Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health Care - America (guest post)

My friend wrote this on her blog shortly after Ted Kennedy died. Her Canadian and more liberal friends applauded it, while at the same time she was pilloried for it by numerous conservative Christians and in fact, lost around 25 regular readers as a result. She then made the post private so when I started reading her blog, I didn't see this post. A couple of months later I wrote something about health care either here or on Facebook and she sent me a copy of her post. She has graciously allowed me to share it with my readers. Thank you, Roz.

Thoughts on Health Care by Roz Pack

I don’t think there is much question that most of you know (If you have been reading me for long) that I am a product of my father. I think I’ve made it pretty clear, that despite his lack of perfection, I believe that he was a wonderful, wise man, who taught me much of what I consider good about myself. I also believe that I’m a product of being married to a very special man for almost 35 years. Who also had a huge influence on my thinking. The two could not have been more different when it came to politics. (I will leave my mother out of this, although she was a big part of both my life and my beliefs, and more and more I find myself becoming her…which is often a scary thing to me!) But, they both had one thing in common, that I think I admired the most about both of them. When they were in good mental health (and both obviously had their times that they were not) they were both men of incredible integrity. And I believe that despite his obvious public failures over the years, so was Ted Kennedy. He too, was a product of his family.

I’ve read numerous biographies of the Kennedy family, and I think that his persistence and his great ability to hire good people that kept him prepared for every argument he might encounter in the senate, and his incredible work ethic, despite the fact that he need never have worked a day in his life to be financially comfortable, came from his father. Unfortunately, I also think that in his early and even middle years, his sense of entitlement, that led him down some pretty bad roads, also came from his father. On the other hand, I think his strong belief in caring for the poor, the marginalized of society, whether it be by color, by gender or by sexual preference, came from first his mother’s faith and then in later years, his own that reflected hers. I think it is interesting that we have heard very little about his faith until this last year, and most especially since his death. I think we all now know that his Catholic faith, his belief in redemption, his love of his family and his devotion to his friends, played a huge role in who he was.

My father believed in the dream of Camelot. He struggled with keeping the dream alive in his heart with the deaths of Jack and Bobby, with each of Ted’s missteps, but, he more than anyone, recognized that in this life, struggle is inevitable, redemption is real, and life goes on.

My husband never believed in Camelot. He believed that each person was responsible for his or her own destiny. That hard work was required of us all, and that redemption was the purview of God and God alone. While those views are a bit different, I don’t think they vary as radically as one might think. This brings me to my discussion of Ted Kennedy’s last cause, health care reform.

I think that once we get past all the rhetoric of each side, I think we as people of these United States of America, are far closer in belief than some would have us believe. Unfortunately, the conservatives are spouting crap they hear from radio and T.V talk show personalities, and liberals are spouting stuff they hear and read primarily on the internet, instead of each of us actually READING the bills that are out there, then truly THINKING and LISTENING to what the other side is truly concerned about. I’m a product of someone who had, until May 1 of this year, very good, and very inexpensive to me, medical insurance. But, I’m also a person that has serious medical issues that spent 8 years not having any health insurance and not getting the care that would have left me in far better shape now, had that been available to me. Now I’m a person who, unless some bill is passed or I am able to qualify for Medicare, in 3 years, when my COBRA runs out, will be uninsurable. I think I have a picture of both sides of the issue, at least somewhat.

So, let’s talk about what I think that most of us agree on. Most of us agree that medical costs in this country are out of control. Most of us have no idea how much our medical care actually costs. If we have insurance through our employers, either part or all of it is generally paid by our employers. If you have Medicare you only pay a small portion of the actual costs. What we all know is that those costs, whether it is insurance or our out of pocket expenses have gone up significantly.

My former doctor from my old home town happens to be my friend and I know that as a primary care physician that does birth to death care he has told me that even at managed care costs (ie. the deal your insurance company makes with each doctor to take a certain amount for seeing patients of that insurance group) he makes money. He also sees Medicare patients and the equivalent of what is known in this state as “Sooner” care, which is a form of insurance that covers pregnant women and children under 18. On those cases, he makes little or no money, but he breaks even in terms of insurance, expenses, paying staff, etc. He no longer sees Medicaid patients, unless they are long time patients. Because he can no longer afford to lose the money that he loses seeing those patients. He did, for a long time, take the loss, but eventually, the losses became too much for him to afford. This is not a family who lives extravagantly. I would guess he brings home somewhere between 100-200 thousand a year. He also told me that his malpractice insurance costs have tripled in the past 10 years, despite never having had a claim filed against him.

This points out a couple of things in this argument that I think if people actually listened and talked about this issue, they would agree on. First of all, we are RIGHT to fear what a public option MIGHT become. Another bureaucratic mess that will not function effectively enough to lower medical costs. We also need to look at Tort Reform. Certainly there needs to be some mechanism for allowing people who are truly injured by incompetent or criminally negligent medical personnel, to be compensated. But the vast majority of lawsuits filed in medical instances are frivolous and even when some wrong has been done, the personal injury lawyers are far more interested in making money than they are in getting the individual the compensation that is reasonable and deserved. This is costing us all money that we cannot afford.

On the other side of the coin, we all have to realize that managed care already exists in this country. Your insurance company has been practicing managed care for years. If you are old enough, you remember that there was a time when most of us had insurance that paid 80% of our medical bills after certain deductibles were met, and 100% after we reached a certain amount, and we went to whatever doctor or hospital we chose. Over time, that has changed. We see doctors that are approved by our insurance company (who have made a deal with that doctor to receive a lesser amount of money in exchange for being included on their list). We have prescription cards that allow us to pay less for certain drugs (remember, we used to pay for them all, then send in a claim and were reimbursed for 80% of the cost whatever it was) but do you realize that pharmacies do the same thing? They agree to take less for a prescription in return for being on your list of approved pharmacies.

So, we already have managed care, so why are conservatives yelling about not wanting somebody to come between them and their doctor. Insurance companies are already doing that. Lawyers are already doing that. The government in the form of the DEA is already doing that. It is possible that with a public option, that will happen less than it does now!! We know that what we are doing now is not working. I’m of the opinion that when something is not working, you try something else!

Death panels are a myth, and I am living proof that uninsured people are less healthy in later life than those that have medical care available. And because we don’t do a good job of treating big issues like pain, depression and all mental health problems, my husband while costing our insurance company a hell of a lot of money while alive, is dead.

Let’s talk about one more issue that bothers me. We as a country already see education as a basic right. In fact, you pay taxes for it, whether you choose to take advantage of it or not, and until recently we gave folks who chose to educate their children themselves (for good or bad) a really, really hard time. We believe that the government has a right…actually no…that they have a RESPONSIBILITY to keep us safe and even reasonably comfortable in the work place in the form of OSHA and labor rules. That we have a right to be paid a basic wage for our work, by the minimum wage laws and again the government labor boards. That we have a RIGHT to green space, at the local, state and national level in the form of parks. We have the RIGHT to being kept safe from criminal activity by laws, judges, police and fire personnel at every level. So, why is it that the RIGHT to basic health care is in such dispute? Isn’t that at least as important as all of those things listed above?

And last but by no means least FOR ME. I identify myself as a Christian…a follower of Christ. So, FOR ME, I don’t have a choice but to support whatever means of providing health care to those that do not have it. This kind of social responsibility is a basic tenant of my religion, whether I like it or not. Unfortunately, many of the folks that are yelling the loudest about not wanting fully encompassing health care for all, also call themselves Christians. I do believe that Christians can agree to disagree about certain things, and if you can explain to me how you get past The Great Commandment* I’ll be more than glad to listen to you. But in the mean time, those in power that choose to identify themselves as Christians need to stop taking the actual words of the various bills being offered in congress and the Senate finance committee and twisting them to mean something they don’t and using fear mongering to scare less educated and less politically aware people into believing incredible lies. There is NO place in ANY bible that makes THAT okay…

So, it’s Sunday, did you expect not to get a sermon?????

* “Then one of them, who was a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40


Cherie said...

Great points made in your guest blogger's post. Recently my daughter had some medical tests run at a premier medical facility. When I got the bill, there were two prices - one for the general public and one for those whose insurance is accepted at the facility. It was about a $2,000 difference. My first thought was that those who could least afford it had to pay the higher price. Second was, it's like dealing buying a car as there is no fixed price, you have to negotiate.

Another issue I wonder about is why our car and homeowner/renter insurance is paid by individuals whereas health insurance is tied to employment.

I recently heard a debate on CNN on healthcare and one panelist said something interesting about why Americans pay so much more for healthcare than Europeans. She said, "Europeans expect to die. Americans don't." Most healthcare costs come in the last years of life when Americans continue to push for that one last hope. I question whether some interventions are worth it and whether we need to look at the quality of life rather than the quantity.

I wish our country could have a REAL debate on healthcare and put aside politics as it's hurting everyone.

Well, that was my two cents worth. :)

drlobojo said...

Cheri ask:"...I wonder about is why our car and homeowner/renter insurance is paid by individuals whereas health insurance is tied to employment."

It is because in WWII there were wage control laws in effect and corporations needed to attract workers for the war effort. One legal way to increase competition for employees was to provide free health care. After the war we just kept the system going. While ironically in Europe under the American Marshal Plan (headed mind you by former Republican President Herbert Hoover) we were helping countries establish universal government health care.

Americans pay more for health care because investors demand a return on their investments, as well they should.

As for dying, most Americans do not live as long as most Europeans.

The reason we will never have a real debate on health care is simple. Americans don't want to here one. Unless we could make a reality TV show about it, complete with bloody operations, deaths, and tears, maybe.

Deanna said...

Thank you both for your comments and observations. It remains to be seen what the effects of the recently passed bill will be. I suspect it will be a mixed bag but I do hope it's a step in the right direction.

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