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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Unhealthy Health Care Debate

I just don't understand it.

All this talk about rationing health care under "Obamacare". We already ration health care. from patients bounced from insurance coverage for unrelated pre-existing conditions to serves denied until patients actually die. WE RATION health care. Perhaps that's even necessary in a world of finite resources, but to dump it on the current plan(s) is most disingenuous.

Rationing. Why else does Remote Area Medical®, founded by Stan Brock in 1985, provide "free health care, dental care, eye care, veterinary services and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the U.S. and the world"? The "remote" area of the United States this week? Los Angeles, California. For his efforts, Brock was picked as ABC News' Person of the Week.

I know, from personal experience, that people without insurance wait as long as they can before seeking medical assistance. I know that, until I got dental insurance, my trips to the dentist were few and far between, going only when I was in extreme pain, instead of going regularly to maintain my dental health.

I may have told this story before but can't find it. Two days before I was going to college in 1979, I was at a friend's house and somehow got an infection under my toenail. It hurt mightily but I had no insurance. But I WOULD have insurance in a couple days. So I hobbled through college registration; if I had had a walker or wheelchair, I would have used it. Then I went to the infirmary. By this point, the infection was going up my leg; if it had reached my heart, I most likely would have DIED. As it was, I spent the next six days - the first six days of the semester - in bed.

Yes, I believe in universal coverage. Heck, I believe in "socialized medicine", though I know THAT'S not gonna happen. But why can't we just debate the reasonable differences, such as its effect on the deficit, a legit question.

Take Sarah Palin, who is repeating her "death panel" claims. Someone please explain why she would say this, yet again. If there is a third option, PLEASE let me know, but I have to think that the only reasons would be that 1) she is stupid or 2) she is lying. I tend to think she's not stupid, but I could be wrong about that. Of course, the White House's reality check page won't be believed, or listened to, by those who've been listening to the Sarah Palins.

Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, was recently on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS to discuss some aspects of Medicare in national health reform. The specific topics related to Medicare discussed during the segment include the much-discussed reimbursement for end-of-life counseling, as well as other provider reimbursement rates. Here is a link to the transcript and video of the segment. It seems that a good libertarian position would be for individuals to control their own end=-of-life decisions, rather than have others do it for them. Expect that this provision NOT to show up in the final bill.

The cost of health care reform is $1 trillion over 10 years; that's real money. But what is the cost of NOT doing reform? Current estimates based on the recent rise health care costs is $70 trillion or more in ten years.

Did you happen to see Jon Stewart this week when FOX News was "monitoring" some town hall debate and promised to go to the event if it got heated? Evidently, people screaming at elected officials is some sort of infotainment, but a reasoned conversation must be too boring to cover.

Finally, I HATE the phrasing of current poll questions about health care, one of those "How's he doing?" things. More people think he's not doing well than think he is. But saturated by coverage of the screamers, one could conclude that all the objectors think the plan's too radical. In fact, there are some people, and I number myself in their ranks, who would answer the question negatively as well because I don't think the plan's "radical" enough. Amazingly sloppy poll questions, which, I guarantee will be cited by the host of at least one Sunday morning talking heads program; David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press is almost a lock.


ROG

3 comments:

Nik said...

I tell you, it's even more bewildering for me to watch from overseas. I know the media coverage is on the 1% of loudmouths and not the other 99%, but it can't help looking like America's gone insane to my eyes. You saw how heated that one guy got when I brought up the notion on my blog that US health care MIGHT just be inferior to other countries. I really don't understand the self-destructive conservative mindset some times. Do they REALLY think things are they are are fine? It's crazy to me.

ohslowburn said...

Here's my theory.

If you call something a name over and over, it sticks. No one has ever called the processes in the health care system here by the names that do apply - rationing, government run, diagnosis by conference, etc. Which is why when you do call it what it is, they freak out. How else to explain the people who honestly don't get that Medicare IS a government run program?

It's also a function of what we see at large as a society. Everyone knows someone who was denied service, didn't get the procedure, didn't get the organ, etc...but that's not what we collectively see on tv or in the movies. Because what we see is the Terri Schiavos of the world kept alive forever by artificial means, the nail-biter cliffhanger of someone revived by the heart transplant in the last 20 seconds of Greys Anatomy/ER/whatever.....it makes for a better narrative.

People honestly don't get that sometimes patients are maybe steered away from invasive surgeries or risky transplants because, duh!, the cure is worse than the sickness. Or because if you spent a lifetime drinking and doing damage to your body, a new kidney isn't going to overcome how pickled you are. That's not very interesting.

Rant rant rant....sorry, i'm going nowhere with this. And I'm conflicted because I have lived in places where they had universal health care. Know what? Those people come here, if they have the means. Just like people here with the means go there on medical tourism.

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that you dare not get sick just about anywhere, including the places where there is universal health care. And I do know that the loud screamers here - doing themselves NO favors by acting like ill-informed loons (looking at you Ms. Palin) - don't know the answers either. Especially when they demand that the government keep it's hands off Medicare.

Feel free not to publish this!

Uthaclena said...

The general American mindset is often schizophrenic; it does seem that most people agree that health care cost, accessibility, delivery and billing does not work very well on the whole, and needs to be "reformed." However, no one wants anything to change in order to make these changes, and perish forbid someone should have to pay for it!!

Other countries are justified in ridiculing us.