Monday, July 18, 2005

I Know Anecdotes Prove Nothing....



but, i really need to share these stories from a health care thread at daily kos. the next time someone goes on and on about rationing of health care under a single payer system, pass these stories along. our health care is rationed. people with money get health care while those without don't. why do people with money have more rights to good health? in my opinion, that's the same as claiming they have a greater right to live. that's utterly repugnant.

Last month I met a woman whose husband has a lump on his back. Has he seen a doctor? No. He is between jobs and wants to wait until he finds a job with coverage. They could afford to pay for a doctor's visit, but they're afraid that if a doctor finds something (read: cancer), then it will become a "pre-existing condition" for which her husband could never be covered, even if he got a decent job.

This same woman hasn't had a mammogram in years for the same reason. Wants to wait until she has better coverage in case they find something.

How many people are dying prematurely because of decisions like these?

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When I was at UNM I once broke my leg (playing rugby for UNM) and because I was on a student-type health care plan they refused me, then took me with a tremendous amount of paperwork. Then, I had to pay the bill up front before I got 90% of it back from the student plan. Put me out of college for a whole semester cause I couldn't afford the tuition. I got off easy. I remember around that time (1992-93) a story about I kid who had acute appendicitis or something like that who got transferred around from ABQ hospital after ABQ hospital and no one would treat him because he was uninsured. He survived when some doctor finally offered to swallow the costs.

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A cousin of mine died because of the costs of health care were too high for him to sustain. He was a self-employed computer programmer and consultant in Kentucky. Now, living in Kentucky, there's always a bit of hardscrabble in your life, but you can get by with a little help from friends, a back yard garden and a home that your granddad paid off after WW2. He tried to get regular colonoscopies because both of his parents had died from colon cancer. But when the tech bubble burst, he couldn't pay off the last exam, which was a bill over $3K. He could not get a new exam until he paid off the last one, which took more than 2 years. By the time he had saved up enough money to pay up front for a new colonoscopy, as demanded by the hospital center, cancer had spread from the colon into his lungs and other organs. He died less than 6 months after the diagnosis.

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Let's say you have no insurance. You have a chronic condition and feel an episode coming on. You think that if you can hold out for a day it might blow over and you'll get back to normal. You also know that if you go to the ER it's going to cost you $10,000. So, would you lay out the $10K knowing that you might get better on your own?

The US health care system asks people to roll the dice with their health all the time. It's common for people to suffer with acute health issues just so they can get to an "approved in-network provider." Given the choice between being sick or sick and bankrupt, most people are going to roll the dice and hope for the former result. This is not idiotic; it's a rational response to very stark economic incentives.

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A couple of years ago I was backpacking through Europe and got a nasty stomach virus. I couldn't eat or drink anything, and it "was coming out both ends" if you know what I mean. I ended up losing 30 pounds in 2 weeks.

At the time I was in Denmark, and went to the ER.
There was an empty waiting room with a receptionist. I had to wait for 5 minutes before I was able to see a doctor, and he checked me up, gave me a prescription, and ushered me out the door. Not once did I have to sign a form or look at a paper. I was able to go a pharmacy with the prescription and fill it out immediately.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I'm in Chicago without health insurance. I won't set foot in a doctor's office and have to have my Mom steal antibiotic sample packets from her office. It's a great system we have here.

yancey, i'm starting to think that comment you left on this post is a lot of wishful thinking. there are plenty of people on that kos thread who had conditions treated while they were traveling in europe, and they didn't have to wait forever to see a doctor. even if there are waits, having assured access without having to go bankrupt first is still eminently more attractive. it sounds like your opposition is mostly ideological.

1 comment:

emily2 said...

i searched and searched for a logical answer, and it was the only thing i could come up with. which means, really... it sucks!!! and i have to correct something about my comment below - i didn't get the facts spot on.

emergency rooms here are nightmares, whether you have coverage or not. insurance is retarded, slow and bureaucratic. lawyers are running around chasing ambulances, helping drive costs up (since docs need to purchase insurance themselves) and slowing down procedure. managed care is mismanaged.

the only complaint i've heard about canadian health care is that, if you need something life-saving - or major surgery, like a heart transplant, there are long lines, longer than in the u.s. (the end of the article below will get into that briefly).

and lemme fix that comment by the way -- it turns out i was repeating what a friend had said, but the actual facts were lost in translation. in fact, it was the other way around. (oops!) the canadian supreme court ruled on whether patients in quebec could purchase their own health care if they had the funds on june 9th. since i don't know anything about canadian law, i don't know if this is an issue outside of quebec. so i'm only going to talk about quebec.

quebec, prior to june 9, prevented ANYONE from buying insurance that was covered in the public health plan. so a couple of folks put at the end of the line for hip surgery, a couple of guys who could pay for it if private hospitals/care were to exist, sued.

quebec civil liberties union response over a june 9 ruling by the canadian supreme court

the debate between public and private health care in canada continues here.

so basically, if you have the misfortune of getting heart failure, you might have a smidgen of a chance more that you may get the transplant in the u.s., but you won't be able to pay for it. but even here in the u.s. there are long lines, and you'll probably die anyway.

i think the lines for major surgeries in the canadian health care system would get *shorter* if the more affluent people weren't clogging up the lines. they can eat the costs; let the spots open up for people who really can't afford it.

honestly, i can't think of anything else. it's evident that our health care system here is falling apart and needs to be reformed, but how?