Thursday, December 07, 2006

Universal Health Care....

Sometime in the mid-80s, I sat in my livingroom watching television. It was news time. I'd only been back from work for 45 minutes or so. Peter Jennings was on the screen, talking about the price of medicine, the high price of health care, and some of the associated difficulties.

As we all know, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After Peter Jennings' version of the evening news (90% anti-Soviet propaganda and 10% pro-American propaganda. At least the old boy was predictable), the local news came on. After the obligatory five minutes of murders, rapes and robberies, they offered the profile of a middle-aged woman. I remember her name. Wanda. I remember what she looked like. I remember the trappings of poverty that surrounded her.

She was making a public appeal for donations so that she could afford her cancer medicine.

I am a person who reacts to things quite strongly and, oh, it made me angry! Of course, it is ill-spent energy because one individual sitting angrily in her livingroom in the mid-80s doesn't change a bloody thing.

I'm not going to provide a litany of references, documenting how ridiculously expensive the medical care in this country has become. This isn't an academic exercise. It's just a human exercise. Inspired by several others who are addressing social justice causes on their blogs this week, I've been pondering some of my pet causes.

This far, I will go. The HMO system has contributed to this failed system. Malpractice insurance has contributed. Marrying insurance and health care has contributed to this. Marrying profit to health care and insurance has doomed it. But the fact remains that the day any human being in has to get on television to beg for the money to buy cancer medication is a shameful day in the history of this very wealthy country. It is amoral, unethical and evil. We should all be collectively ashamed!

I am, as I've mentioned previously, on Social Security Disability. My health care is provided by Medicare and Medi-Cal. Medicare is far too complicated for the average person. (I am within a few IQ points of qualifying for Mensa and I couldn't understand it!) It should be simplified. Medi-Cal is actually a very good model for a universal health care system. I am required to co-pay on both medications and doctor visits. It is just enough money to discourage any low-income person from going to a doctor frivolously. It is set up as a mock "HMO", including a geographic requirement. The clinics, doctors and services provided to me are provided in my own neighborhood. Personally, I believe a PPO model would be better but, hey, I won't knock it because it works. Medi-Cal does not cover vanity procedures or unnecessary procedures that might be ordered by a doctor to increase his or her own profit margin.

This is the only solution I can possibly imagine for the long term. Most people pay in excess of 30% of their income in taxes. Instead of filtering it to Halliburton and the Bush War Machine, we need to use those tax dollars to assure basic human rights to every person in this country. We already pay enough in funding to programs such as Medicare, Medi-Cal (just a cutesied-up name for Medicaid) and other uninsured programs to afford universal health care.

As the old saying goes, let the Department of Defense hold a bake sale for funding... or better yet, let 'em beg for it on TV.


**An addendum: I meant to add this and it slipped my mind. Occasionally, I will highly recommend a blog here. While I like all those I read, sometimes something reaches out and grabs me by the throat, similar to Sevenwinds' post of last week about the little boy he adopted. In this case, it is because of a stunning writing talent. I was at one time a professional writer. My meanderings were printed in a newspaper each week that had a fair number of subscribers. I can string words together... but this blog is so well-written, so passionate, that you will feel the words. Please give it a look. Spend some time there. You won't be sorry. :)



Citymouse said...

I LOVE the bake sale quote... i use it often. I have to pay for pirvate health care-- it isnt any fun.

caro said...

Though our system here in Canada is far from being perfect I'll give you this example as to why I wouldn't live anywhere else : my cousin delivered her baby girl at 28 weeks. The baby has been in the hospital for over two months now. Will there be a bill when she is finally discharged? Nope. Patch Adams, you know that wonderful doctor with the clown nose, gave an amazing conference in Montreal a couple of years ago. People were up in arms over the medical system, complaining, criticizing... He walked on stage and basically told us to shut up about it already. We should be grateful we even have a system to complain about... My heart goes out to all the people who simply can't afford being sick. Ridiculous in this day and age.

meno said...

I can NOT understand how the richest country in the world does not have universal health care. It's a disgrace. You tell it!

Pam said...

You go, Chani! I couldn't agree with you more. They also make those of us with a positive diagnosis of a catastpophic disease wait 6 months to receive our benifits, meager as they are. For some, it's too damn late when the check is finally in the mail.

Ginnie said...

Do you remember when Bill Clinton was President and Hilary tried to introduce Health Care as her area of concern to be worked on...and everyone shot her down and more or less told her to shut up.
'nuff said.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You've expressed my own thoughts on this issue most succinctly.

I wonder how many missiles and all those other instruments of war with initials for names Bush could collect if he had to beg for them on TV.

It's obscene that the richest country on earth won't do better for its citizens.

Anvilcloud said...

We have public health care up here. It's not perfect -- somewhat more rationed than your private, user-pay system. We can't simply demand any test at our whim, for example. It's not terribly easy to doctor-hop either. But warts and all, I don't know too many Canadians who want to give it up.

Andrea said...

AS a Canadian with a chronic health condition I'll chime in and say that I can't imagine not having basic universal health coverage. I could never afford to live in the US, as a diabetic.

And thank you, Chani. That was very kind.

jen said...

bravo, sister, bravo.

two gifts? you generous woman, you.

i, too, can't believe we operate like this. i see clients selling their medications at the shelter back and forth, $1 a pill, and so on, god knows what folks are taking. and moms who can't afford to sit for 12 hours in the E/R with 2 sick kids to get a prescription that should take 10 minutes...and the kids suffer because of it.

if we weren't so concerned about profit, we'd do it differently.

IMO, the whole "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" line meant something involving caring for LIFE.

KC said...

They often joke in medicine that they need to give you a MBA in med school because of all the business crap you have to deal with. It's all too often about profit and income, all run by businessmen who don't give a rat's ass about supporting medical education and training or individual patients.

This could have been my rant.

Deezee said...

Our health care system is shameful, pure and simple.