Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Truth About Health Insurance

I watched documentarian Michael Moore's "Sicko" this morning and was blown away. Sure, Moore tends to be biased towards his own point of view (look no further than the marvelously incediary Fahrenheit 9/11) but I felt this was one of his more balanced works. Yes, he's pro-universal healthcare but, given that our healthcare industry is spiraling out of conrol, what is a better alternative? I really would like to know if there is a better alternative. The documentary is 2 hours long and filled with heartwrenching stories. Keep the Kleenex handy.

Moore does a great job of showing how the political and healthcare worlds are closely linked. Just look at the health industry contributions from the 2008 election cycle. The concept of health insurance started in 1971 under Nixon's presidency and we've been the victims of for-profit healthcare ever since. I'm employed by a hospital and there doesn't seem to be such a thing as non-for-profit healthcare. Last year, my hospice made the hospital a profit; meanwhile, we're markedly understaffed, overworked, even underpaid. If only we could go back to 1971 and push a reset button! What would it take for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance to charge actual cost? Even though more and more people are unable to afford insurance and medication (my patients are a daily reminder of this fact), I fear what it would take to loosen the talons of the health insurance and pharmaceutical giants. They certainly fear the idea of universal healthcare which is why they've been telling us the "evils" of going that route for a few decades. Moore includes a clip of none other than Ronald Reagan telling Americans why socialized healthcare is wrong- this was during his Hollywood days. Too bad we can't take the healthcare industry's profits and give it to the people needing healthcare.

Moore makes the point that only socialized healthcare is considered evil; we're all for socialism when it comes to our schools, libraries, and police and fire forces. I studied the healthcare systems in Canada, England, Sweden, and France in one of my sociology classes in college. No system is perfect but I was hard pressed to find a reason not to embrace universal healthcare, especially given our alternative. My health insurance takes a big chunk out of my paycheck and I am blessed that I rarely go to the doctor. (Although, knowing that I won't ever reach my yearly deductible also leads to me delaying MD visits as well. I'm a bad patient.) There is something insidious about a system that does everything but help the sick. Just look at this article about University of Chicago ER doctors' new practices of redirecting patients that need care. It should chill us all to the bone. We should help people regardless of their ability to pay. Might I suggest that everyone in the healthcare industry, from the insurance and drug companies to the hospital CEOs, be required to take the Hippocratic oath? If the United States truly lived by the premise, "first, do no harm," we likely would not face many of the issues we currently face. Thanks for letting me vent. I welcome hearing your thoughts.


cb said...

I'm British so of course, I come at this from a different perspective. I also currently work for the NHS (or strictly speaking I'm seconded to them). I cannot honestly conceive of living in a society where healthcare is not free at the point of delivery. Where doctors can prescribe and treat with any thought about the cost to patient - and you know, honestly, what's wrong with a bit of socialism anyway! Sometimes I am more than happy to pay tax and the National Health Service, although not always as perfect as Moore would have you believe, is a mighty lot better than any alternative I could conceive of.

Rick said...

After a year of dealing with leukemia treatments for my daughter, reaching our deductable, several emergency room visits, lab tests, transfusions and tests, I am glad we had a for-profit insurance company that had our backs. When your daughters life is at stake, it's nice to walk into a hospital knowing she is going to get everything she needs when she needs it. I'll cut out a few "luxuries" in life to pay a little extra for private insurance.

HopefulLSW said...

I hear what you're saying Rick and I'm glad that your insurance company has your back. Unfortunately, many people do not have the same luck and have to fight with their insurance companies for treatment approval or even for the tests that would diagnose their condition. I have found this to be true for my friends and for my patients, leading to my conclusion that the current system just does not work the way it should.