Saturday, April 26, 2008

Two Articles that got me ranting (again).......

As a stranger in the strange land, and as a novice stranger in the healthcare land of a strange land, I have been a witness to all the craziness that results when there is not universal medical coverage. When a serious illness befalls a family in a modern democratic industrialized country, the first and foremost thoughts are how to get a loved one fixed and healthy - the first thoughts shouldn't be - do we have coverage, who can treat the patient, how will our loved one and our family financially survive this.

When Miguel had his first appointment with the oncologist who would treat him, we visited the business office before even seeing the doctor. Provisions were made for insurable parts and the billing procedures for the uninsurable parts was discussed. The business office - the first thing! It turned out that Miguel didn't have the best coverage for private treatment - so - off we went to get supplemental insurance (which of course didn't apply until 3 months later). Oh - and we did check out the Veteran's Administration - more trips to business offices to ensure he was a veteran, that he had coverage - interminable waits.....and then.....finally an appointment with an oncologist almost 4 months into his private treatment.

While he was in treatment I met many families in waiting and treatment rooms. One young boy in his mid-20's was terribly sick - as he awaited chemo, it was evident that he was simply too ill to get treatment. The nurse came to tell him that he was so ill that he needed to be admitted to the hospital right away - but alas, his insurance didn't permit him to be admitted to the hospital he was at.....no.....he would have to find a way to get to a hospital permitted by his insurance. He would have to get there himself and he would have to take his medical information with him....

Every single drug needed by Miguel during treatment was prescribed by the doctor and was Miguel's responsibility. Friends who have had cancer in Canada say that they never paid for any cancer related drug at all during their treatments.

Here is a story about a young man who has had a terrible form of cancer for 25 years - how he couldn't afford treatment on his salary and how, because he was a working man, he didn't have Medicare. If he had had insurance the proper surgeries and follow-up care would have likely eradicated his tumors while they were small.

Everyone in Kansas I have met knows people who cannot afford private health insurance, people who will not be insured if illness strikes them or their family.
The American Cancer Society says uninsured patients are 60 percent more likely to die within five years of their diagnosis. Without insurance, the diagnosis is twice as likely to come in the later stages of cancer.

You simply cannot be in the States as an observer and not see that this system is unfair and unworkable. Here is an article by Elizabeth Edwards in the NYTimes today - she wonders why issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans (such as health care) don't get coverage at all - the superficialities of the candidates are what we focus on.

2 comments:

RemoteViewer said...

I hate these articles because people assume being insured is somehow a human right. People need to take care of themselves, if they didn't go out to eat all the time, didn't get that digital camera, and didn't buy houses they couldn't afford, they could get policies.

It's people being irresponsible with their own security, and then wanting someone else to pick up the pieces when the doc finds a tumor and they can't pay out of pocket. Take care of your own, and if you don't, die quietly.

Anonymous said...

I am always thankful that we have the Canadian healthcare system. I am not foolish enough to believe that there aren't problems and that some people visit the doctor too often. My step-father died of cancer and during the course of his treatment the question of payment was never discussed. Any discussions with staff were about treatment and what needed to be done.
My father-in-law who passed away a year ago spent several months in the hospital being treated for an unknown cause initially and after he was discharged because his illness was under control he returned because he had C-Diff a very serious infection often a result of a stay in hospital and a weakend immune system. Again, other than asking what his health card number was,no costs were discussed and this was not mentioned until he had been admitted during an emergency and was stablized .
Either one of these medical situations would have bankrupted two men who had worked hard all their lives and never indulged in extravagant lifestyles. I never knew what a new car smell was until I was in my twenties. My step-father bought old car- not classics-restored them for family cars.
I now wonder how my mother managed when my father died of cancer in 1957- had Tommy Douglas already introduced universal health to Canada?
Despite its problems, the Canadian medical system is wonderful and the government does not even spend as much for the system as the American according to an interesting feature on CNN last night.
Nora