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Monday, March 29, 2010

Socialized Medicine: The Real Cost

I would like to point something out to Americans. In Australia, we have KICK ARSE health coverage. It's far more efficient than the American system (I could get appointments in Australia much faster than in the USA under private health insurance), and the level of care is just as good, if not better, because our doctors aren't salesmen for pharmaceuticals.

How much do we pay for this system, which, compared with the American clusterfuck I have experienced for the last six and a half years, seems like Utopia? Surely the government rapes us on tax day? The Medicare Levy which covers our healthcare is 1.5% of our income over $6,000. If you earn $40,000 p.a., say, the total cost of your health coverage is $510 FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. Think about that for a minute. In addition, doctor's visits and hospital stays are free, and medications are much, MUCH cheaper than they are in the US.

Why? Because we have single payer. We're evil socialists, and the government actively invests in our health, so that it negotiates with pharmaceuticals and other players in the health care system to get better prices for its citizens.

I am so sick of people saying socialized medicine is bad. It's AWESOME. People who are against it are IDIOTS.

(Reposted from my Facebook Notes.)

My friend Jason from Australia (a health policy analyst) also offers the following illustrative graphs:

(Source: National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission Final Report 2009)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What is this?

This winter has been a tough one. I'm susceptible to changes in the weather and usually feel something of a seasonal slump, especially since moving to the northern hemisphere, but it's never been quite as bad as it's been this year. I realized this week that this has been going on for about five months. I've had terrible trouble motivating myself to write music, I'm tired all the time, I can sleep at any moment and could easily sleep for more than 12 hours a day (haven't felt this way since I recovered from mono ten years ago), I'm negative about and/or indifferent to things I used to love, and I find hours of my day disappearing with nothing whatsoever accomplished. I feel like I'm losing my mind as well as my brain. It's frightening.

In the past couple of days, I've finally decided to really look at what the hell is going on with me, physically and mentally, rather than just ignoring my odd symptoms and hoping I'll snap out of it. What's happening is not normal for me at all. There's no particular "trigger" I can point to and blame - life is good, except that I feel like crap. The few times I've tried to discuss it with people, they assure me I'm just going through a slump or perhaps aging ("You're nearly 30; you're supposed to have less energy."), and that it's perfectly normal or natural, but it feels endless and extremely out of character. The physical symptoms are similarly very new to me. In the past year or so, my skin has become uncharacteristically dry and parts of my scalp have been taken over by psoriasis. My hair has become brittle and dull, even though I haven't done anything damaging to it and have tried several shampoos and conditioners -- to compare, I bleached my hair white blonde and dyed it blue for two years in my early twenties, and it was in better condition than it's in now. I often wake up with one or both of my eyes feeling puffy and my vision slightly blurred. I get headaches frequently, especially when I do any kind of physical activity. Sometimes I've had deep pain in my thighs which feels like it's coming from my bones. I've always been a bit of a fish, but now I'm constantly cold and always have a heater on in my room, a few inches from my feet, even though Matt complains that my room is stiflingly hot. The only time I'm not cold is when I first wake up in the morning, when for about a minute my heart seems to race and I sweat like crazy.

Anyway, I've picked up a book on depression and I've been reading around online, and all signs seem to point to a possible problem with my thyroid, more specifically, some kind of hypothyroidism. I remember my mother being diagnosed with thyroid problems of some kind years and years ago (at one point, she was convinced she had a thyroid disorder and not bipolar, though I think that's a stretch), but I don't know what ever came of that. I suppose I should try to find a doctor who can test for it effectively, but the literature also seems to suggest that it can be difficult to diagnose, and that normal levels of thyroid hormones can still be present when there is a problem. Still, I'll try.

I just hope that this is actually the problem and that the treatments actually have a noticeable effect, because it's driving me kind of nuts.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I doubt I'll see the destigmatization of mental illness in my lifetime

I just saw Shutter Island. Not a bad movie - I'll try not to spoil it here - but when the end credits started to roll, I found my heart breaking. Partly, I'm sure, this was due to my seasonal depression. Partly, the subject matter hit close to home (here's a blog I wrote about my mother's bipolar disorder a couple of years ago). But mostly, what I felt was despair at the reactions of many of the other audience members in the cinema.

It was a movie about a mental asylum, so of course, the symptoms of mental illness were depicted, and people laughed at them all too often. Not the kind of nervous laughter you make when you're uncomfortable - that I can understand and appreciate. This was open, look-at-how-funny-these-broken-people-are amusement. Most people have been educated not to laugh at, for example, the spastic walk of someone with cerebral palsy, or the tremors and jerks of someone with Parkinson's disease. It's still, however, apparently pretty acceptable to crack up at the hilarious behavior of crazy people.

I don't know how much of this was due to the movie, and how much was the audience. I think the movie toed the line. Certainly there were some moments when the antics were supposed to be amusing and ironic, and I can forgive the audience for laughing then. Hell, mental patients often have a decent sense of humor, and sometimes even they can laugh at the things they do. But there were other honestly quite tragic moments when I thought, how on earth is it acceptable to laugh at what just happened? Maybe it's because I saw the movie in Philadelphia (I honestly believe Philly moviegoers are among the worst in the world - if they're not talking constantly, they're being shot for talking constantly). Maybe I'm just overly sensitive. It's just a movie, and it was marketed as a thriller-horror. But I walked out of that cinema close to tears. I just don't see the stigma surrounding mental illness going away any time soon.