Thursday, October 01, 2009

Don't fix it?

I've been more attuned to health care recently and have been seeing more disasters. Three quick stories that have taken place in the last couple of months. I'll leave the names out but all three are people I know.

1. a care giver to an elderly woman dropped dead one day. She developed an abscess from a bad tooth. Because of no insurance, she took pain killers and waited. The infection spread to her brain and she died.

2. A young single mother of 2, found a lump in her breast. She works full time in a chain restaurant and has no insurance and no spare cash. Still she was worried enough to scrape together enough to see a physician who sent her straight to an oncologist who felt it was likely cancer and she needed surgery immediately. She went to a surgeon who told her what it would cost and told her to come back when she could pay the bill.

3. a young man, working day jobs and receiving a room in a house in return for work around the property was riding his scooter and hit by a woman in an SUV. He broke both legs and a hip in addition to being pretty generally bruised. In spite of no insurance, the hospital did the surgery on the hip and treated him, allowing him to stay a day longer than would have been typical... because without being able to work, he had lost his place to live. And even though he will likely receive an insurance settlement from the driver's company, no physical therapy facilities will take him without paying up front. Being a young single man, who used to be able bodied, he is not eligible for any government help. He was driven by a friend from the hospital to a county clinic to get pain killers and then to a homeless shelter in his wheel chair. There he had to prove to them that he could get out of the wheel chair to use the bathroom before they would accept him. Presumably, if he couldn't, they would have left him in his wheel chair on the sidewalk.

Yeah... leave the system as it is. Don't fix it. It is too late for these three and for the 45,000 deaths each year due to lack of health insurance. But don't fix it for the 45,000 who will die next year and the year after that...


Michael Mahoney said...

Almost every state in the country (and perhaps it IS every state) has laws saying that public hospitals cannot turn away someone because they cannot pay.

So the first two stories, while tragic, were entirely avoidable. And the third is still tragic. However, I don't see where Obama's plan would have helped him, either.

There is certainly a problem here where health insurance costs are out of control. It's a scandal what I pay for health insurance. But here's the rub... I pay. Would I like to pay less? Of course. Do I mind helping to pay for someone who can't? No, I don't. Would I like to pay for someone who can pay and doesn't want to? No way.

roy said...

but there's the rub Michael. You already do pay for those who can and don't as well as those who can't and don't. If a hospital serves someone, and it is only in the case of an emergency that they cannot turn someone away, somebody still pays. It gets passed on to everyone else. And because we don't provide health care at the less expensive levels - via a primary care physician, we end up paying much higher costs in the ER and via the loss to society due to illness and premature death.

A good health care system would have provided the needed physical therapy for the 3rd case and at least when he hit the street, he would have been able to stand.

Michael Mahoney said...

I understand your point and I don't disagree with it - completely. I think a public option is viable - as long as it is just that: an option. I should have the right to purchase better health coverage if I choose to pay. The original Obama plan would not have done that - I would have been pushed into the public option once my plan rolled over.

Also, while I agree that anyone who can pay for health insurance should be required to, via taxes if necessary, I do not think that those of us who i sacrificing to give our families the best coverage possible should be made to pay twice.

roy said...

I'm reading a really informative book called The Healing of America. The writer travels around the world and studies the variety of different ways health care is delivered. There are multiple ways from a full on socialist system like in Great Britain to the French and German systems that are based on private insurance. All can work if done correctly.
My preference is for a Canadian style system with a single payer government insurance and care provided by private sector doctors & hospitals. Still, I'm not wedded to that. I'd be happy with any system that provides insurance & adequate medical care for everyone.

I learned today that my brother-in-law may have to have his foot amputated. He got an infection and didn't go to a physician - he has no insurance - until it got so bad he couldn't wear a shoe. It may have been too late and he may lose his foot as a result. And the bills are much larger than they would have been if he had been able to see a physician when he needed one.