Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
A year ago, the parents of a little girl in Ohio were worrying that they would soon exceed the lifetime limit on their health insurance. Taylor Wilhite had been diagnosed with leukemia at age 8, and her treatment -- rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, long hospital stays -- had been stupendously expensive.
"No one tells you that you have a cap" on coverage, says Amy Wilhite, Taylor's mother. When a social worker warned the Wilhites that they should check, they learned their limit was $1 million. By then, they had spent $770,000. Taylor's father's company managed to negotiate the maximum up to $1.5 million, but Taylor's oncologist said the cost of her care could hit $3 million to $4 million. "I was just frantic," Amy says.
As the cap got closer, the Wilhites began to put off care for conditions that weren't life-threatening, but the bills kept mounting. "The cost of medicine, you just wouldn't believe," says Amy. And hospital room charges -- "you'd think she was in a resort."
The options for people near the limit weren't pretty. Cancel all but essential treatment, scramble for charity care, or contemplate bankruptcy. But then came a reprieve. The health reform legislation, which President Obama signed into law a year ago today, contained a provision that barred insurance companies from setting lifetime limits.
The provision took effect last September, and suddenly, one huge concern was gone. Taylor, now 12, isn't entirely out of the woods; her leukemia is in remission, but she needs continuing care and monitoring, and a hip that deteriorated during her procedures requires that she use a wheelchair to go long distances. But the Wilhites no longer have to worry about hitting the insurance limit -- and, from now on, other people struggling with their own or a loved one's devastating illness won't have to endure the added anxiety that the money will run out.
Ellie = Boo!
Bryan = Meh.
The Social Network:
Ellie = Very good!
Bryan = Very good!
The King's Speech:
Ellie = Very, very good
Bryan = Unbelievably, stupendously good.
The last two movies, though, do present something of a dilemma for me. Making movies about historical events always leads to the misrepresentation of facts for dramatic effect. This was true for Frost/Nixon, one of our favorite historical films, and it also seems to be true of The Social Network and The King's Speech. Sometimes, I wish those historical nit-pickers would just let me enjoy my ignorance once in awhile. Or, alternatively, I wish Hollywood would be more careful about the facts. Either option is fine with me.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I just finished my taxes (really late for me, actually, because of the basement). Now, we are probably not rich compared to other U.S. citizens, but we make a comfortable income. Our total federal tax bill came to about $500. For all the benefits that come from the federal government -- health insurance for grandma and grandpa, arts funding, PBS Kids, cancer research, Pell Grants, roads and infrastructure, the Center for Disease Control, Head Start, and so forth -- this seems like a ridiculously small amount. I benefit greatly from all of this, both directly and indirectly. I am willing to pay more.