Health care reform under protest — I give up

August 15, 2009

I don’t know whether to be proud of all those citizens showing up at the town hall meetings, many to voice their protest over proposed health care laws, or whether to be disgusted with all the demagoguery going on, such as that from those Republican lawmakers who voted for a provision in 2003 they now claim to be against and further claim is a measure promoting euthanasia.

I know there is legitimate concern over proposed revisions to our health care laws but there is so much lying on all sides concerned that it is depressing.

Facing my own health care insurance problems, I feel nearly helpless and hopeless – although not quite.

But I know I am not in a unique position, and that only further confuses me. Surely so many others must be facing the bewildering position of being between insurances and knowing that if you let one lapse a new plan may not accept pre-existing conditions. I might be going on Medicare if due to my medical condition (cancer) I cannot work, but that would put me into poverty,that is not being able to work,  but without help I can’t possibly pay private insurance on my own. And reading over all of the terms and restrictions of private insurance is bewildering. One would have to be the proverbial Philadelphia lawyer to understand it all, and even that would not help, unless one specialized in health care law.

While I fully appreciate anyone taking part in the protests if they know what they are talking about or at least have legitimate concerns based on some semblance of fact, I have nothing but contempt for the know-nothings who simply spout off FOX News or right-wing Republican talking (propaganda) points.

And I am not afraid to say something else about all of this: there is a lot of greed among the health care providers, to include doctors, and insurance companies.

It’s hard for me to criticize doctors because I have needed them so much and I know that taken as a group they do so much good for society and I know that to be a good doctor is a rare enough skill and talent that it has to be or should be well rewarded. But it also seems to me that doctors are the ones who could do more than most to help straighten out the health care crisis. But the doctors whom I have spoken with seem to feel they are too busy and someone else needs to handle reform and that in so doing whatever way it comes out they have to be compensated at the level to which they are accustomed. I have not had long and detailed discussions with doctors, but I have mentioned my concerns. And although they indicate concern and sympathy they also convey the attitude that they must be rather well compensated otherwise it is just not doable or worth the bother.

As to the issue of abuse in malpractice litigation adding to high medical costs, while I am sure there needs to be reform there, I imagine it is more of a red herring used by opponets of health care reform who prefer the status quo.

But at some point on an individual basis one has to face reality and go along with the program, such as it is.

And one more thing: I think a vast majority of the public wants FREE health care or at least health care that seems free, such as employer-provided. They do not want to think that they have to pay for it and they for sure do not want to be taxed for it. A big concern among many – and perhaps somewhat legitimate – is that their tax dollars will go to health care for others and not themselves.

It is true, I believe, that there is a class of people in our society who take public assistance for granted. They along with greedy drug companies and others in the health care industry are adding to the poison in the atmosphere against health care reform. Many are concerned that too much government involvement will throw us all into the government free clinic zoo. Many working people work simply to not have to live in that nether world of the “sick”, “lame” and lazy. They fear that Obamacare (and actually there is no identifiable program) would throw them into the community clinic.

And there most likely would have to be some type of health care rationing under a government program — how else to control the costs? There already is rationing in the private system anyway — it’s called cost, availability, exclusions and so on.

While President Obama may believe what he says, that he does not want to take away anyone’s insurance, I have to admit it does seem that a so-called government option would overpower what the marketplace could offer and would offer employers a way out of providing for their employees. And actually employer provided insurance is probably where we went wrong in the first place. When it really was free (to the patient) the medical community had a bonanza, they could and did, and heck, still do, charge anything they want. And they want a lot.

I give up already – I’ll go along with the program to the extent I can.

Health care reform: Probably best to cover those who can’t get insurance on their own and leave it at that…

August 9, 2009

Since people who have no health insurance crowd emergency rooms putting a tremendous burden on the health care system and upping the costs for those who do have health insurance and pay premiums, I am not at all against the idea that  everyone should be required to have some type of insurance plan.

Right here in the city of my residence, the Catholic-run, non-profit hospital is in hot water, being accused of “patient dumping”. The authorities claim that patients come to the emergency room and suffer long waits, many hours, and often leave on their own before being called. And they also allege that even patients that are seen are released without proper treatment.

It is not generally known what is really happening or why it is happening, other than the emergency room is extremely crowded most of the time.

One factor in all of this, though, is that the cross-town private-for-profit hospital has been taken over by an outfit run by a doctor who runs other hospitals and whose modus operandi is to cancel existing insurance contracts with the come-on to patients that the hospital will nonetheless accept insurance and waive the deductibles. Problem is, the hospital will also go after the patients for that part over and above what the insurance companies have agreed to pay.

Blue Cross has told its customers not to do business with that hospital. That may have sent a lot of people to the other hospital. But I suspect the overcrowding is really from those with no insurance. Many of them have probably got the impression that the private hospital is not the place to go. For that hospital also fired virtually all of its nurses, busted the nurses’ union, and then hired back some nurses. It was the ones hired back that voted the union out. They apparently decided they needed work more than a union.

But I got off the track a little here, as I am wont to do. This using the emergency room as the all-purpose clinic because you have no insurance and can’t see a regular doctor or go to one of those private clinics that have sprouted up all over is out of hand.

Having had to use the emergency rooms at both local hospitals in the recent past due to a bout of uncontrolled bleeding and other symptoms as the result of cancer, I have seen the emergency room zoo. People use them for everything from ingrown toenails to serious injury. Okay, I don’t exactly recall anyone being there with an ingrown toenail (although I don’t discount the possibility at all), but it was obvious that people who had normal discomfort from having the common cold or some other malady freely used the emergency room when many others would have just stayed in bed and maybe made an appointment with the family doctor.

And using emergency room doctors who don’t have a good handle on your personal medical history is dangerous. I fell into that situation on one visit because it was over the holidays and my own doctors were not available. Later when they saw me they shook their heads at what the emergency room doctor did and said he prescribed the wrong medicine (I’m not talking malpractice here – just confusion).

And now to President Barack Obama’s health care proposals. I really have lost track of it all and have had a hard time thinking about it because I have gone back out on the road on an eighteen wheeler and have been kind of busy. And yet I have heard about it out there. It seems that all the truck stops are partial to FOX News, which spews out anti-Obama propaganda 24-7.

As much as a political junkie as I am, out on the road I refrain from political talk for the most part because the crowd I am around always seem to be right-wing reactionary, even though many of them probably do not know or even care what the terms “right wing” and “reactionary” signify.

I have blogged on the subject of health care reform many times, but without getting into the nuts and bolts of the whole thing again, I maintain that the problem in this issue is that it is too confusing and I also fear that Obama and other proponents of reform have taken on too much.

Personally, while I do not prefer the term “socialized medicine”, I would not at all be against some form of government-sponsored health care, such as used by other industrialized nations. But this is America, and we do things differently here. We have developed a system in which many are covered through their employers by private insurance and many who do not or cannot work are covered by some type of government insurance. The major problem we are facing is cost. At one time, many (not all) employers paid the whole premium for health insurance (in fact my last employer did). But health insurance has become so expensive that employees have had to take on a major share of the cost, even when their wages do not go up. Some employers have dropped insurance altogether or have put people on less than full time, taking them off of insurance coverage. And of course hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and the insurance that went along with it.

And please don’t think that just because you are out of work and can’t afford health insurance that you can automatically get on a government plan. There are waiting periods and income restrictions – if you were prudent enough to save money or make investments, you are penalized.

I have read of angry mobs or at least belligerent audiences Democratic proponents of health care reform have faced in town hall meetings (even death threats). We all know that Republican operatives are spreading rumors, such as old people will be forced into assisted suicide, and putting people up to crashing the meetings. I suspect, though, that many people are truly concerned and puzzled as to what their government has in mind.

I think Obama has made the same mistake as Hillary Clinton did back in the 90s. Both made things too complicated.

I guess I have a simple solution for most everything, but even though I have blogged this before, I continue to maintain this:

It is every individual’s responsibility to pay his or her share of the costs of medical care. Therefore everyone should have some type of insurance. But for those who truly cannot afford it, either due to disability or job loss, there should be a government-sponsored plan.

The figure on the uninsured that I always here is something under 50 million. This nation has a population of something to the tune of 306 million. Many of those classified as uninsured are eligible for insurance but have not taken it out and many are illegal aliens.

If Obama had just sought to cover those who could not get insurance any other way and left everyone else alone, he could have moved onto other matters, such as improving the economy, not saddling it with more massive debt, such as the trillion dollars (over a decade) his reform package is said to cost.

I also know from my own personal experience it is helpful to have the resources of family. Not everyone has that available, though.

But we all do have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones.

Although many of our government policies are socialist in nature, we are not a socialist nation. Yes it is ironic that the most vocal critics of “socialized medicine” would not think of letting you monkey with their “Social Security”, but that’s the United States of America. We have a unique perspective on things.