The Cost of Un-Care

I was recently asked to contribute to a GoFundMe page to help someone with medical expenses from their recent COVID hospitalization. And I absolutely will.

That said, this doesn’t get talked about much — the COST of this mess.

I’m not even talking here about the macro effect on GDP, mental illness, loss of life, or long-term health impact (see below)…this is just the personal bank discussion.

It’s not enough that this country spends over twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare as any other developed country. Add to that, our health outcomes are worse than ALL of them.

Summary: We spend way more. We get less for it. We are NOT healthier.

  • The U.S. spends more on health care, yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 “wealthiest” countries.*
  • The U.S. has the HIGHEST chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the OECD average.*
  • Compared to developed countries, the U.S. has among the HIGHEST number of hospitalizations from PREVENTABLE causes and the HIGHEST rate of AVOIDABLE deaths.*
  • We see the doctor much less and we have fewer of them than any other country.*
Courtesy: Visual Capitalist

We have incredible potential, immense resources, and life-changing technology. But we aren’t using it well, and too many of those truly benefiting are known more by their ticker symbol than their overall impact on population health outcomes. The reality is, we have much work to do on the economics and inequities in healthcare. But, as bad as that is, we are losing lives. That cost can’t be replaced.

…people will wait 45 minutes at Chick-fil-A for 8 nuggets and a sweet tea that costs $8, but damned if they will wait for a harmless pinprick that is free and might save lives…including their own.

Back to GoFundMe.

The average hospitalization for a COVID admission in North Carolina (no, not one of those “Oh, something else was wrong with them and they called it COVID in the hospital” myths) is around $45,000. That’s for those that DO NOT require “complex” care such as ventilation or a stay in ICU. It can go up to $235,000.00 for those needing ICU, ventilation, and more complex care.** For a while, insurance companies were waiving co-pays and deductibles. How kind. Trust me, it will come back around in rates one day. Take a look at that again. Some will be hit for a 1/4MM? Many are uninsured or underinsured. They could spend their life paying it off…if they even consider it.

Now, the average cost for a vaccine is…$00.00.

Of course, that doesn’t account for the inconvenience costs of waiting in line or missing a Fantasy Football party. It’s amazing, people will wait 45 minutes at Chick-fil-A for 8 nuggets and a sweet tea that costs $8, but damned if they will wait for a harmless pinprick that is free and might save lives…including their own.

This isn’t an attempt to pick a fight or criticize the My Body, My Right Freedom movement. You have your own truth and convictions. Please, just take some time to look at all of the perspectives and the costs and ask, “Is it worth it?”. Pun intended.

We can do better. We must. Thanks for at least thinking about it.

*Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
** Source: Fair Health, FH Total Treatment Cost COVID-19 benchmarks as cited in Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct 2021

Sean’s Journal: Epilogue by Proxy

Disbelief turns to quiet resignation. Frustration gives way to anger. Anger at those things inanimate, those things pathogenic, and those things entirely human. Anger turns to grief. Grief turns to a numbing of mind and heart.

Yesterday’s grief was too much. It carries on this early morning. Yet another loss. So very tragic. Needless. Not that there is ever a “needed” loss. When it is those you love and care about…those you’ve shared space and conversation with…the tears flow more and the questions pelt like a relentless hail storm.

And during that awful spell, there is the insatiable need by a few to hijack the moment as an open door for their own philosophical gain. A revolting and, dare I say, evil attempt to make agenda of another life lost.

In one such case, a much less personal one, a beautiful and iconic actress was the convenient target of their machination. For those who have such a cynical view of a global quest to treat and recover from a pandemic that they must offer spurious claims that a booster killed this dear woman, is your shame so infinitesimal that you knowingly and intentionally dishonor the person? Is your desperate search for something empirical to boost (pun intended) your conspiratorial virtual reality that you will accept a debunked and moronically crafted claim just to make you feel somehow justified and get a few “Amens” from your posse of doomsayers?

Worse yet, some of it ironically comes from those who put more chemicals and abusive substances in their body—recreational and otherwise—that it would make a chemist change careers and turn to sorcery because of its virtuous appeal. As Val Kilmer’s portrayal as Doc Holiday in Tombstone uttered, “My hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

Just for a moment, as hard as it might be, honor those lost…those who are the victims. There is a place for the debate. The events and losses can and should spur dialogue and understanding. But, for God’s sake (or whoever’s sake you might be in deference to), allow for expressions of Rest.In.Peace prior to your Rant.In.Propaganda.

Lessons from the “Happiest People on Earth” and My Resolve

They are a people of the Amazon. Simple. Ancient by our standards. Of their own.

Reading, and later listening to Anthropologist and Linguist, Dan Everett, I considered some of this tribe’s cultural staples as possible guiding principles for my own life as this new year begins.

The Pirahã (pronounced Pee-da-HAN) tribe is an incredibly happy lot. The evidence from scholars and anthropologists is less the kind of academic journals filled with Evidential Probability (EP), Causal Inference, and more. No, they observed and measured how much time they spent smiling and laughing. Whether correlated or causal to their contentment, these features may just have a place for me.

They don’t count – No, I’m not saying they don’t matter. They, quite literally, don’t count. They have no sense of numeracy. As Mr. Everett points out, “They are cognitively capable of counting; they simply choose not to.” The closest they come to numbers are the linguistic notions of some, more, and many.

For Me: What if my days had less attention on numbers — how many of my goals were achieved, how many miles I rode on my bike, how many pounds I shed, how much my portfolio grew (or lost), how many Likes or Loves a post received, or any other how many or how much of that matters stuff?

The immediacy of Experience — They live in the present. Their language lacks mythology. They require empirical evidence to guide their conclusions. There is no focus on what happened before or what might happen later. They don’t speak in abstracts. They require evidence based on personal experience (yours or their own) for every claim made.

“After I had worked with them for over twenty-five years, one night a group of Pirahã men, sipping coffee with me in the evening, asked out of the blue, “Hey Dan, do Americans die?” I answered them in the affirmative and hoped that no one would seek empirical verification.” ― Daniel L. Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

For Me: While I believe strongly in the power of story and history, and while I entirely believe in vision, dreaming, and planning, I do feel I should live MUCH MORE in the present. To be more aware of now. To concentrate on who and what is in front of me and what THAT person and what THAT moment means.

No Coercion and the Absence of Anger or Resentment — The Pirahã don’t have language or actions that suggest resentment or anger. Perhaps it is due to a complete lack of social hierarchy and that all members of the tribe are considered equal. If something negative happens, they fix it and move on. They don’t tell anyone else what to do. They live their own life.

For Me: I spent too much time over the last 5 years resenting what I felt (and still feel) was the most morally destructive, socially decaying era since the days prior to Equal Rights legislation. I have seethed with anger at a respiratory tract-infecting virus that has no discrimination in its attack and spread. As angry as I was, and remain, at this microbe, I resented the seeming ignorance of those who, instead of listening to the best information and science that might protect so many (including themselves), listened to conspiracy theorists or talking heads with a political agenda. Even worse, they listened to no one and just gambled on immortality and parroted the nescient, “My body; my right” dogma.

I didn’t like the sense of judgment I felt. It was unnatural for me. “Who am I to say what they must do?” It’s rhetorical: I’m nobody. But I still…felt.

What I can do is share my convictions and wonder if they matter. And I can listen to theirs and learn. I will remain vehemently committed to creating a safer population through vaccine advocacy; I will be a boisterous protagonist for social justice, reducing healthcare and economic disparities, and peace; I will continue to urge versus argue…debate versus “Damn it”…advocate over adversary…less professorial and more the knowledge-hungry plebe. I hope to channel my emotions into positive dialogue for change. I don’t want to coerce; I want to converse.

It is funny that as I seek to seriously reduce attention to time and what’s left and what was, and I am writing about it as a New Year post and fresh resolution for the next iteration of me. Chronological irony at its best.

Happy Time. May there be more…and many :).