Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Doctor, it hurts when I do this...

The recent passage of the Health Care Bill and all the accompanying news coverage has really made me think lately about the vast amount of resources spent on my own personal health and whether it is necessary or if I’m just a neurotic hypochondriac. I have a friend who says pain and discomfort are good for us and that we have no God-given right to good health. He contends that, if you are sick, you bear it until you get better. He kind of takes pride in enduring pain.

I sit, however, on the other end of the spectrum. I think that if modern medical science has a way to make me feel better, I’m going to use it. The question is, at what monetary cost? Every two weeks I get a treatment to keep me from getting infections. If I don’t get the treatments, I get sinus infections, and presumably, I’m at risk for other infection, too. The condition is actually called gammaglobulinemia. Isn't that a great word?

The sinus infections won’t kill me. However, they drastically alter my quality of life. I walk around in a sleepy haze with a pounding headache, blowing my nose and sounding like I’m in a well all the time. The treatments that prevent the infection is extremely expensive. I am very blessed that the private health insurance, paid for by my employer, pays for it.

I also broke my wrist a few years ago and it was set incorrectly and has never healed properly. It has continued to become more painful. How much pain is too much pain? At what point am I justified in having it repaired? It was my fault I broke it, is the chronic pain just the price I pay for being stupid or am I justified in having insurance pay to have it re-broken and repaired? By the way, this condition is called fallingoffaladdertryingtodosomethingstudipenemia.

So here is the question with which I struggle: Am I being wasteful, greedy, selfish, to ask insurance to pay vast amounts of money so I feel better or don’t hurt? I’m told I’ll need the infusions the rest of life. The arm surgery is expensive. A lot of money is spent in the course of a year to keep me comfortable and pain free. Am I worth it?

I’m not asking readers to comment on my specific ailments, but think about what we all spend on healthcare. How do we decide what is “too expensive” and how much pain or discomfort we are willing to live with? Who do we trust to make these decisions for us? These are tough questions.