My New Rule On Obamacare

Spurred by comments to my last post on the troubles with America’s health care system, I have devised a new rule:
If you devote more time to bitching about Obamacare than you do proposing solutions, you are not worth listening to.
I’ve had too many people react to the mention of “Obamacare” as though it were a cross and they were a snarling vampire.  And they then proceed to treat my mildly positive mention of Obamacare as though I’d embraced it like it was my personal savior, telling me how foolish I am for trusting it.
But I don’t trust it.  I merely think that it has the potential – not “is,” mind you, just “has the potential” – to be slightly better than the terminally fucked system we have now.  And when you spend all of your time telling me how stupid and dumb this attempt is, and how we’re all idiots for buying into it, I feel you at least owe me, say, a sentence on what you’d think would work better.
Not “best.”  There is no optimal solution for healthcare.  Some people are going to get fucked no matter what we do.  And we may well disagree on what’ll fix it, but I’ll at least give you credit for proposing a solution.
Yet if the best you can do is go OBAMACARE IS BAD IT’S AWFUL IT’S TERRIBLE IT’S HORRIBLE, then you’re the guy standing next to the captain of the Titanic, shouting “IT’S GOING DOWN!” and not offering to help people into lifeboats.  If things are this bad, then please.  Propose solutions.  Give me alternatives.  Show me that you have done something more with your life than demonizing the plan that made it through our legal system, and have devoted a few brain cells to going, “Wow, this system is complex, how could we better improve things?”
Otherwise?  You’re not attempting to improve things; you’re gloating.  And fuck you for doing that when there’s so much at stake.

Dear Facebook: Please Add This Feature

Dear Facebook:
My wife’s six-year-old grandniece is currently in a coma, and unresponsive.  Her MRI is at 7:30.
I’d say I can’t imagine her stress, but the truth is, I can.  Our family went through this twice this year – once when I went in for an emergency triple-bypass, and once when we watched our Goddaughter Rebecca go in to have emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor.  Each minute that passed without news was excruciating.
And everyone wants to know.
That’s another layer of pressure for concerned loved ones: the waves of incoming texts, the constant need to keep everyone up-to-date.  In the middle of stressing out about “Is my husband/daughter/brother going to die?”, they are all barraged by well-meaning people demanding updates. And the well-meaning people are all constantly checking Facebook, endlessly refreshing the page in case there’s some snippet of new news.
What I would like, Facebook, is a “medical emergency subscription” service.  So I (or Gini) could create a kind of “tag” for status updates like, “Ferrett’s heart attack” that only she or I could post to.  And then anyone who can see my account could subscribe to that status, whether they’re friended to Gini or not, and you in turn would push notifications like “Ferrett is out of surgery” and “Ferrett is on life-support, but they expect him to be up and awake within 24 hours” and “Ferrett just asked for a glass of water” to all the people who want to know the instant the news comes in.
This way, a poor wife in the center of things can post the news to just one place, and have everyone get it ASAP.  And she can refer people to this subscription service, so that she doesn’t have to constantly text a hundred different people to keep them in the loop, allowing her .
In these days of social media, you, Facebook, have become the place that brings families together.  I know you’re committed to making Facebook useful – this would make Facebook a mercy in a time of stress, a one-stop shop so that everyone would stay alerted to the status of their loved ones without crushing the caretaker under a barrage of posts.
We need this.  Please make this happen.
(EDIT: Everyone who’s said, “Just create a hashtag and let people follow that!” has clearly never refreshed their cell phone a hundred times, waiting to hear if their dying mother is going to make it through the day.  Notifications are every bit as key as one-stop access – considering that 30% of people access Facebook through their mobile phones exclusively anyway, having a pre-baked system that pushes notifications out to you so that you don’t have to continually worry you missed something is also key.)

A Small Act of Cowardice

I probably should have texted my three ex-girlfriends to let them know I was thinking of them. Just a Merry Christmas, hope you’re doing well.
But I think two of them are still mad at me, and I didn’t want to spend my Christmas worrying about how or if they’d reply (socially anxious weasel is socially anxious even in texts), so I didn’t.
Christmas is the season of peace. I feel a little bad about not perpetuating that; I should have taken a moment to call a potential armistice. For I still love them in my own way, even if we’re not fit to be together.
I’m not sure if they know that.
Maybe next year.
(Cross-posted from Fet.)

What If You're Having A Heart Attack?

On Christmas Eve, I took the dogses for a walk around the block.  Precisely halfway around, I got sharp icy pains in my chest.
When you had a triple-bypass earlier that year, that’s a cause for sheer terror.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do, as the icy pain was not entirely unfamiliar.  The cardiac rehab folks had informed me that my lungs had likely collapsed during surgery, and the nerves that controlled reinflation had been slightly damaged.  Plus, the beta blocker I’m on has a known side effect of shortness of breath; they cannot give it to patients with emphysema.  As a result, any time I’ve walked outside in cold air, I’ve had icy pain and an instant asthma attack.
Maybe this was an asthma attack.
But this was bad.
But it was very cold.
I got back to the house, and of course the immediate snap-call is “GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM.”  Right?  Well, except that if you’re a heart patient and you complain of chest pains, you get kept in the hospital for two days while they monitor you.  And if it turns out to be wrong, well, we just finished paying off $5,000 in ER charges from a false alert earlier.  And I have no sick days left at work thanks to two and a half months of sick leave.
If I’m wrong about what’s happening, we fuck our finances and my job security.
If I’m right about what’s happening, I’m dead.
That’s one hell of a tense discussion to have, but it needs to be had – that balance between “What you should do” and “What you can afford to do.”  And if you’re a heart patient, you deal with chest pains all the time – every time you have gas or an ache in your arm, you wonder, is that the end?  And you catalog that pain against the pain of the one time you had a for-real heart attack and try to determine if it’s the same thing.
Of course you should go to the ER.
Of course you don’t have $5,000 sitting around every time you have pain.
And you panic, which doesn’t help, so you’re sitting there thinking, “My heart is beating so fast,” which of course it is, you idiot, you’re terrified something really bad is happening, and your wife gets you a warm cloth to breathe through so your lungs warm up a little, chiding you gently that you should have worn a scarf, which of course you should have but in 44 years you’ve never needed a scarf, it’s a habit you need to develop before walking outside, but you had all summer to feel like you’re a healthy human being which of course you’re not.
And she gets you an Ativan, which is in itself a danger because what if you feel so good that you overlook The Big One, and you both agree that you will lie down for fifteen minutes with your wife cuddling you and if the pain subsides then it’s probably not worth $5,000 just to verify.
And I have decent insurance, mind you.  It’s just that they run an awful lot of tests on you, if you complain about this sort of thing.  They don’t fuck around.  And the bill has to go somewhere.
And after a half an hour, we decide that it’s probably just the cold, and sure enough when we go to church the next day on Christmas morning, it’s fifteen degrees out and the same icy pain manifests in my chest when I step outside.  That’s a new kind of pain.  That’s the asthma pain.  I’ll have to ask the cardiac rehab folks about that on Friday.
This is what I think of when people talk about “the health care system works!” and I want to punch them.  Yes, I have access to the BEST CARE IN THE WORLD.  Literally.  The Cleveland Clinic is world-class, and the surgeon I got was one of the masters at bypasses.
But I have to pay for it.
And I’m well-off, man.  We’re both professionals in this house.  We’re not rich, but with a lawyer and a computer programmer at the helm of La Casa McJuddMetz, we’re above the curve… and we balk at making decisions that could cost us our lives because the bills are a lot.  I have a good job that is understanding of massive problems, who were pretty wonderful about not just giving me time off to recuperate but then let me go to Hawaii.  (Admittedly, the Hawaii trip had been planned well in advance, but still.)
And I wonder what it’s like for the guy with the $10 an hour job down at the loading dock, or the minimum-wage clerk at 7-11.  People with employers who see them as slots to fill.  There are people in America who are dying because they have to choose between “Is this pain serious enough to risk getting fired?” and that is a real risk.
Obamacare is a step in some better direction – maybe not the best, but certainly better than the current Republican solutions of, “Well, preexisting conditions and medical bankruptcies aren’t that big a problem.”  Yet it’s still too small.  The bills still pile up.  The jobs can still fire you if you’re too inconveniently sick.  And when you have no job, those bills snowball.
I want socialized medicine because I’m one of the supposedly privileged class, and I have to balance risk versus expense.  I made it; no worries, I’m fine.  But somewhere, there’s a guy who has less ability to pay those bills, and a suckier job, and a real heart attack.  And he just died because he made a judgment call that he had to make, and it didn’t quite work out.
That guy deserved to live.  Call me a dreamer, but in a country like America with all of our wealth and know-how, I think we should be able to find a way to help that guy.  The Republicans keep telling me that guy is the salt of the earth, the kind of real American who keeps us going, the laborer who works twelve-hour days and never asks for help.
I agree.
I think he deserves better choices.

The Usual Christmas Post, Part 2: Requesting Pictures Of Your Naughty List

I ask every year at Christmas: If you’d like to get me an inexpensive gift that will nevertheless make me do little happydances of joy, feel free to post cheesecake pictures of yourself in the comments here. (Alternatively, if they’re spicy or you’re shy, mail ‘em to me at  Or text them to me at 216-965-3895, but if you do please tell me who you are so I can say thanks to the right person!)
(Now I should add that, thankfully, it’s been several years since some waggish male has gone, “Oh ho, here I am! You didn’t expect this!” and posts a picture of himself.  Which, I fear, has only happened because I’ve started putting up this disclaimer.  For the reason, if you’re a guy, a) I like seeing pictures of people anyway even if I’m not attracted to them, b) I’m never shocked by photos of guys.  So please don’t try to perpetuate that vaguely homophobic idea that men can’t look at men; you’re a significant step down from the folks who post pictures of desserts.)
Merry merry!