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Friday, July 24, 2009

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." - MLK

With all this talk these days about Universal Health Care, Health Care Reform, Socialism and the Health Care Industry in general, I thought I 'd chime in with some thoughts of my own.
You probably already know what that means. Yes, I am very opinionated. Yes, I am very passionate with my views and opinions.

I keep seeing these anti-universal health care campaigns on tv. They show a patient in a doctor's office, with the Dr. and a man in a suit with a clip board wedging himself between dr. and patient. The voice over says " I don't want some government bureaucrat making decisions about my health care on behalf of my doctor and myself."
Guess what? You already have a third party making those decisions. Do you really think that your doctor gets to do what he/she thinks is best for you each and every single time you see him/her? Absolutely not. Unless you are completely privately paid, meaning you pay out of your own pocket for every test, procedure, and prescription, there is someone at the insurance company who is approving or denying your doctor to proceed with what they feel is necessary to treat you. I've seen it first hand. It's the reason I left nursing after a life time of wanting to be a nurse. It is so disheartening to see insurance companies deny potentially life saving treatment and opt for more cost effective treatment that often is inadequate for the patient's needs. Heartbreaking.
Walk a few miles in my shoes:
Try watching your patients suffocate slowly day after day until they finally die because the insurance company refused to pay for proper respiratory treatments.
Try watching your patients moan in pain with each touch, because the insurance company denied coverage for the pain medication that the doctor prescribed, and substituted the equivalent of Tylenol instead. Would you want Tylenol for truly, truly severe and excruciating pain?
How about watching your patients become sicker and sicker because of an infection that festers and becomes systemic, all because the insurance company denies coverage of appropriate antibiotics, choosing to pay for old, ineffective antibiotics instead.

These things need to be regulated. It has become apparent that left to their own devices, the insurance companies can not be trusted to monitor and regulate such abuses.
Enter the need for government intervention.
The second most frequently heard backlash (at least around here) is "That's socialism!"
Socialism? When did a little socialism become such a bad and scary thing? We don't seem to mind our public schools and law enforcement being institutions of socialism. Take a look at them. They are. So is Medicade and Social Security. No, they aren't perfect. Nothing is, or ever will be. But they serve to help those who need their help and I don't hear of too many people saying do take away public schools or public law enforcement. Why then do we get in such a tissy when it comes to health care? Everyone deserves the right to protection under the law and to an education just as everyone deserves the right to adequate health care. Neither is a privileged, all are a right.
Here's some Fun Facts to chew on:

  • We have 46.6 million uninsured Americans, of those 8.3 million are children.
  • In any given year, close to 50 percent of all health care spending pays for the care received by only 5 percent of the population.
  • Census Bureau reports show that in 2004, America's total health care bill came to $1.8 trillion. If you added up every dollar earned by every American worker in the first two months of the year, this would be the sum. In that same year, about one in 20 Americans reported that costs prevented them from obtaining needed care.
I was listening to a right wing talk show idiot one day, and heard him say, in reference to homeless and health care, "the problem with the homeless is that they don't have a job." Eluding to the idea that if they just had a job, they'd have a home and insurance.
Gah! I was screaming at the radio. "Brilliant observation you psychopath!" But what if the same homeless guy has a chronic health condition such, as epilepsy, in which seizure control meds can, without insurance, cost well over $300.00/month for each prescription. Added to the cost of this medication, you have a person with a neurological condition that renders him/her useless every now and again and causes them to miss work and have erratic behavior occasionally. Suddenly, holding down that job may be even more impressive than affording that medication on the minimum wage such a person is likely to be making.

Now, lets talk for just a minute about the cost of mental health care. How many homeless people are actually psychiatric patients who had no home to go to once insurance stopped paying and the hospital kicked them to the curb? According to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine researchers, homelessness was most frequently associated with people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, who were substance abusers, and who had no public-funded health care. The study's senior author, Dilip Jeste, said " Homelessness is an increasingly important public health issue, with seriously mentally ill persons most at risk for homelessness" ... and went on to say that "In addition to the trauma experienced by these individuals, there is also a cost to society. Homeless persons have a significantly more-frequent use of expensive emergency services and are more likely to spend more time in jail."

This health care system, as it is, can not continue. We will never have any real economic recovery until Americans are not going bankrupt from medical costs. Until small businesses are not going under from the cost of insuring their employees. Until people can afford preventative treatment in order to sustain healthy lifestyles today preventing expensive, hard to treat chronic illnesses later.

Just my two cents.

3 cookies cracked:

Camlin said...

I live in that fabled land of legalized gay marriage and universal health care - Canada. Republicans like to refer to us as socialists. What I never got, which you point out here, is that social security can be regulated, other systems can be regulated, but if the health care system is regulated, then somehow it become socialism? Every human being, regardless of their socioeconimic status, regardless of the cause and cost of their care, has an equal right to health care treatment. Simple, right? Until you get insurance companies and large multinationals involved who stand to lose millions or billions as a result of the legislation change. Dollars are more important than saving the life of a person without insurance.

As an outsider, that's how I see it...perhaps I am wrong. Our system has imperfections of its own -every system does. Sometimes you have to wait for care - although not in my personal experience. But when my unemployed daughter broke her leg, she was treated medically in the same way that any other injured person would be treated. That's the way it should be.

writeslikeagirl said...

I hear what you are saying about those patients because I am one. At 21 I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. Everyday when I would check my mail box on the way to the college dining hall I would hold my breath to see if there were bills from my doctor that the insurance didn't cover. Two years ago, 13 years later I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondolytis. (It's arthritis and not a nice one, bad, bad, arthritis) The combination of these two diseases has left me disabled. Now we are investigating a third and I have not been able to work for a year and half. My med bill, without insurance would be in the neighborhood of $2600.
I am one of the lucky ones, things have worked out for me so that I have a roof over my head and am able to take all my meds everyday.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. Thanks for posting this.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Excellent post! I found it while looking for info on MLK's quote that you started with.

I live in Illinois, where we have government-run park districts. Seriously, it's okay to have our tax dollars go to building a park and holding yoga classes, but we don't want the government running our health care. I can' believe anyone does NOT realize that our insurance companies are calling all the shots today -- and all their decisions are based on profit, not health.