Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stay Tuned.. I'm Not Done Yet

For my loyal readers, don't worry, I haven't forgot about this blog. I've had much to do and little time for anything. We have had severe illness and death in our family. We've also underwent death in our church family.

In the mean time, I have begun a new job. We're still a homeschooling family; I'm just working early mornings. I have several posts I'm working on research for, including insurance, politics, and Bigfoot's orthopedic issues.

Stay tuned,

I'll be back!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Beginning of Our Story

Our story begins with a child, a now twelve year old child with unusually big and very flat feet, who is also unusually tall. Due to his high percentile on child growth charts, we refer to him in this blog (as well a What Me, BUSY? Never!) as Bigfoot. From birth, he has always measured in the top ninety percent of height and weight. By no means is Bigfoot obese in any way. In fact, he's a skinny little twig with a very strong muscular system.

We are not beginning our story in the here and now. We are actually beginning our story several years ago, when Bigfoot was not big footed, or flat footed. Traveling back in time to age November, 2004, my child was wearing a size four shoe, and had worn this size shoe for several months. Previously, I was only buying shoes when he wore them out. Sears was our store of choice for many years for purchasing shoes and clothing for our kids. Their children's apparel policy was full replacement of shoes and clothing as long as your kids maintained the same size. Thanks to this policy, I was only buying new shoes once every year. This would be our last trip to Sears for shoes.

He approached me one afternoon, after school (our kids attended school once upon a time), "Mom, my feet hurt."

"Okay, we'll take a look at them when we get home." Little did I realize, this would be the last pair of Skechers he would wear for a very long time. Spending fifty dollars on a pair of shoes was no big deal when we only spent that kind of money once a year. You can't be outgrowing those shoes already. You haven't had them for more than a few months, I thought.

Bigfoot was right. His feet were hurting. His toes were curling inside his shoes just to get them in. Thinking the situation wasn't what it turned out to be, I made a phone call to darling Bigboy.

"We have to go to the mall tonight."

"And just why do we have to go to the mall?"

"Our son needs new shoes."

"Already? We just bought him new shoes."

"I know. He's complaining that his feet hurt."

"All right. We'll go up after I get home."

Out trip to Sears proved not worth the trip. We were replacing Bigfoot's size four shoes with fives. Size five shoes are the last size available for boys. Even if your kids are tall in stature, Sears does not recognize anyone over the average child as qualifying for the childrens' apparel policy. Our last shoe shopping trip to Sears had come. I had no clue what in store for me.

Oblivious, I was to the concept that my son's ADHD symptoms were connected to his growth spurt patterns. There were, what I felt, too many factors in his situation to prove any possible link between growth and behavior. Suspensions at school (a private school I was paying tuition for), were occurring several times a month. These suspensions, I realized, were the result of his teacher not being willing to meet his personal educational needs. I could go on about that topic, but it would become such a tangent, we'd forget the original story. However, his school situation is the main reason we began homeschooling.

Another major factor I accounted for involved me. I was constantly exhausted. I was sleeping later than acceptable on a regular basis. I had a very difficult time waking up in time to take our kids to school. I don't know why I was constantly exhausted. Everything was overwhelming for me. I admit, I wasn't the best parent at the time. I wasn't always available for my kids as I should have been. I wasn't proud of myself then, nor am I now about that situation. I have always had a difficult time with holding the behavior issues of my children as their issues when the problems lie with me.

We were also going through some straining financial times. I had been unemployed since the beginning of 2004. I had yet to find a replacement for my income. My previous job had been in a union environment. The nature of my employment loss had actually inhibited new employment for me.

I thought I had any of Bigfoot's medically related behavior issues under control. Six months before, we FINALLY completed fifty weeks of vision therapy in a clinic I have not been willing to endorse for four years. I had been convinced by an optometrist that Bigfoot had a visual tracking condition, therefore altering the message between the eyes and the brain. This condition, according to this doctor, leads to ADHD type symptoms. Everything this guy said made sense.

All of his claims lined up with what I had been told by psychologists and medical doctors: Bigfoot did not need ADHD medications. "Don't medicate him," I was repeatedly told. So, I didn't. I'm not a big fan of medicating for ADHD in the first place. Being told my mental and medical doctors not to medicate him made my day. Vision therapy, I was told, would solve those problems. to this day, I do not believe the $15,000 paid by my insurance and I had been well spent.

Three and a half years ago, I had no clue what was happening to my child. Too many factors clouded understanding of what was happening to Bigfoot. This is only the beginning of what was yet to come. almost four years later, we are understanding there is a different problem completely.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

As parents, we alway want the best for our children. For a growing number of American parents, that desire is becoming harder to fulfill. Our US dollar has weakened. Oil prices are soaring, with no end to their rising anytime in the near future. Housing rates have risen to the point our federal government is obliged to offer rescue loan programs. The worst effect our economy is having on our children takes its hold in the form of health care.

More Americans each year, are faced with rising costs of medical related expenses. Insurance premiums are rising for families. Most employers are now obliging employees to pay a portion of corporate insurance premiums. Companies are now claiming they can no loner afford to cover their employees. Working class Americans are no longer able to provide for their own share. Our nation's children are paying the price for this in the end. Not one child living in an uninsured household is living this way due to honest economic development. Greed hold its head over our future, restricting and suppressing one group for the sake of personal gain.

The number of children living without health coverage is atrocious. Any child living in America should have the ability to securely receive medical treatment. This number is rising. the following statistics are three years old at the time of this publication.
* The number of people with health insurance coverage increased by 1.4 million to 247.3 million between 2004 and 2005, and the number without such coverage rose by 1.3 million to 46.6 million (from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005).

* Between 2004 and 2005, people covered by employment-based health insurance (174.8 million) declined from 59.8 percent to 59.5 percent.

* While the number of people covered by government health programs increased between 2004 and 2005, from 79.4 million to 80.2 million, the percentage of people covered by government health insurance remained at 27.3 percent. There was no statistical difference in the number or percentage of people covered by Medicaid (38.1 million and 13.0 percent, respectively) between 2004 and 2005.

* The proportion and number of uninsured children increased between 2004 and 2005, from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent and from 7.9 million to 8.3 million, respectively.

Taken from the US Census Bureau. The full report is available here.
Appallingly, these numbers are not improving. The number of families without insurance in only increasing. Although that increase is not an extravagant percentage, any increase in the number of uninsured Americans, especially children is alarming.

Under the income circumstances our family is in, we are one of those families. Insurance through my husband's employer has extremely high premiums rates for families. Paying those premiums, he would sacrifice one-fifth of his income to health care coverage premiums. Adding up all of our medical visits for the past three years, we have not yet equaled enough bills in one year to validate the expenditure of insurance premiums. The deductible for our family would raise that expenditure to one-third. Spending this kind of money on health care is something we just cannot afford.

Making the situation worse for taking on coverage from his employer is the fact that the bills would, and have in the past, go unpaid by the insurance. Here in the Puget Sound area, physicians and clinics are refusing treatments to employees of this company. When the issue has been addressed by employees, they are simply told to find another doctor. We cannot, in any way, afford to degrade the quality of our heath care coverage at the expense we have been told to face.

We have the option of enrolling our family in the Washington State Basic Health Plan. If the concept of basic health was all its cracked up to be, I wouldn't have the problems I do with enrolling.

My major issue concerns medications for children. Washington Basic is well known for covering conditions with medications, without finding real solutions allowing children to overcome problems. I am not in favor of any insurance program feeding the greed of the pharmaceutical companies.

Just as revolting is the lack of treatment given for conditions beyond basic health care needs. Children with any condition beyond basic childhood illnesses are faced with the prospect of fighting the state Department of Social and Health Services for treatment of unusual and rare conditions. On a personal note, I have a friend with a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This child, a teenager of fourteen, has repeatedly made calls to Governor Gregoire requesting the expedition of his wheelchair. If no child is to be left without health care coverage in Washington, then why does this mess happen for the kids who rely on state coverage? Obviously, Washington cannot handle doing what it claims to do. How can I trust the state with my child?

I can't. And, that is exactly why my flat-footed Bigfoot is a candidate for the Shriner's Hospital for Children. The Shriners of North America has established a non-profit hospital system allowing children with orthopedic, spinal, and burn conditions. They, unlike most pediatric hospitals, provide services FREE OF CHARGE. The Shriners of North America do not hold economic status against anyone. Considering our economic situation, receiving treatments from the Shriners will be our best solution for Bigfoot.

Throughout the upcoming years, this blog will discuss Bigfoot's progress with the Shriners. I'll also be discussing issues, arguments, and hopefully, solutions to our national health care crisis. Please engage in the conversation. Leave your comments; take part in debating the issue hurting our future America. Together, we can come to a resolution to a very hurtful situation.