Jul 6, 2009
A pair of book club selections spells out that Health care in the U.S. is clearly broken and unfair
As the debate over President Obama’s much needed health care plan heats up, it seems fitting that the Progressive Book Club’s monthly selection for July is Gov. Howard Dean’s “Prescription for Real Healthcare,” and “Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis — and the People Who Pay the Price” by Michigan author Jonathan Cohn.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the response has been so overwhelming that the club is temporarily out of stock, and I am waiting for my copies as soon as they come in stock. Although I’m not yet up on the debate as I should be, there is no denying health care in the U.S. is broken, and millions of Americans are without health care. As that debate heats up, you can rest assured private health care “insurers” will be spending millions to influence Congress. The number one motive of insurers is profit, and they will do just about anything to avoid paying a claim.
My wife and I are those among the uninsured, although as retired military, I always have the VA hospital in Ann Arbor to fall back on. The lack of full-time work has led us to take two part-time jobs apiece, and of course, none provide health care benefits.
A recent episode occurred to an acquaintance this weekend that really drove home the health care crisis to me. This person is in their early 50s, and since high school he has worked at a small tool and die shop, made a decent living and raised two children. A few years ago, his wife began working there, too. Unfortunately, the shop recently closed and moved its equipment off shore, leaving him without a job and career for the first time in more than 30 years.
Now, since this person lost their job, they also lost their heath care benefits. Well, while helping his son-in-law paint this weekend, he collapsed. The son-in-law told him he was going to call an ambulance, and my friend said no. Why, because he did not have coverage. After he passed out again, it was a moot point.
Once he got to the hospital, he tried to refuse treatment because he had no coverage. He was told he would need a pacemaker at a cost of $50,000. The last I heard, he is looking at cheaper alternatives at his peril. When the cost determines the mode treatment above all other considerations, the system is broken. All Americans should have access to quality health care. We do have the some of the best health care in the world, but access to it is another story.
I don’t see how we cannot afford to not reform health care. If a person can’t pay, the hospital eats the cost. The good news for my friend is that because he had the foresight to buy a home as soon as he was able, it’s probably paid off so he can mortgage it to pay for life-saving medical care. But, I’m not sure who will give him a second mortgage with no job.
Cohn’s book is chock full of examples like that. He spoke in Howell in October 2007, and I should have bought his book then. He gave an excellent presentation on a subject many people consider dry.
The Ann Arbor resident traveled all over the U.S. and some foreign countries and read every study and every source on health care he could get his hands on in doing the research for the book, and he has become a walking encyclopedia on the state of health care in America.
He told some truly horrific stories from his book of middle class families playing by the rules all their lives then losing their health care coverage when a parent's job is downsized, and that is happening more and more as companies trying to compete in the global marketplace try to shed costs and doing so by cutting and eliminate health care benefits. Or, working almost there entire life, and just because a person lost that job, they have to turn down life-saving health care like my friend.
Cohn said The U.S. spends about 16 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care, more than any other industrialized nation in the world, but millions of Americans have no health care coverage at all. The U.S. spends more on health care than those nations that have quality universal health care. The system is broken.
Even though the President is not advocating for a universal health care plan like he should, we are hearing the ridiculous talking points from Republicans about “socialized medicine.” I am baffled by their protection of insurance companies that will look for any excuse not to honor their commitment if they needed it over middle class working families.
I saw on the official GOP blog, wrongmichuigan, a post about a man whose two-year old daughter was allegedly receiving a chemotherapy treatment. They claimed this person said,
“To him, it doesn't matter what health care costs. He works hard to be able to afford good health care, he says, and if he can't afford it, he'll go into debt to make sure his little girl gets the best treatment money can buy. His biggest fear is that in an effort to lower the costs of health care in America, politicians and bureaucrats will deem the best care "wasteful" or "inefficient." "Don't mess with my right to medical choice," he pleaded, "If I have the money , or even if I don't, I want to be able to buy that care."
What if this person loses his job like my friend? His daughter dies? What if he has a lower wage job; his daughter dies or gets less treatment that the person with more money? Why should anyone go into debt and lose their home just because a child got sick? Chances are, they would deny her coverage because the cancer is an “existing condition.
The system is broken.