Posted in Body Politics, Politics

Well of course he did

The revelations about Al Franken, erstwhile progressive hero, are beyond disappointing. But what surprises me most is that I’m not even a little bit surprised. Because Al Franken is a man. I’ve known a lot of men. And most, even those I’ve known only casually or professionally, have eventually tipped their privileged and entitled hand, if not their outright gross, predatory, and misogynistic one. Men I despised and men I liked, both, and men I didn’t even know well enough to form an opinion.  The mental gymnastics it would take one to continue, at this point, to believe it’s just a few bad apples, are dizzying; this is a rotten tree growing from a rotten root going back 300,000 years.

Just Tuesday, a male employee at Home Depot touched me unnecessarily (in that I hadn’t stumbled, or gone unconscious,) at least 4 times on arm and leg while we discussed the relative merits of Ryobi and DeWalt cordless screwdrivers. And the sad part is, I don’t even think he was actively trying to be creepy. It just didn’t even occur to him that he shouldn’t touch a strange woman. Which is why I didn’t knock his block off. Most women have reasonably strong creep radar, and we have been trained to make allowances for the oblivious creep-adjacent types because, Christ, if we didn’t, if we had to spend our days cataloging and coping with every microaggression, every crossed boundary, every juvenile sexual innuendo, we’d do nothing else, and we’d slit our wrists.   Among the male menaces we might have to deal with on a given day, a man touching my arm while he talks to me about screwdrivers in a public place is barely a blip on my fear radar.

And yet, it bothered me all the way home. That I, as a woman, and previously a girl, have to spend so much of my brain power, every day of my life, to keep myself safe in a rape culture, to protect myself from liberties taken, when men can go around blithely not having to think for one second about what they do, and whether or not they should touch a stranger in the tool corral.  Because they’ve been taught, in word and deed, for generations, that women and their bodies are public property belonging to everyone BUT the women themselves.

The answer is no, not without invitation or pressing medical emergency, in case anyone was still wondering.

This is what women have been talking about for ages:  the casual misogyny and entitlement that runs the gamut from puerile jokes, to lack of professional opportunity, to rape and murder, to the ridiculously light sentencing for those who rape and/or murder women (especially as compared to sentencing for property crimes). It’s all the same thing:  a fundamental lack of respect for, or hell, even the most basic acknowledgement of, the basic humanity, dignity, and agency of 51% of the human race. It permeates everything, including the consciousness of every last one of us.  And it bears noting that to extricate yourself from that kind of cultural group-think is a difficult and revolutionary act that takes a lot of thoughtful effort.   Men of milder offenses might be somewhat understood for not realizing that their actions were actual psychological violence (sometimes paired with physical), but many women are unwilling to make allowances anymore, because men have been told.  Again, and again, and again, and again, and more loudly every time.

It is not a question of not knowing what’s okay and what’s not.  It never was.  The fact is, we’ve all grown up in a culture that has allowed, encouraged, and barely consequenced even the most egregious offenses perpetrated by men against women, and even as story after story rolls out on the news ticker, there will be many men and women making excuses for the perpetrators, or blaming the victims thereof.  It’s not that we never knew before Franken, Weinstein, and the rest that men frequently behaved badly.  I can tell you that those of us raised girls were also raised to expect it.  It’s not a secret.

What’s new is that victims of that bad behavior are starting to refuse to make the traditional allowances, and the bravery of some has conferred more bravery on others.  Al Franken’s outing as a man who engineered situations to take stupid, gross liberties and violate a woman doesn’t make him particularly unusual, as men go.  That’s the sad, bad not-news that’s been going on for ages.  But he does symbolize the reality of, yes, goddamnit, pretty much all men–even pretty decent, admirable men–it’s really only a question of degree.  The remaining question is, are men ready to evolve?  Are they ready to end toxic masculinity and misogyny?  Are they ready to step up?  Are they ready to not just be good men, but better men?  They need to.  Because “good” has always been graded on a generous curve for men, and merely “good” compared to the worst men isn’t good enough anymore.  Because our society has, maybe inadvertently, raised generations of warrior women who walk with their keys splayed in one hand and a can of Mace in the other.  And we are done being fucked with.

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Posted in Body Politics, Politics

The only thing worse than dealing with insurance is dealing with not having insurance

I had just raised my head from my puke bucket for the umpteenth time when a young man came up, all brisk efficiency, pushing what looked like vitals monitor cart with a laptop on it, and I was encouraged, because someone in scrubs was back, after an initial flurry of activity and then a long time of just Scott and I sitting alone in the ER bay, to help me.

But he wasn’t there to help me.  He was there to ask for my credit card, because I had a $450 ER copay, and they were going to get it right now.  Even in my dizzy, nauseated stupor, I had the sense that if they didn’t get it, no one would be back for me again.  It didn’t matter that I was miserably sick and afraid that I’d either had a stroke, or something malignant was happening in my brain to put me in this state.  TMC was getting paid right-the-fuck-now.  Before I left, someone from billing showed up–in a white coat no less–to talk to me about payment again. Really, people whose jobs are financial at the hospital have no business wearing scrubs or white coats.

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I’m sharing this because this is the collection of bills I received for my trip to the ER in December which included (only) a CT scan, an MRI, meclizine, valium, and Pepcid, and a lot of saline, chicken broth and crackers, plus breakfast and lunch, and consults with the ER doc and 3 neurologists who put me in a room for observation.  (I have bills for 4 doctors, though I have no idea who Salvatore Tirrito is, but he billed my insurance.  I never saw him.  Never spoke to him. Never heard his name mentioned by any of the people I DID speak to.)

That is to say, the bulk of my visit was me lying around, and everyone hoping I wouldn’t die; there wasn’t a lot of hands-on medicating or treatment. And yet you see the total here (and there’s another $154 of MRI that somehow didn’t make it on here, but did on the actual bill from Radiology Ltd.). And it will be paid by my BCBS insurance which I’ve had through the ACA for the past 3 years, because it was far more affordable than just being added on to my husband’s insurance (which is what I did after I retired, but before the ACA existed); with the ACA, my insurance premium was HALF of what I would’ve paid through Scott’s job, and that’s without any subsidies, which we don’t qualify for.

If I hadn’t had insurance, I’d be under an extreme amount of stress right now, trying to figure out how I was going to come up with over $21,000 to pay for a very scary overnight. But as it is, I’m only under minor stress, because as you can see, my share is only $1K and change. And I’m fortunate at this time in my life that that’s doable, but there are years at a stretch in my adult life where an unexpected $1000 bill would’ve been ruinous, and I have many friends and family for whom that has been, and remains, the case.

BCBS raised my monthly premium $35-60 each of the last 2 years, and this year, decided to opt out entirely of the Marketplace, meaning that the insurance company that has covered me most of my life, both as a child and as a working adult, decided I was no longer a reasonable risk, primarily because they weren’t making enough money through the marketplace, and didn’t appreciate the requirements the ACA placed on them in regards to what they had to offer their insured. The insurance companies are the problem, not ACA. Insurance companies believe they should be able to take your premium money endlessly, and balk at paying when you need to use it, or kick you off entirely, if they ever let you on to begin with. The ACA changed that. And now Congress and Dear Leader are fixin’ to change it again. They can just decide to not insure anyone if they don’t get their way.  They’ve already done that; many major insurers have.

Because I’m fortunate to have a working husband, and the upcoming election made things so precarious in regards to the ACA, I bailed on the SINGLE policy option I had and signed up for through the Marketplace, (a policy that not only raised my rates considerably, but also my copays, not to mention my deductible went through the roof, and for all that, I got less for my money and would’ve had to find both a new PCP and a new GYN), and got back on Scott’s insurance. Oddly enough, BCBS had no problem reinsuring me through an employer plan, despite dropping me through the Marketplace. This is why employer-based insurance is a problem–for people like me. And the bulk of my regular healthcare I pay for out of pocket, despite having insurance. But I still get sick sometimes. I still have emergencies. I need it. Because I don’t have $21K lying around just waiting for mornings when I wake up, can’t walk straight, and can’t stop puking. Who does?

What I didn’t have is options for insurance in Arizona as homemaker. And if I weren’t lucky enough to be married to an insured person, I’d be SOL. Single folks don’t have that option. We need universal health coverage, and it needs to be single-payer, so that your access to health care isn’t determined by your employment status, your employer’s values, or your marital status. Government health is not the problem; greedy insurance companies IS. They have been raising rates 20% annually for years; if you didn’t realize that, you were either uninsured, or your employer absorbed the costs.  They’ve been doing it forever; and once they had all of us (which had to be included in the law, or the insurers wouldn’t have played ball at all), they gouged their captive audience and then hung us out to dry.

I look at my bill for this one night in the hospital and think, “What if it HAD been a stroke?” I would’ve been in for a month like my dad, to the tune of $200K.  If it had been a tumor, I would be trying to figure out how to pay for cancer treatment (if I were lucky and it was treatable; a lot of brain tumors are not), and probably opted not to, because I wouldn’t want to bankrupt us, or Scott if I died anyway.

Because that is LITERALLY what we’re talking about when we talk about taking insurance and health care access away from people:  Death.  People will actually die because they can’t afford their medicines, or the treatment available to them, or will die when they go hungry and lose their homes because they took out a second mortgage to pay the hospital bills.  I’m not willing to let other people die for money, and I am dumbfounded that other people are.  The idea that any human being, anywhere, dies because of profit, offends my soul on a deep level.

If you’re mad about insurance rates going up, I’m right there with you.  But at least have the decency to be mad at the correct people:  those engaged in medical profiteering, insurance companies being among the worst, followed closely by drug companies.  Because when you cheer for the end of the ACA, what you’re really cheering for is the end of actual human lives.  And if you’re okay with that, I can never be okay with you.