12 September 2008

Politics: Health Care

Do you know someone who doesn't have health insurance? There's a stigma attached so it's possible that they've not mentioned it. It might be better to ask yourself other questions. Do you know someone who is self-employed? Do you know someone who is trying to run a small business? Chances are, they don't have health insurance. The statistics, which I'm feeling too tired and disgusted to look up at the moment, are staggering. But we're not actually talking about statistics here, we're talking about human beings whose lives are at stake. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, a nation with med schools that aspiring doctors from all over the world flock to for training in their chosen field, it is inexcusable that every day in this country people die who don't need to because they don't get the preventative care that they need. They suffer with pain and go to work every day as it eats away at them with no idea of what is going on because they cannot get a diagnosis without a magic card.

My cousin had surgery today. After months and months of dealing with a degenerative problem, he finally managed to get in to see a specialist who would give him an appointment knowing that he didn't have insurance. That appointment with the specialist was about a week ago. In the last week, my cousin has racked up untold thousands of dollars in medical debt for a surgery which was his only alternative to life-long paralysis.

I didn't sleep well last night, thinking about what was ahead. Now I'm fighting to stay awake as I type this. There was so much that I wanted to say and so many eloquent points that I needed to make. What it boils down to is "Someone in your life does not have the medical insurance that they need in the unlikely event that something catastrophic happens to them." Their future and their health are riding on the results of this election. McCain and Palin want to further privatize healthcare and allow market forces to bring the pricing down.

What will happen to the nation's working poor, to those being laid off by plant closures and those kids coming out of college having trouble getting jobs? Can we as a nation and a society really afford the human costs of Laissez-faire healthcare?

I wish that I could stay awake to really talk about this, but I'm fading fast. Maybe I'll be clearer headed tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

you liberals don't get it, if we socialize health care then we wont have great doctors, as there would be no motivation for them to make advances in medicine.

Andi said...

Actually, my anonymous friend, you're the one who doesn't get it. We're loosing great doctors every day in this country without socializing medicine. Countries that have socialized health care have plenty of excellent doctors, some of them doing groundbreaking work. (You should see the things that ObGyns in this country have learned from their British colleagues and the techniques that we've adopted from them.)

The truth is that insurance companies are running the health care system. Malpractice insurance and business insurance costs are driving doctors out of private practice. Insurance companies have unprecedented control over which medications are prescribed, which procedures are authorized, which tests are run, and how long patients are given to recover as inpatients.

There are a great many doctors who would find nationalized health care liberating and that it would free them to actually practice medicine and treat patients.

Arguments to the contrary are most often conservative scare tactics. Nationalized health care is far from perfect and some doctors may depart for greener pastures but the system we have now is killing people, compromising their care in the interest of profit and driving good doctors to other fields.

Yancy said...

I really must say you are something. Unsure though I am if your thinly veiled worried comments about driving away customers are just a cry for attention I think it does point out your basic lack of understanding of capitalism.

The clock at the bottom of your page also fails to take into account that, thankfully, we are in a representative republic which has an electoral college system that decides whom will be taking the office of President.

A return to Camelot. I assume you mean the fictional land from the middle ages, because the idea of returning to a President who bags broads in the wings of the White House or wherever he can get away from the Mrs. for a few minutes doesn't seem like a great idea. Nor does returning to a President who nearly got us involved in a Nuclear War, and sent troops to a foreign nation without declaring War and also stripped them of their abilities to properly fight said war. Yes, Vietnam was as much Kennedy's fault as Johnson's.

The matter at hand however is Socialized medicine. If only there were some historical precedent we could look at that worked well. Oh, the Soviet Union that lasted from 1922-1991 had such a system, well hey they did everything right.

Our current system and it's problems are yet another group of foul ups we have inherited from the so called greatest generation. FDR and congress put in place wage freezes during the Second World War and to attract employees companies had to use fringe benefits ie health care.
Americans, like all people are creatures of habit and take things for granted once they are given to them so they think that it is a God given right to have health care and this is quite simply wrong on every level.

You own you. You are responsible for yourself, you and your husband are responsible for your child. None of you are my responsibility. To say that Socialized Medicine is necessary is to say that it is alright for you to put a gun to my head, and take my money to put medicine in you or your child's belly.

Is the US medical system broken, absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly that HMO's and insurance companies have too much say in what medicine a patient should take or what treatments are best. (Also ignoring the burden on our hospitals that illegals and the uninsured cause.) If we abolished them, and took the money being paid to them and gave it to the people who actually earn it to do with as they see fit, then we would see medicine and medical costs drop overnight.

All of it though ignores the basic, inevitable fact. We are all going to die. Anything medicine does is just kicking the can a little further down the road. You have had almost 40 years to try and accept this, perhaps you will some day.

My body is what I use to make money, socialized medicine equals the government taking that money. I shall close with a line you folks used to love. "Keep your laws off my body."
Yancy (ayansik at yahoo.com)

Andi said...

Without getting into a semantics debate, socialized health care is a term which covers a very broad range of systems. You point to the Soviet Union as though the act of reforming a system which is broken and leaves many people without even the most basic of care will deprive us all of liberty... It's a pretty common tactic, let's blow new life into the embers of our cold war paranoias and revive discomfort and fear that has been pushed out of our consciousness.

You say, "If only there were some historical precedent we could look at that worked well." What about the systems currently being used in the UK, Canada, Finland, Israel? In fact, what about the fact that some attempt at universal health care is evident in most countries in Europe? Are they perfect? No, there is no perfect solution, I may be liberal but I'm not foolish enough to believe that human beings, with all of our foibles, are capable of envisioning and implementing a perfect system, we have too many disparate agendas.

You say that "Our current system and it's problems are yet another group of foul ups we have inherited from the so called greatest generation." Fine, I'll concede that many of the breaks and faults in our current system date back to FDR, the post-war economy, unions and have been generations in the making. I simply cannot agree to say "Well it's all F%&*^d up and has been for years and that's just the way it is." I want to believe that with the resources available to us in the 21st Century industrialized world we can examine systems that work and find ways to fix the mess that we have now.

This is a much bigger debate than can be handled in comments on random blogs. Your facile arguments about armed robbery to take your money to pay for my family's medical costs ignore the basic facts that dismantling the insurance companies and giving that money to the providers of health care would actually require a great deal of government intervention as well... As for price drops, the evidence of recent history, where states have acted to decrease regulation so that competition and market forces can act to reduce costs the results have been booms in capital investments resulting in greatly increased costs for individual health care.

I'm not advocating laws that mandate the type of care that you receive. I have no interest in legislating anyone's body or what they do with it. What I'd like to see is some effort to fix a system that you agree is broken and put a halt to needless suffering.

Anonymous said...

andi I come from Canada where we have OHIP and Medicare etc.. ie provincial health insurance. Covered are basic services. Its not a perfect system, this is true, but at least I never had to grow up worrying about getting annual doctor visits or getting proper care if I were to break a bone, for example.
Dental care is not covered btw, nor are lab fees or certain tests You still need private coverage for some things.

I'm in the States now. A friend of mine in Maine fell on the ice and broke her arm. She didn't go to the hospital and get it set properly because she didn't have insurance and couldn't afford the hospital visit. I know many other people don't seek out medical care for the same reason. And when the problem gets worse and worse, what then?

I had a baby with no health insurance (and luckily it was natural with no complications) and I remember aspirin/advil cost me $23. That was 6 yrs ago. The nurse-midwife and hospital let me pay in installments, thankfully, but not all doctors' offices are so accommodating . My husband was having excruciating pain thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome (left to get worse and worse over a period of years because of the same reason as my friend in Maine), and while we actually had insurance, the doctor would not perform the surgery until we had made the $300 copayment up front.

I am not sure who is the culprit when it comes to inflated health care here, but my impresssion is that it has a lot to do with insurance and drug companies. I wonder if they were regulated if it would make the difference between more people being able to afford health care, vs just those who live above the poverty line.

Being a self-employed person I feel persecuted by the insurance companies. There is no reason why I should not be entitled to the same insurance rates as those offered to a group or people employed by someone else.

While every political system may be wonderful in theory (capitalism, socialism, communism, whatever..), in reality, every one has its shortcomings. America is a great place but class divisions are getting wider and wider apart, leaving some people behind. There has to be some middle ground.

All the best.

Karen F said...

Hi, Andi. Hope you're doing well.

You are so right about health insurance. It is a national disgrace that a country as rich and fortunate as ours chooses not to make universal health care a reality.

And this isn't just a problem of the "poor" or unemployed. As successful entrepreneurs, we have gone through incredible travails with this ourselves. People with any kind of pre-existing condition (even allergies as a friend who is an insurance agent told me) can find it impossible to get insurance no matter how much money they have.

I have also seen how much this varies from state to state. While some states try to regulate this to make it more reasonable, other "business-friendly" states choose not to regulate, effectively allowing insurance providers to "rate you up" as many times as they want, making insurance a technical possibility but an unaffordable one. (Anyone who could afford it would choose to self-insure.)

I have been at my wit's end with this on several occasions. At one point I asked a insurance provider how this could possibly be the case. His response: "Haven't you heard? There's a national health care crisis?"