At the end of the year in the frozen wastes of north-eastern USA it is easy to forget that in Australasia the season and the weather is exactly opposite.
You happen, like me, to have recorded a forthcoming Australian
novel. Two actually. One is called Signal Loss by Gary Discher, and is a pacey police thriller. It’s the second of Mr Discher’s books that I’ve read aloud for commercial use (he’s written a string of them) and I’m a fan. The story itself deals with the desperate effects of the drug trade, and when I was in Australia earlier this year I witnessed some of exactly that in the economically challenged areas of NSW.
The other book has not yet been published and I was going to keep quiet about the title until it comes out officially, but I notice that those cunning marketing strategists have made it available to pre-order via Amazon.
I will say though that this year was also memorable for me for a dental episode involving a cracked tooth, and if you had poked it with one of those spindly things that dentists use, I would have told you the name of the book immediately, had you asked me. Yes, that painful. And when there’s pain what do you want? Anesthesia, right?
After all: “There was never yet philosopher who could endure the toothache patiently.” Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing
So talking of drugs, my troublesome tooth obliged me to visit no fewer than three dental offices in one morning. This was the sequence: examination, possible root canal, extraction. In the first office, the dentist did indeed prod with an instrument. To say I leaped from the chair is an understatement. It was more as if my body was momentarily abducted by aliens and I was hurled at interstellar speed across the consulting room. I am not exaggerating.
With the root canal specialist there was whatever the present equivalent of novocaine is, and damn good stuff it was too. “That is good stuff.” I said to the friendly specialist, and I would have paid large amounts in cash money for a ready supply. Deciding the tooth could not be saved, I was referred to the third practitioner, a dental surgeon, who when I recounted through a thickly numbed mouth the level of pain and the level of comfort afforded by the right dope, kindly jabbed me with a further shot prior to performing the extraction.
And talking of medicine, and its close sibling, medical insurance, well I won’t bother you with the byzantine details, but… well actually… you do need a bit of back story to appreciate the full astonishing, mind-numbing absurdity of the situation.
And here let me say the story is involved so if you want to stop reading and make a cup of tea and then resume, fine. Or perhaps just stop reading altogether, and the next time we run into each other you can just make sympathetic noises and I’ll assume that you’ve read this sad account.
Still with me? Ok. Here’s the summary:
As you may know in the USA — of course if you are an American citizen or Green Card holder then you do indeed know, and if you are reading from some other part of the world, the UK for example, all I can say is: revere the NHS… and try not to let the characters presently in charge to finish what Mrs. Thatcher started in her attack on all social services — hospitals, schools, libraries, the railways, the BBC and so on…
Long story short. If you are an American actor and union member and you complete an average of 20 weeks of full employment in an 18 month period you can get very good medical insurance for the extremely reasonable (and to my mind) appropriate price of $100 per quarter. For the past 15 years, I have been fortunate enough to maintain this important average and (ironically, can you hear me laughing?) in that time never went to the doctor.
Then, at the end of last year my score of weeks-worked slipped below the qualifying requirement. OK. So I did what millions of Americans did and signed up for what is known as Obamacare. And here you enter the paradigm of the shy-and-retiring-second-hand-car-dealer. Which is to say there is no shortage of “affordable” insurance policies available which are actually expensive and meaningless, if you did have a serious medical emergency while “covered” under one of these discount schemes, you would very likely find yourself unable to the meet the “deductible” and they would come for your car, computer, television, furniture, 401k, clothing, underclothing, and house or apartment and you would have to sleep in your car — oh no, they already took that.
So I prepared to purchase the lower end of a policy which actually did seem to give actual coverage at a cost of, wait for it, $500 a month. Yes, that’s right. From $400 a year to $6,000 a year. Loss of income = exponential increase of premium was the net result. So just as I was poised to pay the first installment, I received an email from my union (the actors’ union) telling me that I was in fact eligible for another six months of coverage at the friendly union rate. I instantly paid the said union rate, 200 bucks for six months, and felt that (temporarily at least) I was winning in the game of life.
Cut to: six months later and the elegant, utilitarian health insurance offered by the union did actually expire, so I bit the proverbial bullet fully prepared to pay the (to my naturalized-citizen mind) exorbitant 500 bucks each and every month, until such time as I either: regained sufficient employment or won the lottery.
Picture my surprise when the website turned down my money.
This was to do with the complexities of “open enrollment” and various other internecine details that arose in the original Obama negotiations with the insurance companies and their proxies, the Republican Party. As we don’t have the space of a book to explain it here, I refer you to Michael Moore’s summation: “The insurance industry wasn’t content with a piece of it, they wanted all of it.”
After various circular conversations with insurance professionals and government officials, each of whom seemed to be just a few sandwiches short of the full picnic, the upshot was this:
Because I didn’t pay for something I never had (when I first applied for Obamacare and shunned it in favor of the union policy), I was not eligible to purchase it now.
Clever, right? I’d say right up there with Catch 22.
So there I was uninsured. This is not a condition you want to find yourself in, in the free world. I was passing the Actors’ Equity Association offices the following morning, and realizing the absurd and appalling state of risk I was living in (House, car, electrical appliances etc…) I went in and asked if there was a remedy?
“Sure,” said the union advisor, “You can’t be excluded from the policy just because you don’t have the weeks, so you can pay retail for the very same union insurance you had for $400 a year when you were in work.”
“How much would it cost?”
“$935 dollars a month.” This was said with an entirely straight face.
“I’ll take it.” I said instantly, glad to be able to come in out of the cold of the perilously uninsured condition into the warmth of at least being able to go on living in a well built dwelling should I step under a bus.
And there you have it. $400 a year, if in sufficient work; the precise same policy (and very good it is too) for something north of $11,000 a year, if you fall from favor with the gods of employment. Oh, and how a mere $500 per month now seemed a bargain, (which I could not access, remember?) Free market capitalism mixed with medicine, a compote of sophisticated financial oppression at its finest. Trawl the Internet and it will tell you the stats are that more than 60% of personal bankruptcies here in the Land of the Free are due to medical expenses. Seems plausible to me.
Deep personal thanks to Bonnie Monte at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival for inviting me to play Tilney in the recent sumptuous production of Shakespeare in Love over there. Unknowingly, although profound thanks are still due, she saved my medical bacon.
Which is just as well, because I went to the doctor for a check up (most men don’t go, the statistics say, until they are 60). Well I just turned 60, so here I am right on the national average. There’s nothing seriously wrong, just a few harbingers of the issues to come as we move inexorably forward towards the final exit. The doctor was an extremely agreeable chap with whom I exchanged medical jokes. I told him that had I known it was going to be this much fun I’d have come to see him years ago.
In George Orwell’s book, Down and Out in Paris and London, Boris says:
“It’s fatal to look pale, it makes people want to kick you.”
This whole sorry episode could be viewed as a pale tale, and hey! It’s not sooo bad to have First World problems of this kind, actually all of the above is just one manifestation (there were plenty of others, believe me) of what we actor/astrologers know as the Saturn Return. I’ve just had my second one — we all get one about every thirty years or so.
If you are interested in my astrological perspective on the coming year, take a look here, but wait until the 2nd of January 2018 when the post will be live.
Oh, and if you thought medical insurance was fun and games, try getting dental coverage.
Happy New Year!
Take care of your teeth.
10 replies on “Premium Quality”
I just wrote you a lengthy chatty rant against oscar insurance, and it wiped it. Oh well. Best wishes for the new year to all and to our teeth!
Right, keep calm and floss! HNY!
Happy New Year Phil feel free to come home anytime Medicare still sits at less than 2% of taxable It’s a bizzare start to 2018 when Alexander Downer is being credited by NYT for waking the FBI up but On behalf of my fellow Australians I will accept that he clearly can hold his drink better. Enjoy your tales of theatrical life I am back in New York this spring to see The extraordinary Glenda Jackson.
Oh great. Let me know when you’re in NYC! HNY
Many thanks for that edifying account, Colin. Sounds like you will qualify once more for the Equity health insurance now? Thank God! 😉
I am a lifelong admirer of the NHS, and it horrifies me that it seems the US/Trump administration is apparently having some success making inroads into it – partial privatisation of certain services, etc. Presumably due to May cosying up to the fake POTUS. 😳
I recently decided to return to England, as I miss my only child (son Nick) and only grandchild, (Gabriel). I also have an elderly (much older) sister, Joan, who has been in fragile health for some time now. My son’s marriage broke down 2 years ago, and he’s totally on his own now. Works 6 days a week, with no social life. Seems depressed, and misses me. I feel my place is there now, despite my American husband (Ray) not wishing to live in the UK again. So, he will stay here in SWFL, and I will visit him when I can. He wants to get a motor-home, so we can make trips in that from time to time. Like you, I’m a Naturalised American citizen. Unfortunately, Ray cannot renew his passport due to an ex-wife from about 40 years ago – it’s a long story! 😉 So he cannot visit me in the UK anyway, even if he wished to. Once our house lease is up (March/April) I can make the move. Fortunately, so far we remain good friends. 😉
So, I shall once more return to my beloved NHS. I will give her your regards!
And a very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year, 2018 to you! 🍷
Sent from my iPhone
Happy New Year Lesley, I hope things go well over in Blighty! I’ll check in with you if I ever work in Florida again, just in case you are over here!
Not only is the cost prohibitive, the care is not all that hot either!!! OY!! When are we all moving? but until then….Happy New Year dear friend and to the lovely Trish!
Happy New Year Beth!
Oh Darling, I tell my nieces and nephews, “If there is only 1 thing you ever learn from me in my lifetime, just remember this: take care of your teeth!” I’ve had 6 root canals (in 5 teeth–yes, one had to be re-done), countless crowns, and 1 extraction. I just that the metal post surgically implanted 2 weeks ago, and I’ll use my 2018 benefits to get the new tooth. It is a lower molar, and I find it affects my speech, so that’s why I decided to get the implant. FYI: having such terrible teeth, I’ve seen countless dentists, root canal specialists and oral surgeons, and I’ve found good ones! I love my dentist, and my root canal guy is the bomb–quick, thorough, and relatively painless. The oral surgeon is only #2, but he was good and very patient with this nervous patient. So if you ever want names, call me!
Happy New Year, my friend, and wishing you all the best (and healthy teeth) in 2018!
Hi Colin, well I can make you feel a little better. It is next door to impossible to find an NHS dentist these days. If you can find one they are not free. At all. And they don’t cover things such as dental implants. Dennis had to have a new bridge and two implants. Not possible on the NHS. The NHS would only offer false teeth. For implants the dentist wanted £12,000. Yes Twelve thousand pounds!!!! Ride in to the rescue – the Hungarians! A quick trip to Hungary and the same work costs £4,000, plus you can have a holiday in Budapest. Easy jet flights are comparative pennies and the hotels are not expensive. Everyone does it now. I do appreciate this does not help you in America, although it might be worth the $400 return flight. If not there is always Chile – apparently they have wonderful, and very reasonably priced dentists. Bisous Margaret x