Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I find the discussions regarding health care fascinating. I don't know anyone who is happy with their insurance. Everyone I know thinks it costs too much, covers too little, and places too many constraints on their medical care. Add to that an associated press article shows that HMO's in California made over $4 billion in profits last year with many of the CEO's making more than $1 million in salaries.

Still, as soon as the discussion moves to universal health care, many of those same folk who were complaining about their own insurance begin a litany - "we have the best health care in the world," "can you imagine if the government ran health care?" "do you want a bureaucrat making decisions about your medical care?" "we need choice in our health care," "the free market will take care of any problems we have if we just allow it to work."

Of course the answers are simple - No we don't. They run the highway system would you rather that be privatized? how bout the military? (oops it is being privatized) Bureaucrats already make the decisions except instead of being public employees with the good of society as their aim, they are private employees whose only goal is profit Choice? I don't have any choice. My insurance company tells me what care I can have and who will provide it. Some things should not and cannot be governed by the free market and health care is one of them.

I have no illusions that either a single payer system or a government run system would be perfect. I also don't doubt that wealthy people leave Canada to have procedures done in the US and avoid waits. But I also have no doubts that either a single payer or government run health care system would be better and cheaper than what we have now.

FWIW, I'm feeling a little unhappy with my insurance these days. Three years ago,Alexis had major surgery on her jaw that was medically necessary. Our very expensive insurance didn't pay a penny. We were lucky to be in a position where we could pay for it with loans against my retirement account. Some 25 years ago, when I didn't have any insurance, I needed a root canal. We paid for that but couldn't swing a crown for the tooth. The dentists said it would be more fragile and would break someday. It broke last week - below the gum line. I went to the dentist who said they could do "crown lengthening" which my insurance covers, but there would be less than a 40% chance that the tooth would not fall out. The periodontist said the same thing. Plus it would involve cutting back my gums and removing some bone around that tooth and the two adjoining teeth...making them less stable as well. The dentist highly recommended a dental implant. Guess what. My insurance doesn't cover it. And it doesn't matter that two dentists agreed it was the best and cheapest effective care for my mouth.

At least I'm not like the woman in the video. Nobody dies from lack of a dental implant. Still, it doesn't need to be like it is - supporting obscene salaries and a profit motive where people's lives are in the balance.

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