Friday, August 31, 2007

A Sorry Tale about "The Best Health Care System in the World"

Most of you are aware that Dave and I can't stand the American health care system. You're probably also aware that approximately 50 million Americans have no health care coverage at all and tens of millions more are underinsured. The USA is the only developed (or industrialized, take your pick of terminology) nation in the world that does not provide basic health insurance for all of its citizens. Nevertheless, our president assures us that Americans enjoy the best health care in the world. That's easy for him to say since he doesn't live in the same America that most Americans inhabit.

Pull up a chair, grab a coffee, and let me tell you a sad story.

Two friends of mine recently moved to the DC area. They are a married couple in their 50s, both of whom have been working for all of their adult lives. They both have jobs here and are living in temporary housing until they can find a place of their own in which to live. Less than two weeks ago, they found a great place to rent. Their application was denied, however, because they are still paying off medical bills acquired when he had a heart attack several years ago. The lending agency is not confident that they will be able to pay their rent as long as they are still paying the medical bills. So, they're back out looking at houses every night after work. Will the next lender give them a break? Your guess is as good as mine.

This is outrageous. These are hard-working, tax-paying folks who simply want a decent place to live. But they're having difficulty because the "best health care system in the world" left them so deeply in debt that they can't even find a place to rent, let alone buy! Sad to say, stories like this are all too common in this country. People who endure catastrophic illnesses frequently move from physical survival to financial ruin (which, I suspect, isn't very promising for their long-term health prospects).

Health care probably will be one of the major issues in the 2008 elections - and it should be. Americans are paying dearly for the demise of Hillary-Care in the 90s. We cannot afford to lose this round of the battle because the "best health care system in the world" desperately needs triage.


Stephen said...

As a Canadian, it is easy to point a self-righteous finger at the US when it comes to comparing health care systems. I dare not do so as there are many weaknesses in our own.

In saying that, I do have to say I remain mystified that the US health care system is by and large profit driven. Health care should be a basic human right - where every citizen has access to a basic standard of health care.
As a citizen of Canada, I carry a health card that entitles me access to any hospital, medical clinic or doctor's office in the country without worry of additional bills or worrying about medical care being approved by a profit driven health care company.

My sympathy goes out to those hard working Americans who go into brankrupcy due to health bills - for medical treatment that is esential for their survival.

From personal experience, I have the greatest respect for American health care and treatment. When Gayle's father had a heart attack while on vacation in the States many years ago and had to undergo life saving surgery, the treatment and care was second to none - once they had tens of thousands of dollars in their hands up front. Even though Gayle's parents traveled to the states with an excellent travel health coverage package, the hospital that he was rushed to did not accept the insurance as it was a company they did not deal with. Gayle's mother had to fly back up to Canada to secure the upfront cash necessary. The hosptial would not do the surgery - that was necessary for his survival until they had the cash in hand.
As far as I am aware, this does not happen in Canada. Any person - no matter where they are from - receive treatment upfront before they go after the $ necessary to cover the expenses of the treatment.

Jenn said...

on the other side of the coin - as someone who works in health care, there tends to be a lot of people who take advantage of the health care system. i don't think that people realize it costs 350$ for an er visit whether it's because you have a stuffy nose or chest pain. there is an arguement for both sides.

Joanne said...

Although the Canadian system is no where near perfect (in many places it is a system of haves and have nots), I am grateful that system is in place. Without it, we would have been "hooped" when Jennifer, James and Jason were young, due to the many hospital trips and admissions as a result of their asthma etc. I believe they are as healthy as they are today due to the fact that we knew we were covered and therefore were not afraid to seek treatment.

Barbara said...

Jenn, while that may be so, I think I would still rather have it that way. We are a healthier people and our babies are born healthier because when we do get sick, we can go to the doctor right away and get it taken care of before it developes into something more severe. I know the ER is not the place to do that, but I would still rather have people who misuse the system than wonder whether or not we can pay the bill if we need to go to the doctor for an upper respiratory chest infection.

Every month when we pick up or medications for the month (both Matt's for his anxiety and mine for my thyroid) I am very thankful that I live where I doThe other day, one of Matt's meds was $100 for the month. My country picked up $90 of the tab while our drug insurance picked up the other $10. Cost to us - $0.

Yes, our taxes are higher to pay for it, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Have you seen Sicko yet? I'd like to see it.

Erik said...

I cannot understand why in a prosperous country such as the USA this can occur. Only the very rich can pay a heart operation or other operative treatments at cost price plus profit, insurance is simply a necessity for a nation's wellbeing. It's also illogical because hospitals are because of the medical oath binded to give medical care, no matter if one is insured or not. So who will pay? At the end of the day the taxpayer will because you cannot pick feathers from a frog as we say in Holland. But some politicians think they can. From a conservative standpoint it's better to oblige everybody to pay insurance premiums than it is to reserve part of the tax income for this purpose, that's socialist and is worse than the worst :). Mr. Bush, is this Christian? Evie I appreciate your standpoints very much and the way you climb the barricades in words.

Erik said...

Second thought: After having read the other comments, I now understand that in the USA it occurs that life-saving treatment can be refused if the hospital is not sure about payment??????????

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