Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bend Over

Well, a number of good points have been made by my colleagues. Interesting that this blog has evolved to be all US authors. I suspect there would be a good deal more variation if we had authors from Canada, the UK, Australia, or almost any other industrialized nation, where healthcare is not a private industry. So I guess I get to tackle the elephant in the corner: the government. Apologies in advance--this is going to be a rant.

When my children were small, the dh and I were both graduate students. That translated, at that time, to uninsured. The kids had every one of their shots and well-visits and everything else, no matter what. But one of my sons has some congenital health issues, so the insurance issue was a constant nightmare. So we sucked it up and went and applied for Medicaid (that’s the US government’s pitiful excuse for indigent healthcare). Not for ourselves, but for the boys. This lasted for about a year and a half before they decided they were old enough not to count any more. Neither of us (adults) saw a doctor for any reason during that time. Only the boys.

It is abominable how badly people are treated in the US when they apply for any kind of economic aid. The assumption from the first moment you walk in that door is that you are lazy, good-for-nothing jerks who only want to sponge off the government. You must suffer through the insults and rudeness to even be allowed to apply for assistance. You must face it again every single time you show anyone the card.

When my son was about 3, it was suggested by his daycare worker that he might have some kind of hearing problem. His pediatrician couldn’t tell us anything and referred him to an otolaryngologist—an ear-nose-and-throat doctor. There was one in the town—a highly regarded one in his field. But he did not accept patients with Medicaid. Period. Never mind that a toddler couldn’t hear—this man would have nothing to do with him. And yes, he was the only one in town.

So, onto the next county. One. He accepted Medicaid patients, but only if they came from within his own county. So too bad for us. Further on in an ever widening circle. Finally we found a specialist who would see him. The office was about an hour and a quarter away, which is a long ride for a cranky toddler, but we did it. Then we discovered he had so much fluid in his ears, he was probably only hearing on an occasional basis. Somewhere between diagnosis and surgery is when the medicaid ran out. The doctor was very helpful and generous in setting up the surgery—even donated his time so we only had to pay hospital costs. It only took us about four years to pay it off. Worth every bit of it. But I tell you, if that first local doctor ever stepped in front of my car, he’d have been nothing more than a smear on the pavement.

People in other countries grumble about the slowness or inefficiency of their government’s health-care programs. But at least they have them. The US is one of the only industrialized countries that blithely allows its citizens to go without necessary treatment because they can’t afford the thousand dollars a month for their heart medication, or the hundred thousand dollars for surgery. Every time it is brought up, our leadership says “but socialized medicine is bad.”


The free market system has given us some of the most advanced health care options in the world, but only for those who can afford them. Doctors expect to make 6, if not 7, figure incomes. Hospitals are often run by shareholders who expect profits. And the drug companies? There are studies that show a direct link between advertising costs and the prices charged for prescription drugs. Drugs were much cheaper when advertising them was illegal, but the drug company’s lobbyists got Congress to “fix” that little problem. They will tell you that prices are so high to cover the cost of research. But there is also a direct correlation between drug prices and the dividends paid to shareholders. The corporate structure is geared toward profit, not toward making you feel better.

The United States needs to make health care available to all citizens. Period. No doubt, such a system would be flawed, but not nearly as flawed as the current policy of indifferent neglect.

Apologies. I try to avoid political rants, but this one I just can’t let slide.


  1. Ya know, while I agree with much of what has been written on this blog, no matter the day, there's one thing that hasn't come up yet:

    Health care was a lot cheaper when we didn't have the tools that allow early detection/diagnosis and that let us fix--or at least treat, if not cure--things.

    It's also worth noting that many doctors' salaries are going down, and some specialties are facing a shortage of practitioners because the salaries are getting so low. Tying in with your rant, Cindy: Geriatric medicine (taking care of old folks) is one of those, because Medicare (the US medical program for seniors) and Medicaid pay for so little, and are such bitches to deal with. Doctors spend more time on paperwork and trying to get treatments covered than they do taking care of patients.

    OK, that was mostly off topic, but I managed one connection to Cindy's post.

  2. Well I certainly agree that something must be done--now. My mom can't afford her asthma meds so she doesn't use any and just struggles to breathe. My daughter needs surgery but has no insurance so she just does without. My other daughter hasn't been to the doctor since she had her baby and the state insurance ran out.

    What is the solution? I don't know. What I do know is that I would like to see some plan--any plan--that would insure everyone.

  3. There isn't one of us who wouldn't go to bat for our kids. And when they are denied, wronged, or in danger, there is nothing okay about it. I've often wondered about other countries like Canada who have it for every person. I'm in agreement with you. At least they have it. And in this country, it would be nice to bring medical care into the next century.

  4. I'll have to talk to my sis on how well they like their health care. She's in British Columbia. Since there's a time difference, I'll check back later.

  5. That would be interesting to hear, Molly. At this point and from what I've read, socialized medicine is the way to go. It's tremendously important that EVERYONE, regardless of income have health care. It's one of the biggest problems in this country.

  6. Well, we definately need to fix our current situation, but my experiences with socialized medicine have really left a bad taste in my mouth and I really felt the overall system was as sucky as ours only instead of unaffordable coverage and or treatments, it just didn't cost anything but time and quality of care.

    I sure wish they could find a solution that had some kind of common ground.


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