They Say Obama Lies and Grandma Dies. Grandma Dies Anyway Because Co-Pays Are Too High

hjeimlichPicture it. Los Angeles. 2009. You’re talking to your 87-year-old widowed diabetic grandmother on the phone who has just told you that she hasn’t been feeling too well lately.

Being the 31-year-old Generation Xer that you are, without thinking twice about it you respond by telling her to just go to the doctors.

What you don’t expect to get in response is your grandmother saying no because the co-pay is $100 for a MRI and she doesn’t have the money to spend on that right now.

Now mind you, this isn’t a decision that was made by one of those so-called death panels where doctors are reimbursed for voluntary counseling sessions about “end of life” decisions.

No, this decision the patient herself made simply based on the calculation of what she has left after paying her household expenses out of her monthly Social Security check. A decision that is made more often than not by seniors everyday when it comes to their health care.

So I think that all of the recent ruckus about these so-called “death panels” was much ado over nothing as these decisions are oftentimes already made by the patients themselves simply based on whether or not they can afford their co-pays and medication costs.

I often wonder how many seniors sit in silence and pain refusing to go see a doctor simply because they can’t afford the co-pay or the prescription that they’ll be given. I’m sure the number is probably comparable to the millions of uninsured who’s only contact with a doctor in any given year is in the emergency room.

While preventative healthcare has been proven effective at keeping healthcare costs down, even the insured find it difficult to take advantage of it simply because of the high costs associated with seeing a doctor for 2.5 minutes, this after the 45 minute waiting room visit.

For me, any talk of healthcare reform has to take into serious account the skyrocketing costs of co-pays and prescriptions. On the one hand, we can’t play up the benefits of preventative healthcare but then charge the patient an arm and a leg, no pun intended.

Just like it’s very hypocritical for Conservatives who want Americans to be pro-life and anti-abortion to not support measures to help take care of that life once it’s here. This includes welfare, public housing, and universal health insurance—all of which are essentially for any kind of quality life for some families.

Three years ago, my grandmother went to the doctors after losing an insane amount of weight. She didn’t come home until several weeks later because when she went to see her doctor, he sent her over to the local hospital for some urgent tests. Those tests discovered that my grandmother had colon cancer and had to be admitted into the hospital right away for emergency surgery to remove the tumor. It was a frightening time for my entire family as she is our matriarch.

And even though my grandmother has made a miraculous recovery for her age, to this day, I am still not sure what it was that made my grandmother finally go to the doctors, but I am glad that she did. I know that my grandmother had every opportunity to go to the doctors before the time she did, but knowing my grandmother, she was probably deterred by the costs of all of the tests and likely prescriptions she would have been given to get filled.

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In the end, I can tell you that what she probably thought was a lot of money just to visit her doctor was nothing compared to her part of her hospital bill. A bill that I believe has curbed her doctor’s visits in the recent years and is the reason why she’d rather suffer in silence than shell out a $100 for a MRI.

So when protestors against Obama’s healthcare plan say “Obama lies and Grandma dies.” I’ve got a newsflash for them—Grandma dies anyway because co-pays and prescriptions are too high. Try again.

Jasmyne Cannick

Reprinted with permission from JasmyneCannick.com

Published by the LA Progressive on August 24, 2009
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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist who previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives as a press secretary, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes.” She is currently working as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.