Sunday, June 14, 2009

Health Care: Better Late Than Never

It was obvious that I would need emergency treatment that would probably be very expensive, and what a sad commentary that even in this disjointed mentality, I knew enough to be worried that my HMO might not cover my costs in the event that I went to the wrong health center for care.
--Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD., in My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey

When Jill Taylor, a neuroscientist working at Harvard, was suddenly disabled by a devastating hemorrhage in the left side of her brain, she couldn’t speak, think clearly, or remember how to dial a telephone. However, she did know enough to worry about whether her insurance would cover the costs of her treatment!

In America, most people have to worry about the costs of medical care, one way or another. In general, folks in their middle years who are employed by the government or large corporations get good, comprehensive coverage—although even for this fortunate minority, costs have been escalating dramatically every year for the employees’ share of the premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. If the well-employed change jobs or try to start their own business, they may be caught without coverage and have to play Russian roulette with their financial security. Those over 65, who are eligible for Medicare, may also be able to rest assured that they can afford the care they need—if they have additional income enough to pay for supplementary insurance.

For the rest of us, however, the choice too often has to be made between going without coverage or paying astronomical premiums for catastrophic insurance that doesn’t cover routine health care, dental or vision checkups, or even emergency room visits.

The broken, inefficient, and inequitable system of health care in this country has been limping along for too many years. The time has come to revamp it. Here are some of the reasons why. In America,

  • owners and employees of small businesses often can’t afford health insurance for themselves and their families

  • the rich may live and the poor may die of exactly the same condition

  • many people suffer and die from chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes because they can’t afford their medications

  • young parents, who are among those least likely to be insured, may not seek prenatal care

  • many people in their fifties or sixties who would like to change jobs or retire are forced to keep working for health insurance

  • huge numbers of people can’t afford routine tests and wellness checks

  • those who are chronically poor because of addictions or mental illness are helpless to get the treatment they need.

Treating people only when they are seriously ill or dying is enormously inefficient. Allowing a system to continue that deprives most people of optimum health care is a tremendous drain on the nation’s productivity and creativity. The analyses have been done. The momentum is there. The time to solve these problems is now.


Idna said...

Where has government run health care given better care to the populous that privately run care? Would you show me that model? Would you show me which government-run healthcare country it is that people flock to when their own country isn't giving them proper care?

So far I have only seen evidence that people come to the U.S. from all over the world. It's not perfect, but I bet you would rather get sick in this country that any other around the world. (If I'm mistaken, which country would that be?)

All I can say about this health care takeover by Obama is be careful what you wish for. He wants to shove it through so fast, like the $787 billion bill that no one had a chance to read. By the way, how is THAT working out?

Citizen Jane said...

Idna, we've been discussing this issue for 25 years now, and so far nothing's been done to solve the problems. Meanwhile, health care costs have skyrocketed and Medicare is moribund.

Those who want to avoid any changes to the status quo and just "let the market take care of it" can quibble about details until Hell freezes over. Meanwhile, people are dying out here.

The issues are well understood. It's time now to DO something.