Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When did our Health Care Get This Bad?

The epic health care reform bill has finally cleared the House of Representa -tives and has made it to the Senate for further deliberation, which is closer to actually getting done. I don't pretend to know all the intimate details of the health care issue. It is a long and complicated subject. The opposition feeds off of the general public's ignorance. However, I've reached the realization that ours is bad enough that people need to see past the misguided partisan propaganda("Obama is the new Hitler") and misleading catch phrases used by opposition ("Obama wants death panels to euthanize old people") and get some kind of reform done. I never trusted insurance companies in the first place, but my summer job and recent watching of Michael Moore's 2007 documentary entitled "Sicko" have drastically made me more cynical of the companies' practices and the insurance process as a whole. I'm not sure if Obama's plan is the ultimate answer, but it's progress. We have to do something even though the rich folks - especially those of certain races, ages, and political parties, who like their current health care and fear that any change is inevitably bad - are doing everything in their power to stop the bill from messing with business as usual within the insurance industry...

Insurance Companies: The Evil Empire
Realize that business as usual in the insurance industry includes basing business decisions around the philosophy "With everyone paying their premiums, the less service for policy holders we approve and pay for, the higher our profit margin." Think about it, as immoral and unethical as that is, it is the bare bones of how to make money in that industry. This is why there are so many people who work for insurance companies whose jobs are solely to find ways not to approve benefits that are included in people's plans. My summer job at an optometrist's office really opened my eyes to how bad it is. Compared to other medical fields, optometry is fairly simple from an insurance sense. Most people are just coming in to get a routine eye exam and contacts or glasses if needed, some are coming in to get diabetic or glaucoma check ups, and then there are those who are getting specified tests to find out if they have one of a few dozen possible eye conditions that may result in them having to go get surgery; fairly simple compared to the different possibilities of procedures, surgeries, or craziness that may get filed to insurance from a general hospital. However, insurance companies do what insurance companies do. There was always a prevalence of submitted claims that were sent back for the most minuscule of reasons. Or If they can't find some loophole to send a request back, it was not uncommon to see them approve payment on a $114 eye exam and pay a total of $35. On an eye exam. So the practice has to bill the patient for the difference and they get mad at people like me saying "My insurance is supposed to cover that." What am I supposed to tell 'em? Medical costs have become the leading cause of bankruptcy and homeless in our country. In "Sicko", Michael Moore interviewed a couple who had insurance, decent insurance, who were forced to move into their daughter's basement becuz of the ridiculous costs of his post-heartache medical bills. He then interviewed people who used to work for insurance companies whose sole purpose was to find ways to screw people over. One lady said they rewarded the person who denied the most insurance claims with a bonus every month; they put the stats up in chart form on the bulletin board. Another man talked about the loopholes he would find to get money back from any claim they couldn't find a way to deny. This is in addition to the 37 pages of pre-existing conditions that an insurance company could deny you for; some as small as a yeast infection. And these were the people WITH insurance...

The plight of the uninsured
The public option is so important becuz, depending on where you get your numbers, there are between 40 and 50 million people in our country without healthcare; not with bad health insurance, but NO health insurance. That's a size chunk of our 350 million person nation. These are the people that hospitals don't wanna see coming. "Sicko" showed surveillance footage of taxicabs rolling up to a free clinic, pushing a patient out onto the curb and jetting off. The hospital paid the cabs to roll up and throw them out at these clinics becuz they wouldn't allow them to stay in the hospital uninsured, no matter how bad their conditions. One lady with Alzheimer's walked around the area for hours before anyone from the clinic realized she was supposed to be there. That's how bad it is for the uninsured. People are walking around with serious conditions becuz they know that no doctor will see them unless they have the ridiculous cash it takes to be seen for serious medical conditions. Moore interviewed a man who cut off two of his fingers in a carpentry accident. The hospital told him it would cost him a total of $72,000 to reattach both fingers. Could you imagine if you needed a transplant or something more serious? I hope they don't don't drop paralyzed accident victims out of cabs on the curb in front of clinics too.
Other countries have figured it out
Why is it we're having so much trouble when other countries are basking in the benefits of working health care systems? In countries such as Great Britain, there is both a public and private sector of the health care industry. The NHS, the public tax-funded health care service does not charge residents a dime for treatment of any kind. It costs nothing to have a baby, get limbs reattached, or be treated for a heartache. Everyone interviewed in the NHS hospital said they had never had problems with long waits. The doctors were the best and brightest and were paid handsomely for their fine work. And their medicines cost a fraction of what they cost here across the board. They even require certain benefits for workers. Workers are required to work 35 hrs a week or less, required to take at least 5 weeks of paid vacation every year, and allowed up to one year of paid maternity leave (and time for the father). Many American legislators (and many health care protesters) ignore their success becuz they have to avoid anything connected with the unspeakable word...SOCIALIZED. But their private sector, although much smaller than ours, is doing fine financially and actually works with the NHS in many cases. Their tax and spending allocations are much different than ours and that will have to be worked out by those at the top. You could be fine now and want taxes as low as possible and that refund check makes you feel great when you get it, but I assure you that all Americans are one or two bad medical breaks from bankruptcy in this country's present health care system. You won't know until it's too late.

All in all, it's ridiculous to me that all of these supporters have taken time off work to protest with Obama Hitler signs and partisanship and money pinching is causing this health care reform to drag on when it is definitely needed. Health care, energy, and education are the three biggest issues that we are suffering with on a global level. All must be addressed in big ways, but nothing else will get done until this health care bill is passed. I don't know everything about how the system works, but I know enough to know that it is severely flawed here and we desperately need to make progress somehow.

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