Health care reform is a hot button topic right now in the world of politics and so I thought i would share my experience this week with health care both good and bad.
Tuesday afternoon I started experiencing a good amount of pain in my abdomen and came home from work. Wednesday, I went into the doctor because I had not yet seen an improvement and it had actually gotten worse over night. I was to see a Physician's assistant at the Ogden Clinic. I got in pretty quickly and was treated quite well. I was sitting there in the room and I felt like I was on a game show except this one was a really painful one. They asked questions about family history back generations, health history questions I thought I was applying for life insurance! So they got a good idea of what every thing looked like and handed me over to the Physician's assistant. She continued the "Who wants to be a Patient" questionnaire until she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I sold insurance and investments. She then asked about health insurance coverage and I told her I had it. She then proceeded to tell me her opinion of how she doesn't understand that so many people are against a single payer system but how America is the richest country in the world and that she couldn't understand how we couldn't provide health care for everyone. She then turns and asks, "So what's your opinion?" Wanting to avoid an ideological debate with a woman that reminded me of everything a liberal arts teacher would resemble, I looked at her and politely told her that I would just like to be treated. She recognized that I was in considerable pain and then apologized and continued to treat me. I was then sent to another clinic for a CT scan and blood work.
I got there and waited for 3 hours for them to tell me to go to the ER because I had appendicitis. Wonderful. I got to the ER 7 hours after going to the doctor and stood there in the ER. I was told someone would call the surgeon to meet me there in the ER. I knew if I checked into the ER, I would be charged again for all the tests that I had previously had and then some. Luckily I knew the nurse that checked me in. She pulled me to the front of the line and told me that this is the way the system works. You go to our doctor and get diagnosed and then they send you to the ER to get checked in. I asked her why the couldn't send the records from the scans to the ER to save me another six or seven hundred dollar bill. She commented, that's just the way they do it. I told her I would wait and she called the clinics and did everything she could to get me admitted directly instead of going through the ER. Another nurse heard me and she turned to the other nurse and said, "Now there's the smartest thing I have ever heard from an ER patient!" They understood that the hospital billed for the same things I'd already had done. If I didn't have insurance and wasn't going to pay the bill anyway, of course I would have just let them check me in! I just couldn't understand why the ER needed to re-diagnose me. So they got me admitted, had the surgery, had good people work on me and now I recover as we speak.
So it got me thinking a little about the arguments of both sides of the health care debate. There are a lot of people that can't get insurance because of their health. There are a lot of them that could afford it if it was reasonably priced. There are a lot of people that lose their benefits and can't afford the cost of a personal plan. The system if flawed. I will give anyone that argument. We are prosperous nation but to call us a rich nation I would have to argue on that one. Yes we have assets. Yes we have ideas but the last time i checked, we were so far in debt, that it would take the economy of several large industrialized nations to just pay the interest on what we owe our creditors. If we were talking about a family, who owned loads of real estate but was so cash strapped under enormous debt payments that they had to keep borrowing to make their payments on what they owned, I would barely call them rich. By the hands of greedy politicians on both sides of the isle, America has over-promised herself to her citizens. America is responsible for everything from the groceries of those that make less than $30,000 to our national defense. We spend more than we make! Is it true that we can really afford to pay for everyone's health care too?
I can guarantee that the cost of care will not go DOWN. It will go up. Look at the contractors that work for the defense department. They charge 10 times the amount of money to do the job of one enlisted soldier. If a computer program gets written by a software engineer on a government contract, the government MAKES them bill a rate that is most of the time double. What makes anyone think that doctors and hospitals are going to charge the government the same amount they charged you? I think that the solution lies within our ability to use the best doctors and hospitals on earth (which we already have) use the technology that we have, and find personal efficiencies in the process rather than letting the insurance companies decide what and who gets treated.
I am grateful that I didn't have to wait in pain for very long to get my surgery. I am grateful that when I went to the hospital, I was seen by some of the best doctors available. If we go to a single payer system, it will not allow us to have the quality of care we have now. Many countries have tried and many countries are far behind us in the quality of care the provide. I have sat in a European hospital one too many times and believe me, you don't want what they have.
I don't have all the answers on health care but I think that if the answer to all of our problems is always to let the government handle it, we will be very disappointed when the day comes that we realize there are no more coins in the coffer and we have puffed up the hopes of our citizens only to tell them that there is just a little man behind the curtain.