I understand that basic reasonable-ness among health insurance providers is a lofty expectation in 2017 America. And I understand that mine is far from the worst health insurance nightmare story. It is, however, my goal with this blog post to shame Kaiser Permanente into addressing the fundamentally sexist practice of charging women whose breast cancer screenings fall outside of mammograms. SO LET THE SHAMING BEGIN.
Thanks to the miracle of poorly researched female health sciences, I have taken five trips to the radiology lab to determine if my mystery cysts/ducts have developed any scary cancerous properties. Thanks to God, Godess, HP, the universe, that I have not been diagnosed or even biopsied. However, the cost of these visits have netted out well over a $1,000 for me. Not only have I lost some some of my life to extreme anxiety and worry, but I also had to pay money in premiums in order to pay more money so that I AND KAISER, don’t have to pay more money in the event that I get sick. Meanwhile, I am perfectly healthy.
Over half of all women will experience a cystic lump at one point in their lives. If she chooses to have it looked at, and has a deductible, chances are high that she will have to pay for that service. Thanks to Obamacare, mammograms, cost $10. However, studies show that they are mostly ineffective. Also, completely painful and mortifying. Shaped like a panini-maker, these machines have not been updated in 40 years. I have had 8 versions of the iPhone since 2010. But unlike iPhones, mammogram machines are exclusively for women — for whom it’s assumed that a tolerance for pain and discomfort are built into our chromosomes. If men had to take a test that turned their testicles into pancakes you would have NASA scientists working on these machines.
So, forget about mammogram machines. You found a lump. You can always ignore it, but you can’t ignore your aunt, mother, sister, friend who went through a difficult diagnosis, treatment, illness or death. And you can’t ignore the statistics on breast cancer, which are:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer
Interestingly, 3,000 to 49,000 people will also die of the flu. So, at the high end, the number of people who will die from breast cancer is around the same number that will die from the flu. Every year that I go to an appointment, Kaiser gives me a flu shot. I don’t want the flu, but the chances of me dying from it are pretty slim. So, sure, I’ll take a needle if it will save me a week of misery. However, the people who will die of breast cancer will be overwhelmingly female. Breast Cancer screenings, however, are not $10 at CVS or Rite Aid, but a financial burden. (For me it averaged to about $300 a visit). Unlike the flu, a lump or an abnormal screening, is considered “diagnostic” — another word for “you pay for it.” Diagnostic is also another way of saying, “We really don’t care” about this epidemic or the subtleties of women’s bodies, or how HALF OF ALL WOMEN (roughly 2 billion) have dense fibrous breasts and need this kind of screening.
What makes me sick about the whole endeavor is a) the lonely horror of it b) the reality that Kaiser profits off of an epidemic that affects millions, if not billions, of women. It reeks of white men sitting on boards thinking of women’s problems as trivial and irrelevant, the kind of sleek brand of misogyny that devalues women in every day ways; that puts a tax on tampons and blames women for having an attractive body.
Thanks to of the Internet, I have found that I am not alone. A freaking CANCER SURVIVOR was charged for her sonograms because she no longer had BREASTS TO MAMMOGRAM.
As Cosby, Weinstein, Trump and others have so accurately illustrated, western civilization’s gains in acknowledging the human rights of women remain vastly overrated. The leap from believing that women “asked for it” in sexual assault and harassment, to the unspoken assumption that the care of our reproductive organs (and the people who are made because of them) should be our burden to bear. The condescending patronizing letter from the claims department giving me a onetime courtesy reimbursement for the service of screening my body, did not ameliorate my anger and fury.
In other words, I should not be punished because I have boobs.