Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let's Talk Health Care

It has been a rough few weeks of illness around here, which we finally decided was some undiagnosable GI bug (which is currently giving sweet Linus a fever and stomach pain). As I was sitting in the ER Friday morning with Hobbes, trying to find the source of two days and two nights of stomach cramps every 20 minutes, I thought about a lot of things.

I thought about how much I love my middle son, that impish, mischievous, quirky way he has about him. And I though about how perfect our family is because he is right there in the middle, driving Calvin crazy when he needs to be and bonding with Linus in the most adorable way.

I thought about how much I hate hospitals. I am glad we have such good health care in this country, but I am even more glad that I have rarely needed it.

I thought about how annoying it is that so many ridiculous tests have to be run, so much time and money wasted, just so that malpractice lawyers can't sue doctors, the majority of whom are competent, caring individuals.

I thought about my dad, who was an amazing doctor who loved bringing new babies into the world and caring for women. And I looked at the kind doctors in the pediatric ER and knew that they were there for the same reasons my dad had been, to take care of sick people, to bring healing...NOT to make money. I knew that they would serve my son, screaming in pain in my arms, whether we had health coverage or not.

I thought about this article and how the health care reform could drive some really good people out of a profession they love. Let's face it, how many people would give up the prime years of their lives and many hours of sleep, time with family, and a life outside of work to work in an inefficient system with poor pay? Money did not make up for the time I didn't have with my father, but the lack of fair wages may have kept him and many others out of medicine. Even really good people will not go into a profession that sucks year of a life away if there is no fair compensation.

I thought about our crappy, unethical health insurance provider and wondered if they would pay this bill. We have good coverage through my husband's work, but we have to fight to get every big bill paid, including Calvin's heart surgery, for which we had an approval letter from them. That bill took over six months, and I knew how to navigate the system since I had once filed insurance for a doctor. Still, we had to call my husband's HR person to get it paid. What do people do who don't know how to work the system?

I wondered what that morning would look like under the new health care plan. Would we have to wait days for access to tests to find out if Hobbes' pain was something more serious that a virus? Or would things stay the same? Would people who weren't able to afford good care now be able to get it? We are lucky, I know.

This are the things I was thinking about. I am pretty conflicted on the health care issue, and I have yet to find a good, balanced perspective on it. If you can give me some thoughtful, balanced ideas on this, please do, but don't try to sway me with emotional arguments. I want facts.

I am pretty traditionally conservative when it comes to my view of the government running things. In general, I think more government bureaucracy leads to greater inefficiency and poorer quality. Things generally do better when run on a local level and tailored to the needs of a local community.

I have no problem with going after health insurance companies, which I think are a totally unethical and corrupt group of businesses, with a few exceptions. If they only reason folks are fighting universal health care is to protect these guys, then I say it's not worth it.

I respect and trust doctors and think they give up a lot in order to serve the common good. They should be able to work in an environment that rewards them for their sacrifice and allows them to choose to offer services or not based on their conscience.

I think that all of those 18-30ish uninsured adults out there who have decided the cost savings are worth the risk should be allowed to opt out of health insurance.

I don't believe we have a right to immortality, but I do believe we have a duty to provide basic health care to our citizens.

I am conflicted. But I am very glad that Hobbes only had a virus.


Kerry said...

I'm getting on the verge of exhaustion...so I'm not here to say much, but...

I recently heard someone say that healthcare should be a civil provision like policemen, teachers, firefighters. Which sounds wonderful until you think about how little we pay those people (not that that is appropriate). How many young people would go into expensive medical school knowing they would only make enough to pay off their loans in about 30-40 years? The other option is to reduce the educational requirements for doctors. Golly, on second thought not such a good idea. LOL!

I'm conflicted about this, too. I have friends who are self-employed and uninsured with children and it is hard for them. But when I think about the government getting into health care it makes leads me to the question, "When, really, has any government done a good long term job with this sort of large beaurocratic system overseeing an area of such individual need?"

Anonymous said...

Another option is to make medical school less expensive! How much do doctors really have left after school loans and malpractice insurance? Reduce those costs... Medicine is hard work - if there are doctors out there who are doing it ONLY for the money, they should have gone to law school instead.

I live in a country with universal health care and I am totally pleased with it. The doctors decide what procedures and treatment is needed, in cooperation with the patient, as well as family and nursing staff when that is relevant.

Kerry said...

But that begs the question: "How could we propose to make med school less expensive?"

There are only two options: pay the professors less or reduce the amount of education required. How exactly do we propose to require medical schools to radically reduce the pay for their professors? But option #2 isn't any more appealing. Do we want medical doctors having less education and training? I don't.

There is a third option: transfer the expense of med school to the government who can then turn around and impose higher taxes from us. Kind of defeats the purpose of reducing medical costs.

TwoSquareMeals said...

I wish there were an easy solution to making med school less expensive, but even if there were, you couldn't make it less involved. Being a good doctor means giving up much of your 20's and early 30's to pursue the most challenging career there is. You can't be really good at it without that investment. There needs to be some reward for that or enough folks aren't going to want to do it.

But people still need to be able to afford health care. We paid $600+ a month for Cobra for over a year. I know how hard it is if your job doesn't provide. People should have some basic access to care. See my dilemma?

I think something needs to be done with the health insurance industry that doesn't involve a government run system. Considering what the federal government has done with my retirement, I am not inclined to put my health care in its hands. My kids know how to handle money better than the government does!

Catherine said...

Like you, I have a lot of thoughts, and no conclusions. But one thing I know for sure - our national discourse is disgusting and I'm so so saddened by it.

Marie said...

I've ranted before about this. I've got a kid with a pre-existing condition, a husband trying to be self-employed, and a year of COBRA at $1100 per month. Our current system is not easy on us. Even though I'm conservative, I will confess I had a couple moments of "well, if it's going to happen anyway, maybe things will at least get better for us."
But, they won't. There are already government safety nets which I thank God for -- but would not want to use if we had any other option. These plans don't make better nets, they just take away other options.

Chesterton said the problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few. We took a world where we had a ton of medical and medical payment options and narrowed it until we only have a few big companies that we have to go through. That's a problem. Narrowing that few to one is not the solution. I'm dejected that the only two options we seem to be seriously discussing are status quo an national health care.
Thanks for the post and bringing up the conversation!

Daniel Kirk said...

I think I've noticed something important here: "husband" doesn't have a blogonym.

May I suggest "Optimus Prime"? You could shorted it to "Optimus" or "OP" or "Prime" if needed.