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Friday, October 07, 2005



How is the president responsible for poor medical practice at an HMO? I don't get it. Please do move to Canada, where if you want the chemo, and you happen to be a little old, they put you on a waiting list so you will die before you qualify for it. And if you really need care, you get sent to the States. No one over the age of about 60 in Canada can qualify for dialysis. Someone still has to pay the bill, guy. Even if it's a discounted bill.


Oh, shut up, previous commenter.
Anyway, Brett, I was *just* getting chills when you wrote the chills remark...!
By the way, I think you can still get Hawaiian pink salt at the Pasta Shop in Berkeley on Fourth.
And I'm gonna go schedule a mammogram next week, thanks.
PS: Men can get breast cancer too. Please be aware.
Best to S, and -- for the record (and thanks to Barbara Ehrenreich) I'm not keen on the "pink" thing.


Hi Brett! The pink ingredients you chose for colour are all so inspired (radishes would never have crossed my mind, let alone pink salt) and I'm so impressed that you made an entire meal!

I'd like to thank you for sharing your inspiration to join in on this event - I'm happy to hear that S, after what must have a terrible ordeal, is better and able to return to the life she loves.

Congrats on the beautiful tribute, and thank you for participating.


Thank you for the story. My health insurance is very important to me, even if my industry likes to put on the really back burner.

My experience at kaiser was similar, but also different. Cancer runs in my family and my friend A. who has cancer in her history wrote down the name of three tests which she told me to demand from my primary. As A. said would happen my doctor tried to talk me out of them. But as A. suggested I said over and over that I wanted and thought that I needed them. Last year, while unemployed, I made dreadful tests at Kaiser my full time job. Now it's in my records how often I will receive them.

Pink food is nice but volunteering at a hospice care facility or knitting warm hats feels more proactive to me.


How is the President responsible?
He's the leader of the country. If he says, "I want to make sure that the richest country in the world provides health care for it's citizens. Health care costs are staggering out of control, insurance premiums are skyrocketing each year, and 45 million Americans are uninsured, let's fix the system."

Perhaps 1% of the next $400 billion dollars spent in Iraq could be used to achieve that goal?

It used to be just the poor that had limited access to health care, but now it's squeezing the middle and upper-classes, who are seeing dimished benefits and are finding themselves getting sub-standard care or victimized by their insurance companies who refuse to pay claims since they interpret the term 'reasonable care' to be whatever their administrators (not doctors) deem correct treatment.

When I lived in the US, three of my doctors went out of business, since they couldn't afford to provide reasonable care under the rules of the HMO's. When I did visit my doctor, he would have 4 people booked for the same time slot as me, since he was reimbursed not for quality of care, but the quantity people he could squeeze in. My premiums rose about 30% per year, and being self-employed, that was a sizable chunk of my income.

In spite of the Bush administration's claim that we don't want to be like those "commies" in Canada (who provide health care and reasonable prescriptions to Canadians...and Americans), if America is indeed the "Best Country in the World", it's a sorry state of affairs when a sizable chunk of it's citizens are ignored by an administration more concerned about 'helping' the people of Iraq than helping it's own people get proper medical care.

I now live abroad, and many of the Americans I know living here do so because they're starting families and they can't afford to live in the US anymore and raise children. Granted raising a family has become a priveledge, not a right...still to me, that's a very, very sad statement when Americans have to leave the US who wish raise a family or receive adequate health care.

laura @ cucina testa rossa

or move to france! great healthcare and great food! it is LESS expensive for me to buy prescriptions here in france WITHOUT insurance (yes I am now one of the 48 million americans without insurance) than it is to buy them in the states WITH health insurance, like 75% less! a doctors office visit costs 20 euros without insurance and....they make house calls! really! not bad, eh?!


k, thanks for sharing. However, as I'm sure you won't be surprised, I concur with David's passionate and well constructed response to your question.

cookiecrumb, thank you for the link to the Ehrenreich article. I too am a little ambivalent on the dubious benefits of cooking pink food to raise awareness for breast cancer, but I wanted to participate to share the story of S and her difficulties with the American medical system. I do think that Emily's intentions were clearly of a compassionate nature and deserve to be lauded for that reason, regardless of the effectiveness of the event.

Emily, I was happy to participate and dedicate the effort to my friend and her story. It seems to have sparked a lively debate, too! I think your heart was in the right place, too, in hosting this event. Besides, I had a lot of fun!

Shuna, your story underscores my point that you have to be your own advocate when dealing with HMOs like Kaiser. Unfortunately, my friend S is relatively quiet (and dignified) and, being from Spain, not used to the American reality of the squeaky wheel being the one that gets the grease. But really, what kind of system is that?

David, thank you, thank you, thank you. Your comment is especially welcome as this is Fleet Week in San Francisco and the fighter jets have been screaming overhead for days, reminding us all of where the current administration's priorities lie.

Laura, that's a good question. Why don't I move to Paris? Or Barcelona? If we Yanks could only get proper work visas in the EU....


All I am saying, guys, is that you can get crappy medical care anywhere. Remember last summer in France, when all the doctors and nurses went on their August vacations, and nearly 15,000 died (mostly elderly) from the heat? I think that's pretty crappy. I guess if you are a young expat, they will take care of you. But not if you an oldster whose time has come already, c'est dommage. And blaming a government for those kinds of lapses.. that's pitiful. We have ways to take care of ourselves. Including demanding better of the plans our employers use (and that means demanding better of Kaiser Permanente). And taking care of each other, which is exactly what Brett is doing. Do you not see the difference? And do you not see how much better that is than struggling with some damn governmental paperwork??


The idea of Emily's Think Pink was to raise awareness of cancer and the importance of early detection. It is the early detection that can make you a cancer survivor. I don't think there is a country in the world that has unlimited funds to treat cancer patients. My own cancer was diagnosed in Portugal yet I live in NZ. Travel insurance covered the cost of my surgery and associated costs in Portugal. Back in NZ I had the choice of going on a waiting list for the free public health chemo or paying for it. To be effective you must start the chemo within so many weeks of surgery. I had no choice but to pay for my chemo and I'm fortunate we could afford it. When you understand how cancer grows you soon realise it is early detection that is so important.


At 47, I don't know if I fall into the category of "young" expat, but at my age, I'll take compliments where I can get 'em.

Speaking of 'old' folks, my partner's mother (she's 81 and French) had a blocked intestine last week. She was rushed to the hospital and operated on. She'll be there for a week and will not get a bill when she comes out; elderly people and disabled people get free health care in France.

Obviously if someone is old (like the citizens who died in the heatwave,) if the don't call for help, the government can't just start breaking down doors to see who's in each apartment. So yes, unlike the organized and effective effort the US government made to evacuate the people of New Orleans, the French government did fail.


k, you are right that there a weaknesses in all systems of health care. No system is perfect.

All of us will, at some point, be confronted with the inevitability of illness, old age and death. It is part of being human.

As you pointed out, "we have to take care of ourselves." Just as we should demand better care from our employers and HMOs, as you said, some of my intelligent and compassionate readers and I believe that we, as taxpaying Americans, should also demand better care from our government.

Being compassionate and intelligent people, we don't only want to take care of ourselves, but we want to take care of all those people who share the human condition with us, including those who don't have employers from whom they can demand better health care.

One way we can achieve this goal, as I suggested in my post, is to support a government that will guarantee or at least increase accessibility to quality health care to all its citizens. Since the current administration does not support these policies, I suggested we, how did I phrase it? ahh yes: vote the "bastards out of office."

Perhaps you can see the difference between "blaming the government" and encouraging change through our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the vote.

We're all on this planet a relatively short time, and we might as well try to help each other out and be nice to one another. Supporting a government that allows millions of its citizens to live without the security of decent medical care is just heartless and, using your own word, pitiful.

Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your story! Thank you for reminding us that the sooner you detect cancer, the better your chances of survival are. I am glad that Emily's event has helped to remind all of us of that fact.

David, I'm sorry to hear that your partner's mother is ill. She certainly is lucky to be living in a country that makes it a priority to take care of all of its citizens. We should all be so fortunate. I sincerely hope that her health will improve.


Wow, what a thought-provoking dialogue. Thanks for stirring the pot, Brett! That salad with the pink beets looks positively yummy...



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