Friday, July 18, 2008

What Can We Do?

We all have horror stories involving either health care, insurance or both. To say that both industries are in need of reform is an understatement. Sadly, I doubt this will ever happen. There is just too much money changing hands in the right circles to let a little thing like screwing over the bulk of our great nation get in the way of overstuffing already overflowing coffers.

I blame a lot of the soaring cost of medical expenses on our litigious masses. We as a nation have arrived at a point where we sue at the drop of a hat. Now don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate complaints out there that should be compensated, but they are bogged down in the system by the people who are just looking for a quick buck. I don’t understand the underlying sense of entitlement that must surely be the root of this phenomenon. They have it. I want it. I’ll sue for it. Sounds like a great way to make a living to me… of course, it probably comes with a pretty heavy karmic cost.

Malpractice suits seem to be an easy target for these “get-rich-quickers”. Every time they sue, win or lose, it costs money. But who foots the bill? Sure the docs have malpractice insurance (as well as several other forms of insurance, depending on what variety of procedures they’re willing to perform in-office) and that cost is figured into their overhead. But when they get sued, the insurance spends money to fight the case and since they are no longer just accepting money, but now having to shell it out, they raise the rates (if not outright cancel) of the doctor’s insurance and he is forced to A) pass that increase along to his patients (which the insurance companies will reject because they above the “norm” or it will cost more out of pocket for the underinsured) or B) try to recoup some of the losses by adding items to insurance claims. Unethical? You bet, but I also say it’s inevitable.

Then we have the patients who stiff doctors on medical bills. I’m sure most of the time, it’s just because they really can’t afford to pay the bill, but there are those among us who don’t pay because they flat out just don’t want to. Should the doctor just eat this cost? Whether you answered yes or no, odds are the doctor will only put up with that so long without some form of retaliation. He could either A) refuse treatment to patients who are financially unstable (if he doesn’t enjoy being a doctor very long that is) or B) try to recoup some of the losses by adding items to insurance claims of people who do pay.

Ok, so it sounds like I’m sticking up for the unethical practices of the medical community and to a certain extent I am, but only because I’ve had ample opportunity to discuss some of these issues with a few friends who happen to be doctors.

But wait…there’s more.

So, now you have a few rather expensive claims a year (if you’re lucky enough to have adequate insurance in the first place) start rolling in for your family. What happens next? Either your insurance rate is raised or if they find they’re paying out X % of what you’re paying in…you’re dropped. And how hard do you think it will be to find medical insurance once your current carrier drops you? Pretty effing hard I bet.

The only one who really wins in any scenario is the insurance company. But they really are a necessary evil. Without them, we’d either have to do with out and try to stay healthy or be reduced to socialized medicine.

There are far too many people right now doing without and there numbers are only growing with the shitty economy and rising costs of coverage. I don’t believe any of them would suggest this option.

And we come to socialized medicine. At various points in my life, I had an opportunity to see socialized medicine in action. It sucked. Yeah, the price was right, but the service was lacking. What would normally be a thirty minute doctor’s visit could easily take up to 8 hours of waiting. And if a hospital is only operating on what ever money the government deems necessary to keep the doors open, how well do you think the staff is paid? So, by the time you actually get back to see the doctor, nine times out of ten you find a surly person, who has half their thoughts on how they are going to make that month’s rent and all the patience of a jackal with its hind leg stuck in a trap. Tread lightly, it’s late in the day and they are fed up with all the bullshit they had to put up with from the patients before who came before you.

So, what’s the solution? How do we fix this? Maybe we can get the masterminds handling our Social Security issues to look into it. That’ll make me sleep better at night…


  1. I live in Florida where medicine sucks. The few good doctors I knew, like the one who saved my mother two years ago, left to go north. Why? Because in Florida we have the highest rate of malpractice lawsuits.T Now the Florida doctors don't take any chances and order way more blood tests, scans, MRI than needed to cover themselves and finally tell you that you have a virus.

  2. I'm still trying to catch my sis at home...haven't forgotten!

  3. Where do you live where ANY visit takes 30 minutes? I want to meet your doctor!

  4. Heh. I have it pretty good where I am now. But once the house hunk retires, that won't be the case. Sigh. James, I just don't know what the answer is. I really don't.

  5. "masterminds handling social security..." I'm sorry, had to snort.

    Excellent post, as always.

  6. And as sucky as it is, can you blame them, Mona?

    Let us know, Molly.

    Cindy I live in a suburb of Tulsa, but I've lived in several different countries and had more than one occasion to need medical attention.

    My doctor here has same day appointments and it is a rare occasion that I'm not sitting on an examination table within a couple of minutes of my arrival. It really is a thing of beauty. Dr. Koenig has been my family's doctor for years and he's as eager to keep his patients happy as he is healthy. But, he's not cheap and without insurance, I'd be forced to go elsewhere, but the cost of coverage for my insurance (on the years I avoid serious injury) exceed the cost of what seeing him routinely out of pocket would be...

    I sure wish we could figure something out, Anny.

    lol, thanks, Kelly.

  7. I actually believe BS malpractice lawsuits are dropping...particularly if there really isn't a legitimate case. Primarily the lawyer will work for a cut of anything that's won in a suite BUT if it's dumb and the complaintant doesn't really have a case, they'll be shown politely to the door. There are some dumb lawyers who'll try anything but the good ones won't touch those sorry cases with a ten ft. pole.

    On the other hand...a surgeon who sows up a patient on the operating table with a small pair of scissors still in their guts SHOULD be sued.

    There are plenty of bad doctors just as there are bad lawyers.

    Very insightful post as always James.

  8. Now this is a social scene so different from ours.
    In India we have nothing like social security.
    ANY and EVERY drug is available over the counter & people who can't afford it are usually found doing self medication.
    The doctors are mal practicing here too, but only out of greed and not because they have to meet any expenses.
    There is a nexus between the doctors and the pathologists. They get a 30% commission for each test that they write and refer. For a soar throat a doctor wrote for me the following tests: HIV & various other blood tests, an echocardiogram & an ultrasound!
    & more than 90% of people in Indai are so ignorant that they would never know where they are being taken for a ride!

    I agree about the get rich quickers in The US. One of the stupendous repercussions of which has been Outsourcing. Yes, it is one of the reasons why they outsource from America : because people of third world would never be able to sue them in any court of law!


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