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Susan L. Travis

Susan L. Travis

Posted: March 18, 2010 11:11 AM

Health Insurance Fig Leaves, Designed by the Emperor's Tailor

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In 2006, my dear, beautiful sister died of misdiagnosis and insurance profiteering... plain, simple, and everlasting. My Huffington Post blog entry, "Gayle's Death: Lovelace Insurance Profit #1067678-00", inspired complete strangers to send me their stories.

They are the stories of health consumers who are insured... stories of doggedly dedicated premium payers whose claims, for so long, never extended beyond those illnesses requiring more than the top ten most common prescriptions. "Don't mess with my insurance!" They've long defended what appeared to be a smooth-as-glass relationship with their insurer. "I've NEVER had any problems!" Before... Until... They are stories of those who learned the sad way that they'd been cruelly played.

Blue cross of faith... blue shield of protection. Symbolism reaches deeply into the psyche, and on the worst of days, faith and fear are cynically and deliberately exploited for profit. The consumer, long conditioned to respond to symbolic associations, too easily succumbs to profiteers ruthlessly tapping the instinct of blind faith in anything powerful and protective enough to serve as a coat of armor against ills and plagues.

Well, please be smarter than to have your faith exploited. Pull your head out into the thinking knock-knock world! The American health insurance consumer is the ultimate mark -- the pigeon. Consider for a moment the notion that perpetuating a mass belief in secure coverage is the strategic foundation of the health insurance company. It's the fig leaf, the modest coverage thinly veiling "barely possible," as my grandmother used to say. It's the necessary bit -- the hook. Insurance covers these essentials, because, of course, otherwise, people might LOOK. It would be a bit too appallingly evident if one's basics weren't covered.

A successful scam relies on testimonials, so, of course, salted throughout public discourse, we hear anecdotes of heroic coverage. It's a convincing illusion; you pay a premium in return for promissory documents. Far cheaper than a non-profit system, you're told. Sign here. It saved the Joneses.

While each story starts with the buy in, "I thought I was covered," people increasingly discover that their faith has been exploited, and the rest of the wardrobe is designed by the Emperor's tailor. Like my sister, those who test their coverage find that as one wheels oneself into deeper weeds and higher costs of critical care beyond those climates where a fig leaf will do, one can't help but notice the chill. There's no protection from blowflies, Tussock grass, and thinning air. You, the consumer, are high in the tundra away from Fig-leaf-ville... underdressed, under-covered, and exposed to the elements of a system purporting to care and provide. Faith has been spent on a false god.

You are not only a victim of your illness, but you are a victim of your insurance company. You have an illness and despite your long history of paying into the system, your insurance rejects your claims in order to expand corporate profits. Your money, their profits -- not your health. Simultaneously, your high health bills compensate for the truly uninsured -- those who, sans figurative fig leaf, must shamefully, as a last resort, beg for care at our emergency room doors. In the face of all of this, the victims vigorously protect their abusers in a politically collective case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Yet despite mounting evidence, the intellectually disingenuous blather from within the warm pockets of the health industry, and the gullible deniers soak it up. The snake oil barker waxes on about the sins of socialism, the damage single-payer coverage would do to the free market, and the dissolution of our very-effective-best-in-the-world coverage. They hawk that if we address intrastate competition and those pesky preexisting conditions, this will demonstrate the fine silky textures of our beautiful warm health coverage. After all, the pockets are warm... for them. Pay no attention to the shivering patient in the tundra -- have another look at this very fine product that will keep you safe.

Well. Please get it. Get that your loved ones are no safer than those of us who have learned the hard sad way. Understand that your insurance is a fig leaf. Understand that when you or your loved ones REALLY get sick, being insured is only a fig leaf away from being uninsured. Understand that regardless of whether you are sick or well, you are casting your money at insurance and health provider profiteers.

Why do we accept this logic: "It will cost too much to care for our ailing loved ones, so we must continue to put money in other people's wallets." Put differently, "Instead of paying this money for real clothes, I will pay exorbitant prices to swindlers for little to nothing -- the kind of clothing that covers, costs money."

Really, why pay? Let the insurance executives wail into their beer - "where have all the fig leaves gone." Put your premiums under the mattress. At least it'll be there when someone you know needs it -- or when we wise to the swindle, eliminate the profit motive, and actually CARE for our suffering brothers and sisters. But, we won't... because sometimes, we welcome the coverage of the fig leaf. It blocks the breeze against our unmentionables, and it's something.

Perhaps my point will be more memorable for the use of a whimsical metaphor, but this issue is no laughing matter. Not when you're sick, or watching a loved one die, or casting their ashes in a canyon.

There are many of us in the tundra, watching loved ones suffer, and even die, at the cold killing hands of their insurers. Yet, from the warmth of Figville, there's everyone else. From the littlest Fig to the top of the Hill, there are those who speak clarity and truth to power, there are fig-leaf clad deniers, and there are the health insurance tailors, promoting their agenda for profit in the guise of providing care. It's as simple as that. So which are you? Wise up. Call "Bull$hit" on those shoddily tailored fig leaves. Their little "Made in America" tags put us to shame, at the very least.