Here's to Our Health

>> Sunday, August 30, 2009

I've made no secret about where I stand on healthcare reform. I know we're not all in agreement on the issue and many people are scared to death about where the reforms (both those actually proposed and those described) will lead us, often speculating on the worst case extrapolation with little or no reference to past history or reality.

I don't feel that way, for two reasons. First, I think we're already IN the worst case situation with regards to healthcare barring ONLY continuing on the trends we're currently on. People, through no fault of their own, are not able to take even minimum preventive care because healthcare has become so expensive it's all but impossible to address without help - even nominal heathcare. And because insurance companies (and their huge profits) add to the cost (without actually providing a benefit), it makes us all poorer. It hurts people without insurance so that they can only get care when they are in a crisis (which is more expensive for all of us) because of the ridiculous cost. It hurts those of us with insurance because the cost of the profits for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies ALL come out of our pockets - as well as that emergency care. It hurts businesses as they spend more and more money on healthcare for their employees and it hurts employees because they can't make decisions that help their families without taking that healthcare as a consideration.

And, yet, for all this money and effort, all the high end hospitals and doctors, our care is not first rate. People die who don't have to. Decisions are made depending on the insurance, tests run or not run, doctors chosen based on who's with what company. Communication and error are frequent.

And, if that weren't bad enough, if facing a terminal or life-altering disease weren't stressful and miserable enough on its own, if the morass of insurance loopholes and disallowed reimbursements, correct codes and paperwork weren't enough, even doing everything right doesn't preclude financial ruin for an ugly diagnosis for dementia, a hard battle against cancer, or a baby born six weeks early. Financial ruin for not just the individual involved, but often a whole family - lost wages, lost savings, lost retirement, lost legacies.

It would be one thing if the system we have now worked worth a damn. It doesn't. I understand not wanting to make something so useless it sets us back, but doing nothing isn't working and it's what we've done to date.

The second reason is that the fear, that government will fail to do something the market can do better is bogus and has been disproved time and time again. Skip the hype and the hyperbole. Spare yourself the nonsense that making sure everyone has health care is putting us on the path to Nazi-ism. There are any number of things that were never got better until the government stepped in (at the impetus of the people): environmental regulation, financial regulation, minimum wage, civil rights. In all of these cases, the government had to step in where capitalism and society did not - for the good of all the people. And, even though I'll be the first to say government is often fumbling and irksome, they've done some damn fine things, too. Things I, for one, am happy to pay for with my taxes. I know a lot of good people doing the right thing in government. My grandfather was one. So was my father. They made it better for all of us with their quiet and unsung dedication.

What we're doing today isn't working. Seriously.

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  • flit

    Very well said!

  • Roy

    Hear, hear!

  • WillOaks Studio

    Bravo and very well stated--I'm with you all the way!

  • Melissa

    I can very distinctly remember in my career, when health care changed to almost completely for profit companies. Big money making conglomerate hospitals, and clinics were formed, money making machines. I would say it was the early nineties, and I could quickly see health care go down hill in a hurry. I think allowing health care to become a for profit business, has hurt us all, especially the elderly who live in nursing homes. Companies that own nursing homes, not all, but most only care about making money, not the people they are supposed to care for. The whole situation is sad, out of control, and as a nurse very disheartening to me.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. We all need to speak up on this issue. Trust me, as a cancer survivor who went through treatment with no insurance, I know of what I (and you) speak.

  • The Mother

    We've been over this before--while I agree that reform is necessary, I am not at all sure that the current proposal will salve the nation's problems. I would really like to see a commission of both doctors and economists build a real, solid policy than rush into a proposal that isn't really a perfect solution.

  • Stephanie B

    I don't want to say that the way I see it is the only way to see it. I'm just explaining *why* I see it like I do.

    The Mother, I hear you on wanting to do the right thing rather than doing anything; however, I'm convinced this is better than nothing. You don't have to agree with me. For decades, fear has kept us from doing anything serious to solve this for all citizens. We've waited too long to be casual, in my opinion, about doing something.

    If it is really a step in the wrong direction (and I don't think it is), correcting it will take less effort than getting started. So I'm not worried.

  • Phyl

    I agree, Stephanie. I think the important thing is to make some changes that will start things in the right direction. Then tweak things and adjust them, adding features or altering other things to make it better, to answer The Mother's worries.

    I imagine Flit will share my incomprehension as we look southward and watch people be afraid of a system that has certainly saved our lives or those of our loved ones.

    I don't understand the "Every man for himself" mentality, in anything. It may be a lovely capitalist idea, but it doesn't make a country.

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