Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Sick System

I usually shy away from political-type posts because I know not all of you share my political views. But I’ve really been thinking about this issue a lot lately and I think it’s important. Don’t worry, there are plenty of inane posts coming up!

Peeps, when it comes to health care, Americans are getting seriously screwed. I’ve known this for a long time, but I just watched the movie “Sicko”, which does an excellent job of putting a lot of this stuff in perspective. I know that some of you would rather eat broken glass than watch a Michael Moore movie, and I think some of his methods actually end up hurting some of the causes that he believes in, but I think this film gives us a lot to think about. I also don’t buy everything that is presented in this movie, but there is a lot of truth in it.

For-profit health care is just a flat out failure. The “for-profit” part tells you all you need to know. Companies’ only goal is to make the most money possible, not help people get the health care that they need. It’s practically criminal.

I don’t even think that this issue should be partisan in any way. It isn’t about Democrat vs. Republican or conservative vs. liberal. It’s a bunch of extremely wealthy people vs. all the rest of us. It’s shareholders and CEOs of these health care companies vs. basically anyone who needs health care. And anyone who needs health care? Um, that’s only every single person in this country at some point in their lives. We’re really getting screwed over.

In this country we’re all hanging by a thread. At any time, any of us could be involved in an accident that could put us in the hospital. Any of us could get a cancer diagnosis, or some other major disease. And I don’t care how good you think your insurance is, at some point you’re going to end up spending a lot of money. And if you’re lucky, that’s the least that will happen. That assumes that you get the proper treatment, enough time to heal properly, and get timely care. Unfortunately it’s easy to be callous about the misfortune of others. But if you live in the U.S. you are potentially a second away from being someone who needs some serious help.

And please, spare the “socialized medicine” excuse. We have lots of things that are “socialized” in this country that work pretty well. The U.S. Postal Service, city fire and police departments, libraries. Um, public schools anyone? Sure, these things don’t always work perfectly but they do a pretty good job. Would you really want to live somewhere where the fire department was a private company? Fortunately there aren’t any that I know of right now, but I’m sure that once someone figures out how to make money doing it, it will be (God forbid) just a matter of time. Again, it’s simple – the only reason that any company exists is to make money. That’s really, when you boil it down, all that any company cares about.

Let’s look at schools for a minute. I pay lots and lots of taxes for public schools. I don’t even have any kids! I’m paying for your kids to go to school. Why should I do that? Because it’s in our common interest. It’s in everyone’s interest to have an educated populace, I think that’s a pretty universal idea. Why should it be any different with health care? Some of my taxes go to pay for police service. You know how many times I’ve called the police over the years because I needed help? None. Zero. Nada. But do I mind paying for police service? No. They’ve helped lots of people in my community and someday I may need their help. Same goes for fire service. Do you know how many times my house has burned down? Not once. But do I want the fire department to try to put it out if it does? You bet your ass. I would be willing to pay taxes so that I could have the fire department come put out a fire at my house because someday I might need them to. Don’t you think you would be a little more freaked out about what you were going to do if there was a fire at your house if you had to get preapproval for them to put it out? And if you had to pay them depending on what they did? And if you had to worry about how much money you have saved up for that? Why should health care be any different?

It might be one thing if universal health care was this pie-in-the-sky thing that no one had ever done before. But there are many examples already in place of how a system like this can work. In fact, the United States is the only developed country that doesn’t have something like that in place. Go ask a Canadian, or a Briton, if they would trade health care systems with an American. You’d have to wait about an hour for the laughter to die down, but once it did I guarantee they would say no. I would love to hear what any Canadians out there have to say on this. If I’m wrong, tell me! In fact, what better way to find out firsthand from someone who’s experienced universal health care firsthand than on a blog. Most of the blogs I read have readers from all over the world. Ask those readers what they think about their health care system. I think if more Americans knew what it was like in other countries when it comes to health care, we wouldn’t put it up with what we have for a millisecond. Ask around, find out for yourself.

People say, well universal health care would mean that we would have to pay higher taxes, and I don’t want to pay higher taxes! First of all, I don’t think that necessarily has to be the case. And secondly, I say “So what?” I had a dental procedure performed last week. It cost me almost $1200. You know what I spent on dental issues in 2007? About $2500. If you think that a tax for universal dental coverage would cost more than that, you’re on crack. And if you’re thinking “Well, why don’t you take better care of your teeth if you don’t want to pay so much?”, well, I suspect I just have bad teeth because I brush twice a day every day and floss once a day every day. And what about insurance premiums? Even if you have health coverage you pay a monthly premium. How is that different from a tax? Not to mention that on top of that you pay for the office visit and your medicine. When you factor in that I purchase $60 of prescription medications a month and a couple of doctor visits per year and add those to my dental costs, I have paid way more this past year for medical care than any tax would cost. And I’m healthy!

One thing that a lot of people throw around to argue against a Canadian-type health care system is that supposedly people have to wait a lot longer to see a doctor than in the U.S. I don’t think that’s true, but consider this – I think we all know that insurance companies can refuse to provide someone with coverage due to a “pre-existing condition”. So what’s the waiting period for that? How about forever! It’s a little bit impossible to have a waiting period longer than that. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had doctors that I’ve had to wait several weeks to see for routine checkups. Consider this too – I’ve had the same “doctor” for 11 years. You know how many times I’ve actually been given a checkup by this doctor? Once. Every other time it’s been a nurse practitioner. And I don’t think this is a rarity among other practices. That doesn’t seem right to me.

Insurance companies should not be in charge of health care. The goal of an insurance company is to make a profit. The less medical treatments they have to pay for, the more money they make. Do you see how that is a major conflict of interest? You think these insurance companies wouldn’t let you die if it meant a major financial hit to them?

I think it’s a misnomer to call this a political problem. What it really is is a moral problem. We can and should help those who find themselves through no fault of their own in dire circumstances. And by doing so, we can help ourselves too because in a moment’s time we could be in dire circumstances too. I personally know someone who has had to file bankruptcy due to medical costs, and it’s actually quite common in this country. And it’s not right. The U.S. ranks

I’m not optimistic about a better system coming about in this country in my lifetime. I think our political system is too corrupted by corporate and institutional influences, and they won’t give up that influence without a fight to the death. But we have to try, and we have to get regular people talking and thinking about this issue, because it’s the only chance we have at making a change. There is a bill in the US House of Representatives that is currently stuck in a subcommittee. So far the bill only has 87 cosponsors. If you want to contact your Congressperson and ask them to support this bill, start here.



Blogger Deb R said...

I just want to shout out a big fat "amen" to every single thing you said in this post. I have lots of friends in lots of other countries and every single one of them thinks the US health care "system" (for lack of a better word) is insane. And they're right.

Off to check out the link to the bill now.

12/17/2007 5:40 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Wow JC that was beautifully written! Not to mention spot on.
Well done sir, well done!

12/17/2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger hollibobolli said...

This was WONDERFUL!!! I loathe Michael Moore, so I started out cringing (I think you're right, he tends to hurt causes more than he helps.. or at least I thought so after I watched his Bowling for Columbine and then read how inaccurate it was) but I have a lot of interest in watching Sicko.

Just think of my family in the past five years.. my uncle needed a heart transplant, my cousin had cancer, my mother had stage 4 cancer.. and because we have crappy insurance I'm not getting the right care for my jaw.

When I dated that orthopaedic surgeon he tried to bend the rules and operate on people with no insurance because they needed help, and he was told he would be fired the next time, end of report.

Something must change. Maybe you can start writing on this topic more frequently - this was a very motivational post.

Okay, I have a dog trying to break out of prison.

12/17/2007 11:07 AM  
Blogger weddingproject-us said...

What a great post JC. MM as much as I like him, he goes too far.

With that, I can't wait to see this movie.

So much in this country rides on making money, and it's what built this country but it's out of control. Housing loans for instance. The greed.

And we do have to talk about it and have a voice. You're right, contact your local rep and be heard. Right on JC.

12/17/2007 8:46 PM  
Blogger JC said...

Thanks guys!

If I can satisfy myself that I can write about it intelligently, maybe I will write more. Like maybe how tax rates compare in some of these other countries and maybe some details about what their health care systems are like. With respect to doctors, I think a lot of them want to see things change too.

Even though my Congressional Rep has about as much chance of sponsoring this bill as I do to have monkeys fly out of my butt, I'm still going to write him!

12/17/2007 9:05 PM  
Blogger REENblack said...

Very cool post. I LOVE your house on fire example! I couldn't help but laugh!!!

Just a few things that I know:

We are staying in the military life for several reasons, the biggest in my opinion is health care (the kids and I don't get dental) but regular health care!!!

Taxes in Germany are 18%. Their health care system is much better, and their property/mortgage rates are much lower. I'm pretty sure (don't quote me on it) that their college is paid for or MUCH cheaper that what we shell out.

It is a very different system here...I think one of the reasons (besides what you mentioned, and I agree with) is that we are so caught up on doing things differently than these other countries that we screw ourselves royally...

12/18/2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

whew! one of your longest posts, ever. will have to watch sicko even though MM annoys me.

12/18/2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger Vesper said...

i haven't lived in the States for a long time now, and i'm happy with Canadian healthcare. it does have its major flaws, as any system does, but it is far more fair than the American system.

when i was in the States, we had things pretty cushy, since my family's healthcare was funded by the military. we had the best doctors and never went without medical attention. in fact, we probably had too much medical attention, as i have problems now from having had far too many antibiotics as a child....

12/18/2007 9:59 PM  
Blogger SJSFalter+ said...

I agree with this a lot. Living overseas for over 7 years now I would say my medical experience in Belgium and Germany have always been better than on base. Okay sometimes theres a language barrier but that doesnt affect the care they give me. I dont know the logistic of the systems here but for me they work and are quite thorough.

12/19/2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

The health care system here does suck. And is corrupt. I worry about my own health often. Because we aren't married, I don't have medical insurance, so everything is out of pocket. The only good thing is that I'm still relatively young and will graduate soon, so hopefully my body won't fall apart and I will avoid a major accident before then! I wonder what the quality of doctors would be like if the incentive was no longer money. I know a handful of twin moms (from another site I frequent) that are from canada, and I agree the waiting times on certain procedures are a bit wack. Most of them didn't even know they were carrying twins until LATE in their pregnancies..I knew at 9 weeks.
Our system does need much improvement, I hate that 'the working poor' always seem to be the ones to suffer.

12/20/2007 4:01 PM  

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