Monday, June 22, 2009

#119 Health Care Reform and Me ...

... and lots of others. To begin with a "shock and awe" manifesto--any tax-paying American should be able to walk into any hospital or doctor's office, show their ID, and get free health care for themselves and their dependents. Not being able to do that in the richest country in the world outside of Luxembourg, with the best health care in the world (once you're IN) ... is an international disgrace. Cuba might be a better place to get sick. It kills me when some wingnut like Rep. John "Minority Leader" Boehner--please, please pronounce that last name as spelled--says that Pres. Obama is trying to make us "like Britain or Canada." Well cut me a slice of that! ... and serve me up a couple of Scandinavian nations on the side. And don't feed me no baloney nohow about the inefficiency of federal control. Boehner, for instance, grasping at straw-men, likes to ask (he thinks rhetorically), "Would you want to have your medical care entrusted to the US Post Office?" Hell yes, I would. It's a marvel of inexpensive efficiency.

First of all, the "long-lines" objection to tax-paid health care is at best specious and mostly untrue. ( The other tired objection is "Big Gov't between doctor and patient"--Well, can there be any bigger "Betweeners" than Big Insurance and Big Pharma?) Studies have shown that the waiting periods for "privatized" first-time appointments in this country are as long or short on average as those in the "socialized" ones. And here's some anecdotal proof close to home: my late father got free treatment in England for a medical problem when he was on sabbatical at Oxford. Because he was technically an "alien," the only delay was paperwork. Now there's some dreaded socialism for you. Can you imagine that kind of largesse happening here?

Secondly, we've got the "long-line" syndrome right here already with our profit-driven, private-enterprise, health care system--a line that stretches to infinity for the 47 million Americans who are uninsured. (If you don't count the triage line at the ER when the condition becomes life-threatening.) But the situation is only a little better for the "under-insured" (which we ALL are really whether we realize it or not ... watch Michael Moore's "Sicko"), who purposely POSTPONE treatment because of fear of arbitrarily uncovered conditions or prohibitive co-payments. And most "insured" Americans are really at the mercy of their employment situation, anyway (those unemployed or "working-uninsured" are simply shit-out-of-luck)--that is, they are stuck with whatever kind of coverage the company's Insurer provides. For all of this, coupled with the Recession, a study published last week (Center for Health Care Improvement) reported that 17.4% of Americans postponed or delayed medical treatment over the last year and that 40% are going to postpone or delay for at least the next three months. Very sad ... and people will surely die--and have--needlessly.

My Employer of-no-choice-at-all these days is Mr. Social Security Administration, Inc., and his Insurer of choice is called Medicare. Part A is automatic, and I decided to PAY for Part B--none of the extras in C and D (like drugs) which I just couldn't afford, not to mention the expensive, so-called "MEDI-GAP" privately-issued policies that might keep me alive a little longer in hospital, physician-attended and happily drugged-out ... I presume. A simple, arguably naive question: after all the taxes we have paid in, and are still paying even on our SS pension, Why should we be paying anything at all for Medicare, and why-in-the-hell should there be ... "gaps"? For these reasons I recently joined the ranks of those postponer/delayers for fear of under-coverage of a medical condition, and thus additional moneys going this way and that.

Here was the situation: after 3 weeks of futile, self-help healing I was forced to consult my family physician, Dr. E.R., and after a surprisingly short wait was X-rayed and medicated and released for what turned out to be a relatively minor problem: cellulitis in my left foot. I thought I had been self-treating a hair-line metatarsal fracture, since I had one of those earlier in my life, and the symptoms looked just the same. My diagnosis was totally off-base (I'm not that kind of Doctor), but you know what?--it could have been necrotizing fasciitis (easily mistaken for cellulitis), the gruesome, flesh-eating bacterial disease, made infamous on a couple of episodes of "Scrubs." Point is: delayed treatment ... not good. Death and all that.

I was lucky ... and the Medicare co-payments (yes, there were some) proved to be manageable. But my goodness ......

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