Healthcare in the United States

Unlike most developed nations, the US health system does not provide health care to the country’s entire population.[1] Instead, most citizens are covered by a combination of private insurance and various federal and state programs.[2] As of 2017, health insurance was most commonly acquired through a group plan tied to an employer, covering 150 million people.[3] Other major sources include Medicaid, covering 70 million, Medicare, 50 million, and health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) covering around 17 million.[3] In 2017, a study found that 73% of plans on ACA marketplaces had narrow networks, limiting access and choice in providers.[3]

I have excellent healthcare. I have private insurance (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) and Medicare because I am on disability. Even with this healthcare, I spend between $15,000 and $20,000 per year on healthcare. Roughly 18% of Americans are uninsured. That does not include the number of Americans that are underinsured. Those uninsured and underinsured can’t afford proper medical care, so many go without seeing a doctor or getting necessary prescriptions, leading to approximately 60,000 preventable deaths per year.

Now, politically I am somewhere in the middle. I am fiscally conservative and environmentally and socially more liberal. My problem is I believe we need major healthcare reform, and I support a single-party payer or universal healthcare, but I have no idea how we could ever pay for it. Don’t translate my views and think I am a socialist because I am not. Most countries in the world that provide universal healthcare are not socialist; they are democratic nations.

One of the worst things that can happen to someone without healthcare is to be hospitalized. When they get out, they are burdened with sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of healthcare debt that they will never be able to pay. This puts a severe burden on the individual and the hospital, who often has to write off a large portion of this debt. The Affordable care Act was supposed to resolve this problem, but let me tell you there is nothing affordable about it. When I first went on disability, my wife was working for a company that did not provide health insurance, so I had to go to the Health Exchange to look for insurance or pay for Cobra. When I went to the Health Exchange, I found that I would have premiums of roughly $1,200 per month for subpar coverage. The Affordable Care Act has done absolutely nothing to provide affordable healthcare. Luckily my wife was hired by a different company that offered excellent health coverage.

I know a lot of uninsured or underinsured people, and I see them rationing prescriptions, not seeing a doctor, and not getting the treatment they need. On the other hand, I have a friend that is Canadian who is married to an American who, while living in Canada, had a life-threatening medical problem. It was going to take over nine months for her to be seen by a specialist, so they moved back to the US to be treated immediately. Without immediate treatment, she could have died. Countries with universal healthcare do not have all the answers. It isn’t easy to see a specialist because they are so back-logged. I don’t know what the answer is, but something has to be done.

I haven’t even discussed the topic of those with preexisting conditions. If you are like me and have preexisting conditions, getting affordable health insurance is nearly impossible. Unless you can get on a group plan through an employer, you will be charged considerably higher rates because of those conditions. Why is it that those that need healthcare the most have the hardest time accessing it?

Like I said earlier, I don’t know the answer, but the current system is not the answer. People are dying, suffering, and going bankrupt because of the lack of availability of medical care. The United States is consistently ranked as having one of the worst healthcare systems in all developed countries. How can one of the wealthiest countries in the world have such lousy healthcare? This ranking isn’t based on the quality of healthcare, as there are many brilliant physicians and many exceptional hospitals in the US. It is based on affordability and access to good healthcare. There has to be a solution that doesn’t drive up US debt but provides affordable healthcare to US citizens.

  1. a b Institute of Medicine. Committee on the Consequences of Uninsurance (January 13, 2004). Insuring America’s health: principles and recommendations. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 25ISBN 978-0-309-52826-9.
  2. ^ Access to health care in America. Institute of Medicine, Committee on Monitoring Access to Personal Health Care Services. Millman M, editor. Washington: National Academies Press; 1993.
  3. a b c “The Decline of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance” Retrieved November 25, 2018.

Get a Dog

Now I have basically always had dogs in my life.  So, I would definitely consider myself a dog person and not a cat person although I did have one cat that I rescued out of the snow as a kitten who was the sweetest animal in the world. Last October my chocolate lab, Herschel started coughing so I took him to the vet.  At first they thought it was just allergies but a few days later it was much worse.  I took him back to the vet and after series of blood tests and x-rays they determined that he had a fungal infection in his lungs. A week later he was coughing up blood and early one morning I awoke to him dragging himself across the floor as his back legs quit working.  By the time we got him to the vet, he was gone. Now this absolutely broke my heart. He was my baby. We rescued him when he was about six months old and he was only seven years old when he died.

I am a big proponent of pet adoption / rescue. Almost every dog I have ever had has fallen into one of these categories. Our puggle we have is thirteen years old and her mother was rescued from a puppy mill and Savanah was born in the shelter and I adopted her as a new puppy. So in November of last year I was trying to decide; do I get another puppy or do I wait for a while.  Well two friends of ours showed us their English Labs that they had gotten from Hickory Nut Kennels in North Alabama and they were beautiful.  So, for th first time I got a puppy from a breeder. One of our friends who has a black lab from HNK, we did a little research and found out the ours and theirs were cousins. 

I can tell you from personal experience that having a puppy in your life can be one of the most healing things you can do.  It gives you something to instead of focusing on what’s wrong in your life or what you can no longer do. You literally have to pay attention to them every hour. Between crate training, potty training, general training, play time and snuggle time, they take a lot of time and attention.

If you are home bound because of a disability or because of Covid-19, having a puppy that requires a lot of attention, training, play and snuggles is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. According to a study published in Time Magazine, dogs are more than just cuddly companions — research continues to show that pets bring real health benefits to their owners.

Having a dog around can lead to lower levels of stress for both adults and kids. They’ve been found to decrease the risk of asthma in children and have been linked to lower blood pressure.

And researchers have also shown that dog owners are more active than those who don’t own dogs, packing in more steps per day on their walks or just regular playtime. Last month, a study showed that older dog owners take 2,760 more steps per day on average compared to non-owners, which amounted to an additional 23 daily minutes of moderate exercise.

n a time of loneliness and isolation, a dog can provide something to keep you busy, active and provide a source of unconditional love. I know that my new puppy, Alonso, has given me hours of love and affection as well as training and play time outside. Yes, you have to deal with getting up in the middle of the night to let them out and they will have occasional accidents in the house, it is so worth it.  It is one of the best things I have done for my mental health in a long time.

If you are lonely, isolated, home bound because of a disability, consider getting a dog. They can change your life.

My Journey

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Thanks for coming along on my journey.

My name is Mason Ellenberger and I want to share my story with you in the hopes that it may provide a source of healing and peace.

Seven years ago I was running half marathons and was in the best shape of my life; then the pain started. It started in my legs, then my feet and then my hands. I soon would find out that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Skip ahead to three years ago when a new journey began. I started to have severe neck pain after a fall. Three surgeries and two fusions later I found myself in constant pain. I then started having problems with my lower back. I have since had three surgeries and one fusion on my lower back.

If living in constant pain weren’t enough, I soon would realize I was going to have to give up my career and go on disability as I could no longer perform my duties on all of the pain meds. This was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.

So two years in fighting for disability benefits I finally got a court date for my appeal. Several months earlier some family members started noticing I was having some symptoms and encouraged me to see a neurologist. After a couple months of visits and testing, I got my diagnosis; Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Are you kidding me? Like I didn’t have enough to deal with, I was just handed a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease with no cure that would slowly destroy my body and my mind. I was only 47 years old. The only good news that came out of all of this is I got approved for disability benefits.

So why am I starting this blog? I want to share what I have gone through and what I deal with on a daily basis and possibly provide some hope to others out there that are suffering.