Friday, August 14, 2009

Evan’s Softball

Fellow blogger Evan said he'd like to hear my thoughts on this article.

Here goes:

Here's the deal. Right now hundreds of lobbyists are attacking health care reform under misleading, euphemistic names such as "Citizens for Patient Rights". They claim that with health care reform, you'll be told which doctors you can and can't see, there'll be massive waiting lists and the overall quality of healthcare will plummet.

These lobbyists are using the British NHS as an example of how bad things will be. Well, let me paint a picture of how 'bad' the NHS is.

Last year my Mum wasn't feeling very well, she thought she just had a stomach ache, but when it persisted for a few days she decided to go see a doctor.

It turned out she had bowel cancer.

Now here's the real horror story about how terrible the NHS is. Brace yourself, because it is disturbing:

She was diagnosed, operated on, given six months of chemo, went to numerous follow up visits, was given multiple scans and tests and a few months ago was given a final all clear. She wasn't charged a single penny for any of this. She also told me how nicely she'd been treated and how much the Doctors did to put her at ease, explain things to her and keep her involved every step of the way.

Now let's look at the flip side of the coin shall we? Let's look at America's 'best in the world' healthcare.

About two months ago I started feeling really sick. I had terrible headaches, no energy and generally felt like crap. I didn't go to a doctor because, like 46 million other people in this country, I can't afford insurance. In fact, thanks to a previous ailment, I'm currently getting daily collection calls because my local hospital charged me over $1400 dollars for a throat swab and ten bucks worth of pills.

Then, about a month ago, I woke up in the morning to discover I was almost completely blind. With my glasses on, I couldn't see anything more than about eight feet away. Without my glasses, the world was a multicolored blur. We called Sunny's doctor, explained that I'd more or less gone blind and we were told that because I wasn't a registered patient I'd have to go to the doctor's office, fill out a ton of forms and then the doctor would decide if she wanted me as a patient or not. They said I'd probably know whether I'd been accepted 'in a month or so'.

So, not being able to afford another trip to the emergency room, we went to a 'Doctor's Care' office where they literally took my debit card from me before I went in to see the doctor, and held it to make sure I would pay. After an hour's wait in an examination room, the doctor walked in asked what was wrong, and while I was literally halfway through a sentence explaining my symptoms he said interrupted and said "We'll do a blood sugar test." And turned his back on me and left.

I wish I was exaggerating there, but I was literally halfway through a sentence and he interrupted me and abruptly left. You see, the less time he spends with me, the more people he can see and the more he'll get paid.

A nurse came in and took my blood sugar with the same type of meter you can get for 10 bucks from the local pharmacy.

Half an hour later the Doctor walks back in, says "Yup, you have Diabetes!" in the same way someone might tell you your shoelace is untied, writes a prescription and leaves with a "Pay at the front desk."

I was given no information, no instructions about what I need to do…I actually had to feel my way out into the corridor and shout him back to ask whether my eyesight was permanent and if not, how long it would take to clear up. "It'll clear up after a few days when you take the pills." He said, like he was talking to an annoying child.

So I went to the front desk and for my blood sugar test (which I already knew and told him because I'd used my wife's meter) and for the fifteen seconds he spent with me, I was charged just under $200 and it was about $50 more for the pills. We lived on canned soup and mac and cheese that month to pay for it.

Now can you see just how terrible the British NHS is and how socialized healthcare is a really bad idea?

Basically, right now in America, the Health Care system is the very definition of a seller's market. The Healthcare Industry can literally charge whatever they want. That's why my stepson went to the emergency room for an infected abscess under his tooth and was charged $300 to be given two over-the-counter Tylenol and be told that there was nothing they could do and he should go see a dentist…which he couldn't afford which was why he was at the emergency room in the first place.

These people lobbying aren't concerned about the quality of our healthcare. They don't want healthcare reform because it's going to take a lot of money out of their pockets. Healthcare reform means the pharmaceutical companies can't sell pills for a hundred dollars each and hospitals can't charge five hundred bucks for a five-dollar wrist support.

The only other obstacle is the idea that socialized healthcare means you'll suddenly be told which doctors to see, which hospitals you can go to and instead of your nice private room you'll be forced into a ward with fifty other people. The truth is nothing like that. Just because socialized healthcare is available doesn't mean you can't choose to pay for private insurance and go to private doctors and hospitals. About 20% of British people do just that.

If you have that great job and the really good insurance that goes with it, you can still see the same doctors in the same hospitals and get the same level of care. The difference is that for less than one half of one percent of 2009's defense budget, the one in five Americans who can't afford to get sick can get the care they need.

The truth is that the British NHS does have its problems and socialized healthcare isn't a perfect solution. However, if you take nothing else away from the post take this:

Arguing against Healthcare Reform is arguing against imperfect healthcare in favor of NO healthcare for one in five Americans.

That's the main point here. People are claiming that receiving no healthcare at all is preferable to being put on a waiting list before being seen by a doctor for free. One in five Americans can't afford health care and almost half of those who can have to go into debt just for their co-payments. In reality, Americans who can afford comprehensive healthcare are a small minority.

In 2009, Americans are dying of easily treatable diseases because of nothing more than simple greed.

It honestly makes me sad that people are up in arms when someone suggests that a tiny percentage of their taxes go to help their fellow Americans get healthcare…but have absolutely no problem paying a doctor a hundred thousand dollars for a five thousand dollar procedure just because the Doctor likes money and can charge whatever he feels like.

There's the best way to look at it. What would you rather do? Help save your neighbor's life? Or help some pharmaceutical exec decorate his third home?

As a final note, if you don't think things are 'all that bad', I ask you to defend this:

A couple of months ago, my wife collapsed at work and was rushed to hospital. By the time I got there she was in a bed in intensive care. It was well over an hour before a Doctor came to see her, do any sort of diagnostic work or talk to me about whether my wife would regain consciousness or not.

However, someone from the 'Business Office' was in her room to get her insurance and payment information within five minutes of me arriving.

Under the current healthcare system in America it takes over an hour and a half for a doctor to see you when you get rushed to hospital…but they can get someone in there to make sure you can pay in less than five minutes.



Evan 08 said...

My younger brother got all kinds of pissed off because I've come to support socialized medicine.

My position is that we've been trying to change shit for twenty years. The only thing that's changed during that time is that medical costs have taken an ever-larger portion of our collective paychecks.

People have railed against socialized medicine, but it's the ONLY thing that hasn't yet been tried. I have heard enough anecdotal evidence supporting socialized medicine to support it.

From a humanistic standpoint. Let's say I get cancer. Currently, as someone with good health insurance, I'd qualify for an extra six months of life and it would cost an exorbitant amount of money. Money that could give dozens of people preventive care, or feed a small village in Africa for months. I would be willing to forgo that final six months of life, if it meant that dozens of my currently uninsured countrymen could get health care as a result.

Yeah, I know it's not a panacea, but if we even start moving in the right direction, I'm for it.

Sunny said...

I agree- everything else has been tried, so it's a last ditch effort which just happens to be a step in the right direction.
It probablywon't be a perfect system- but then again- what the hell IS?

Woman atop her Soapbox said...

America needs something.

Something where retirees aren't filing bankruptcy just to get their heart medication and where you mother is calling the insurance company to see if they will pay for the ambulance ride because she thinks she is having a stroke.

yes, my mother was having a stroke and instead of calling 911, she called the insurance company.

While healthcare in Britain isn't shiny and new, you get seen and the day to day stuff is just fine. Specialist care is good here too. I think better than the day to day stuff.

And it cost nothing out of pocket which should count for something.


Anonymous said...

Good post Paul. Just let me add I was diagnosed and operated on all within three weeks. Two years later I am still having follow up appointments and scans to check everything is still OK. Don't let anyone in America degrade our NHS system. Mum