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

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.

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