Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A gram of prevention

I didn't get a chance to post this morning because I had to go and have my doctor pull a significant chunk of Douglas fir out of my left hand, where I had embedded it on Saturday while handling lumber. There was no way I could pull that thing out without anesthetic. He swabbed the area liberally with antiseptic, numbed it with a couple of shots, and even so it hurt like hell when he dug it out but at least it's over with. Then he gave me a tetanus shot. It's a little weird typing with half of my left hand numb but I take it I'm coming through okay.

This is just one more reason why our governor's plan to make low income people buy crappy health insurance with high co-pays and deductibles is not the best idea. People with that kind of insurance would have had to pay something like, oh, a hundred bucks for the "surgical procedure," which is an awful lot when you work at the counter in the doughnut shop, which means you probably won't do it, which means your splinter might end up with an infection requiring intravenous antibiotics and you might even get septic shock, who knows. Fortunately, at that point you've used up your deductible and the insurance kicks in. Seems kind of wasteful though, doesn't it?

Riding back to the office, I wound up on the homeless schizophrenic train. It appears that some program or other at a community health center on the subway line had just gotten out. Maybe they meet in the morning for a support group or something and now they were heading for a downtown mission that has a free lunch. These guys have pretty good health insurance actually -- MassHealth, our Medicaid program, is pretty comprehensive although they did largely eliminate dental benefits a while back. (There's talk of restoring them.) However, health insurance doesn't do anything about the rest of their needs.

We had a big progressive movement back in the Dukakis administration to close the snakepit mental hospitals and move the seriously mentally ill into supported community housing. They did part A, which was great -- it saved the state a bunch of money. Somehow they never got around to part B, however. So now people with severe mental illness are sleeping at the Pine Street Inn or a cardboard box, in between brief bouts of hospitalization or, just as often, imprisonment. Yup, what with mandatory sentencing and no instititutional alternatives, our prisons are warehousing large numbers of people with psychoses, for crimes like drug possession, shoplifting, vandalism, etc. It costs about $36,000 a year to imprison somebody in Massachusetts, which would pay for a pretty decent group home. Go figger.

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