of its citizens. How does health care not qualify as providing for safety and defense?

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Yes, speaking as one whose chiropractor is also my friend, and who has NOT ONCE BEEN PAID by my insurance despite my “chiro” coverage in my plan, he’s told me of the nickel-and-diming that he’s been buried under. So many doctors have to monkey around with codes and busywork that they have little time for patients. WHAT THE HELL?

      I don’t know if my rant is well-reasoned; it feels like my Howard Beale moment. But I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

      Sweet Jesus I love that movie. I think I have to go watch it again.

      But anyway, well-reasoned or not, it’s completely from the heart, which is beating quicker because of all those bozos making it seem like it’s about anything other than real people in the world, being profoundly affected by our utterly broken system. Maybe I can sue the government for malpractice?

  13. Well played, Madam.

    I’m absolutely boggled by it all. It simply doesn’t make sense to me. I bet a group of kindergartners could find a solution within a day.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I’ll ask Milo and see what he comes up with.

      Thanks, Madam. Your opinion means a huge pile of awesome to me!

      • I don’t really think that was an opinion.

        I just get so frustrated and upset I can’t say anything. I’m glad there are people like you out (t)here who can verbalize my thoughts. Because I always just think, “That’s so cruel” and “Fucking meanies!”

        So thanks for speaking up for us tongue-tied folk.

  14. cmoone says:

    Note from Dad. Since the end of May, the upfront costs of my medical problems, including trips to the ER, labs, biopsies, catscans, ultrasounds, bone scans, etc., run to something more than 20 grand. (I’ll know the total when I get my IRS forms together.) My Lupron injections, plus lab costs and followup with my oncologist cost around $4000. That’s for one shot in the keister. Simpler and much less expensive than other possible treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, this shot allows me to function almost like a normal person, get around on my own, not need a personal attendant, interact with other members of society, pay regular visits to my studio, and spend qualtiy time with my family. I get these injections every 3 months–for those of you who are as bad at addition and multiplication as I am this is about $16,000 a year. (Added up this all comes close to equalling most of my annual income.) I have an appointment coming up with my opthalmologist who is going to tell me that I need cataract surgery. This, like the injections, will hopefully be mostly covered by Medicare. This is, of course, a government run health program, for which I paid out thousands of dollars in taxes during my working life, and which is now saving me from bankruptcy and a severely shortened and highly painful existence. The Medicare fund, along with Social Security, is also, as some of you might know, the piggy bank which our government has been robbing for years through some very inventive book-keeping in order to conceal their increasingly out-of-control budgetary exuberance. (Did someone mention “earmarks?”) Personally I do not begrudge the fact that much of the taxes I paid into these programs went to save the asses of other people who, perhaps, were unable to survive without this assistance. As a member of a community, presumably one represented by the government which administers these programs, it seems the right thing to do. Likewise, unlike the “no-tax” fanatics, I willingly pay for schools, police and fire departments, food stamps, and other human services–provided by the government–as part of a good citizen’s responsibility. It pisses me off to hear the bleating complaints of those who think a responsible government works best when it ignores as much as possible the well-being of its citizens, only so that those with much can avoid sharing a bit of it with those who have little or nothing. I don’t believe in the death penalty either–and the escalating costs, the convoluted and self-serving procedures of the health care complex, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical service providers, amount, for many unfortunates, to a death sentence without charges or trial. Talk about rationing! The health care complex as a whole is a “death panel”. May each of you get the health care you want–it’s no more nor less than you deserve.

  15. Lenore says:

    political stuff!

  16. D.R. Haney says:

    My best to your father, QB, and to the uninsured loved ones you mention in this piece.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Thanks, Duke. They’re fine, no thanks to the medical or insurance system in place. My father speaks for himself up a few comments above, and the rest of my friends have muddled through as best as they can.

  17. angela says:

    for a decade i worked for a large corporation and totally took my health benefits for granted. this year i quit to be a freelance writer. and it suddenly hit me: i have no insurance. i’m pretty healthy, but what if i get hit by a car? what if i need emergency care? it’s a a new and very scary new feeling.

    california does at least have state care for pregnant women (all pregnancy-related costs plus one year post-natal), just in case i get knocked up. but if i a break my arm? i’m on my own.

    i know i’ve been brainwashed to think, well i don’t have a job, of course i don’t have insurance. it’s almost the feeling that i don’t *deserve* insurance because i’m not playing the game.

    great, thought-provoking piece.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I think this is fascinating. You mention taking it for granted, but why shouldn’t we? Why should we, as writers or artists, dancers, waitresses, self-starters, self-employed people, not have the same access to health care as people who work in the big box? Why should my husband, who is a self-employed freelancer making all the money that supports us, only have the choice between overwhelmingly expensive insurance coverage, moderately priced insurance that has such high deductibles and shoddy coverage that we end up paying out the nose anyway, or nothing at all?

      It’s a gamble for anyone to not have insurance. And many of us are forced to.

      • Anon says:

        We all do have the same access, it’s the cost that is vastly different. And that’s all about volume pricing. The big boxes can say, “Hey, we will bring you thirty thousand new premium-paying customers in one fell swoop but not at this rate…” and they negotiate it down. I can almost guarantee you that a block of thirty thousand artists, writers and anyone else would garner similar power – we just don’t have that kind of union-block cohesion.

        And this brings me back to my constant question (excluding political stuff): Why are we arguing about how to split the check when we should be questioning the $129 cup of coffee on it? If gall bladder surgery cost less than a hundred bucks, the insurance issue would be moot (and the companies likely bankrupt or selling auto insurance). So… why is the bottom line what it is, when did it rise so dramatically and what can we undo to roll it back? I don’t have those answers but I would dearly like to know them before speculating on any potential solutions.

  18. […] on March 1, 2010 – 9:41 amNo Comment Dad has been politely nagging me to put this piece “Death Becomes Us” up on The Nervous Breakdown practically before I was a contributor there. In fact, I seem to recall […]

  19. Stephanie Templeton says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have been feeling so befuddled and somewhat hopeless when it comes to the whole health care debacle. Reading the latest on NPR last night left me feeling more of the same. Thank god Obama is finally sending the message that “the debate is over” but I can’t say that I really believe it. I understand and appreciate his desire to have this be as bipartisan a bill as possible, but I can’t help but feel this desire has made him seem naive and easily manipulated. As soon as the whole death squad rumors began, it became glaringly obvious that a solution was not what republicans want. After all, if Obama succeeds in reforming health care and the people (like my own parents) who believe the fear mongering and lies realize just how wonderful a deal this “healthcare that is being rammed down their throats” really is… if that happens, the republican party is screwed. I love the pundits who keep screaming that Medicare is going to be cut. These are the same people who are calling Obama a socialist every chance they can get. Do they realize that Medicare is a socialist program? Every day we enjoy the benefits of “socialism” in this country with our public schools, retirement programs, HUD, and yes – Social Security. Give me a break. Nevertheless, the squeaky wheel still gets the grease. Because of these ridiculous rules and fear mongering, the health care bill is going to be a pathetic shadow of the original bill that was true reform to a broken system. Health Care reform without a public option may end up being the mess that Republicans are hoping for. But hey, I will take it. At least it is a step in the right direction.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Tell it sister! Sing HIGH!

      Aw, Steph, my leftie pundit-to-be. I think this comment might just deserve special plaudits and hang out right next to the one that my Dad wrote on my own site because I love it.

      Seriously. WHERE DO THE SCHOOLS COME FROM? Or streets, highways, maintenance? The Ether? Deep space? Out of knitting circles in the Right Wing Auxiliaries?

      It’s this sort of collective ear-plugging that drives me insane. “LALALALA! I’m not going to listen because it doesn’t fit my argument, LALALALA!”

      Good grief. Don’t get me started. Not that you don’t know, mama.

  20. […] written beautifully and lovingly about her late father and his battle with cancer.  We learned about his love of books, and how he introduced his […]

  21. Easton Dental Office…

    […]Quenby Moone | Death Becomes Us | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

  22. Gaven Rank says:

    I remember writing an essay on urban squalor. It was a real scary thing just because of the failed reforms on the part of the authorities. I encourage everyone here to read the story about Urban Housing Reforms and Urban Blight and learn more about it. I’m personally glad I read it in detail because it teaches a lot. I hope it will be useful to you as well!

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