Healthcare and some questions

I’ve decided to more actively pursue my dream of being published in one of the big news mediums. I had the opportunity to work with a local journalism effort in Annapolis, and I also have had an article published with Relevant Magazine, so I figure the next step is the Wall Street Journal. Right? 🙂  I’m a bit more realistic than that; with that realism, however, comes the acknowledgement that the WSJ (or CNN.com or whoever) is going to publish somebody, so it might as well be me. I’ve submitted a couple of opinion pieces to CNN and the WSJ; no luck so far. But the benefit of rejection by the big guys is that I can publish the full text on my own blog! (How’s that for optimism?)

So here’s a piece I wrote concerning healthcare. Oh, and a final thought. I’m confident that my writing is good. Now, that sounds arrogant, but I don’t mean it that way. I just mean that I’ve read enough articles to know that my writing is not inferior to a good bit of writing that gets published (though there certainly are those geniuses to whose talent I aspire). So posting my article on this blog is not an attempt to repair my wounded pride. It’s just a chance to put my thoughts in the public forum without getting paid. What I’m saying is, I appreciate compliments and flattery much less than I appreciate constructive criticism and dialogue or debate. You’re free to submit any of those; I just thought I’d put that out there.

How’s that for a lengthy preface?

National Healthcare: It’s Not About Compassion

The internet is still buzzing about last week’s Republican debate in which two miscreants from the crowd shouted “Yes!” to Wolf Blitzer’s question for Ron Paul: “Should we let an uninsured sick man die?” Now the Huffington Post has released a piece revealing that one of Ron Paul’s campaign managers in 2008 died in a similar circumstance.
The question swirling in the air is: “Are Americans compassionate?” I don’t know the answer to that one, and neither am I sure that the answer has anything to do with insurance coverage. But I have a different question – actually, three. “Are Americans greedy?” “Are Americans dishonest?” and “Are Americans negligent?”
Before answering those three questions, it’s worth examining the state of the American healthcare system. HealthPAC online reports that in 2006, the average family health insurance premium, provided through an employer health insurance plan, was $11,480 per year. More personally, I know a married couple who has just retired and is paying $900 a month for their health coverage. Who convinced them to do this? Who told us this is the way insurance is supposed to be? And how did healthcare become so expensive? Government regulation and intervention have played a role in driving up healthcare costs. But so have American citizens: hence my three questions.
Greedy? Do we want too much? Do Americans even think about the cost of care before receiving it? The prevailing attitude seems to be an unquestioning demand that if a treatment is available, it must be used. But have we really not seen the economic unfeasibility of such a demand? Do we really think that just because a millionaire could afford to pay for a medical procedure, the average middle-class (or low-income) American ought to receive the same procedure? What if every single American had an illness which would cost $1 million to cure? With 300 million Americans, there is simply not the wealth to provide such treatment. Who would we save? And what if “everyone” is not an allowable answer? The reality is that healthcare is an industry – a business – and just as not everyone can afford an iPhone, not everyone can afford every single treatment known to man. But everyone wants an iPhone, and everyone wants whatever treatment is available, regardless of the price.
Dishonest? Healthcare is not a right, and those who make that claim don’t really believe it. For there are two types of “rights” – those guaranteed by specific governments to their citizens, and those outlined in our Declaration of Independence as “endowed by our Creator” – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Healthcare is simply not a right under our national law. What, then, do they mean who contend that “healthcare is a right”? Do they mean that it is a “God-given right”? If so, I have heard no arguments for this assertion. The problem is that democracy has clouded our minds – we think that all people everywhere are equal in every way always. This is, of course, untrue – even worse, it is completely undefined. If it were true (and we were able to define what we mean by “equal”), one could imagine that the citizens of our country would be more concerned about tending to children in Africa dying of preventable diseases than about the countless non-fatal maladies that are treated in our hospitals daily.
Negligent? For a myriad of reasons – from industrialized food to sedentary lifestyles – America is a country full of knowledgable, unhealthy people. We know how to be healthy, and yet we are terribly unhealthy; this reality has contributed to our current sky-high healthcare costs. Take childbirth, which has in recent history become the most common reason American women go to the hospital. C-sections cost more money than natural deliveries, yet the rate of C-sections is rising, to the chagrin of many medical professionals. America had a cesarean-section rate of 32.9% in 2009, a rate that the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said is “undeniably high and absolutely concerns us as ob-gyns.” And yet the rate – and the hospital bills – continue to climb. We know what to do; we just don’t do it.
Are Americans categorically greedy, dishonest, and negligent? No. But if we do not begin to speak, think and act clearly with regard to the healthcare fiasco in our country, we may lend credence to those who would answer “Yes.”

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7 Responses to Healthcare and some questions

  1. Mark Bales says:

    My solution for health care is this : make a law that it is illegal to buy health care insurance. I am not silly enough to think this would happen but it would make health care come into the supply demand . Every one involved would have to make the hard decisions . People would ask the doctor how much? The doc would have to see the look in your eye that you could not afford it. The billing would be real. The hospitals would have empty beds and have to rethink what they are doing. People would not partake in all the unneeded test that they put you trough.It just goes on and on.

  2. friendmouse says:

    Great “article,” Nathan! And Mark, you are right on the money. I believe, by many measures, “healthcare” and related insurance are a scam! Much has to do with the way folks have come to regard “insurance.” It’s as if insurance is just another scheme of making mandatory payments on many unnecessary procedures. It’s a vicious cycle: you pay for insurance, so you feel like you’re getting ripped off if you do not use it, so you have procedures done which may not be necessary, but, hey…you have insurance, so why not? That added, unnecessary cost to the insurance company just causes them to have to raise premiums in order to maintain their profit margins…and there is nothing wrong with profit margins…every company must have them to survive. So, insurance is not used for “insurance” much anymore…it’s just to spread the pain of paying for medical procedures out. But if there were no insurance (as you mentioned, Mark), then you’d go to the doc or the Emergency Room only as necessary. Boy! Would that drive healthcare costs down!! But it won’t likely happen, as that would be perceived by most as “de-evolution” or diminishing our standard of living. Likely not until our economy melts down will changes like that occur. And that’s not pleasant. Unless…someone comes into power who will make us see things differently…more realistically and logically. Dr. Ron Paul? Could be.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In response to the two comments above: Do I think that the current health care system needs to change? Perhaps, but I by no means feel as though making health care coverage illegal would do anything but cause debt for the millions of Americans that are living with incurable diseases. If you had a life threatening disease or understood what it was like to see a loved one go through something that modern technology could be prevent, you would feel differently. Insurance for some is a necessity. For others, who don’t have a disease, it may seem pointless and petty. However, I work so that I can have insurance. This is so that I don’t have to pay $95,000 for a necessary stay in the hospital, because I was born with a genetic lung disease. “Boy! Would that drive healthcare costs down!!” Not for the people who have a life threatening illness. It would cause unbelievable strife and debt. “Make a law that it is illegal to buy health care insurance.” Why? So the child that is 5 years old with cancer would die and leave their family with millions of dollars in debt? I think you would rethink your opinions if you had a child with a life-threatening disease.

    • Well, your response is a good one, and comes from an important point of view: one whose life has been preserved/lengthened by the current healthcare system, or by modern medicine.
      I think it could help to think some more about this, though. Insurance – the idea of insurance – is when you pay a small amount of money to a company to hedge a certain risk. Undesirable things happen in life (fires, floods, disease, car wrecks, etc.), and though no one expects those things will happen to them, many people choose to buy insurance to protect their finances from being ruined – or at least severely gouged – should one of those things happen.
      You were born with an illness, though. Now, if we were to preserve the true spirit of “insurance,” then you wouldn’t be buying insurance for your health problem – because you already have the disease. Just like you don’t buy flood insurance after your house floods, and expect the insurance company to take care of that. But the thing is, we don’t really have a genuine kind of insurance for life-long congenital illnesses, at least not that I know of. That would be the kind of insurance that one’s parents would purchase – before one was born (or perhaps even conceived) – and whose terms would include caring for the insured party for the rest of their life, as it pertains to that disease.
      What I’m trying to say is that health insurance isn’t really health insurance. It’s something else…I don’t know what, really. I think it’s a monster that feeds the ever-swelling expense of the healthcare industry. I mean, I doubt that any one person in this country purchases an average health insurance plan (I’m not talking about a high-deductible/low-premium plan) thinking to themselves, “Well, I sure hope I never have to use this insurance, but it’s a good thing I’ll be protected if I do!” Never! Everyone buys health insurance thinking how the premiums are high, but at least they’ll get some use out of the copays on a regular basis – at the pharmacy and the general doctor’s office – and then if something major ever happens, well, after the deductible, they’ll be covered for that too…mostly. The result is that more people go to the doctor more often, driving up demand, and thereby driving up costs. Kate and I don’t have any health insurance. We pay her monthly thyroid prescription out of pocket, we pay cash at the doctor’s office, and we had Saylor with a midwife, to whom we paid cash. Now, we did apply for Medicaid, since we didn’t have a major medical plan (and couldn’t afford one at the time), and did not intend to use it unless the birth didn’t go smoothly and we had to transport her to the hospital. We ended up being forced to use the Medicaid once or twice, at the doctor, because they told us that if we had Medicaid, we couldn’t just pay them our own cash, we had to use Medicaid (I wanted to pay for the visit myself, but they wouldn’t let me!). So that was that experience.
      Finally, I know that we’re not yet at this place in society, but I think we might get there: what happens when there are simply too many people needing too many treatments that cost too much money? I mean, statistics don’t really show us getting any healthier as a society. Adults are unhealthy, and babies are more and more being born with congenital problems, from autism to asthma to worse issues. The real solution to this is to change our environment – to eat better, live less sedentary lives (down with corporate America! all hail the simple agrarian communities!), and quit polluting our air and water (the possible causes of some birth defects). I’m not sure “going green” will stick around long enough to see those things happen. So then what do we do? No one really asks this in the public forum. For almost all of human history, people died sometimes simply because there were not the resources to heal their specific disease. I’m not advocating giving up. I’m just saying that I think we’re being outpaced by disease…and eventually, I think our system of treating and prescribing, treating and prescribing, will end up collapsing us monetarily. It’s hard to find an American that hasn’t at some point been diagnosed with some kind of health problem. What’s with that? Is that really a sign that healthcare has gotten better?
      What I’m trying to say – in a terribly roundabout way – is that I think there can be a place for insurance. But I don’t think the place insurance is currently in is the right place. We need more saving. We need more health and less sickness (which comes largely through healthy lifestyles). We need to really think about what kind of diseases we can treat, and if our current methods of treatment are the best (for example…in the fight against cervical cancer, is the mass-administration of the HPV vaccine seriously the best we can come up with? What about the promotion of abstinence and marital faithfulness? Not just because they’re Christian ideals, but because they make sense). We need to get the medical industry out of bed with the government. And we need to find another primary motivator than fear.

  4. Nicole says:

    Saw your homebirth vid on YT while researching the Bradley Method. Who knew I would find a homebirthing, raw milk drinking, Ron Paul supporting Christian? I am so psyched to read the rest of your blog now. Maybe I just don’t get out much, but I’m thrilled to find someone out in the webiverse with whom I seem to have so much in common. I’m pregnant with our first and having health insurance issues. Wanted to homebirth anyway. Got another 8 months to figure it out. Going to read more of your blog now!
    Nicole

    • Glad you found us; congrats on the pregnancy. Both of the families in the ozark house have simply paid cash to the midwife, and applied for medicaid so that just in case something went awry, we could afford something like an emergency c-section or whatever. Keep readin’, and stay in touch!

  5. suebarber says:

    Interesting. I agree that health insurance is no longer insurance, and it would be way better to pay the doctor than to pay the insurance company. But what do we do with someone like our Caleb, who has lifelong need for serious medical care, that’s going to be very expensive, and there’s no lifestyle change that is going to do much about that? Some provisions need to be made for “the least of these”, and for caring for problems before they become a crisis is WAY more effective than waiting for the ER visit. Have you heard of concierge medical care? I think that’s a great idea, but it’s not the whole answer either.

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