Well, with that unseemly bit of drama behind me, the time has come for me to continue with my campaign for President in 2012. My health issues make it impossible for me to actually take office, or even actively campaign for office. Still, I get to vent my ideas of how I'd run things if I were to somehow manage to make it into "the big chair." Today's topic? Health care!
Ummm...I got nothing. That is, I have nothing that'll work. There are over 40 million Americans without health care, meaning that they can't get so much as a wellness checkup annually. That includes children. But this, of course, is based on census data, and when people refuse to get involved in the census, the data comes up short. There are people who are afraid to answer the door. There are the homeless. There are countless people not included in this vital information, so we can assume that all of the numbers are off.
The issue is so complex that tackling it is going to take a team of experts and your heavily medicated President weeks, holed up in some basement room in the White House, with them using diagrams made using crayons for me to even start grasping the issue as a whole. How do we ensure every American gets the care they not only need, but to which they have a right?
Joe Uninsured trips in his home, falls, and breaks ankle wrist. He doesn't know it's broken. He waits and hopes the pain goes away. The break heals improperly, and the pain becomes something that plagues him to the point that he musters the cash to see a doctor. The doctor now says surgery is required to fix the problem. Joe can't be turned away from a hospital due to an inability to pay, and so he is hospitalized for corrective surgery and intense physical therapy to get him going again. Even though he cannot be denied care, and the hospital knows he cannot pay, he is sent a bill that he is expected to pay. At a price of $20 per Tylenol he's given to relieve pain, you can imagine what the rest of the bill looks like. Poor Joe will need a second mortgage just to pay his hospital bill. Facing that bill will probably introduce hypertension to Joe's list of medical problems, and all we can do right now is wish him luck handling the bill for his upcoming heart attack.
I don't have one, but two insurance programs. I have Medicare from Social Security, which covers 80% of my bills. I also have ACCHS (called "Access") to cover the other 20%. I am covered 100%...on only those things both insurance companies are willing to cover. I still need an MRI of my left shoulder. My insurance companies insist on me going through an administrative dance before I can get it. First they want me to have x-rays. Then they want me to have physical therapy. Then they want a CAT scan. Then they want more physical therapy. Then, maybe - just maybe - they'll grant me the MRI. Everything before the MRI will cost thousands of dollars. Instead of coughing up maybe $1,000 for the MRI, they seemingly want to spend three or four times that amount before having it done.
My insulin has been another adventure. I should be on Humalog. This insulin starts working in 30 minutes, and is the best of the best when it comes to a short-acting insulin. They won't pay for this. Instead, they will pay for Novolin, which takes an hour to start working, and is not nearly as effective as Humalog. There is a test done on diabetics every three months called a Hemoglobin A1c. Optimally, it should be at 6, with seven the highest. Six months ago, I was a 10. Three months ago, I was 8.9. Recently, I was 8.3. When I was on the Humalog back in NY, I was a 7.2 at my best. In other words, when I'm on the insulin I need, everything improves rapidly. When I'm on the only garbage my insurance is willing to pay for, I'm in a perpetual battle for control.
I'm covered and still can't get what I need!
Quite oddly, we are an embarrassingly boastful nation. We declare ourselves the best in so many areas, and yet we can't organize national health care. "Hey, world! We have 15.3% of our people without health insurance, and we're the...uhhh...best? And those with insurance still can't get what they need! Yay!"
What's broken? Too many things to get into this one post. How do we fix the broken things? Too many options, many of which remain unknown to me. How would I fix the problem?
Well, that's why I'd need to sit down with the experts. From liberal to conservative standpoints, I'd listen to everything they have to say. If they have to bust out pie charts and break out their best monosyllabic vocabulary for me to understand the issues, so be it. Whatever the solution may be, it will likely be the one that is most cost effective and doesn't require yet another tax hike for the American people. Even when the economy is at its best, people gripe about money. Offering them medical aid at the cost of higher taxes is not really helping; it's just a new way to bring more health problems, like increased blood pressure.
What astonishes me is that there are countries out there providing national health care for ages, while we've maintained a white-knuckled grip on doing anything but what they're managing. Surely there must be a model out there we can follow, and perhaps improve upon. What are their pros? What are their cons? What are they doing right that we're doing wrong?
I have some ideas, but they probably belong in Mr. Rogers' Land of Make-Believe. I mean, one of the reasons it costs so much to see a doctor is that they have to cover the overhead of malpractice insurance. Okay...If a doctor is sued for malpractice, and is found guilty of it, then the government will pick up the tab for the payout. Get sued three times, guilty or not, and their license to practice medicine is revoked. Good luck with your new job at McDonald's.
Hmmm...I don't see many doctors voting for me.
Another reason doctors charge so much is the cost of their education. Well, provide my administration with an economic background, and if a doctor came from a poverty-stricken background, we'll pay out 50% of whatever loans you took out to become a doctor. Show a willingness to reduce your prices to see patients, and it's a done deal. Raise your prices after we pay that bill, and we'll be charging you that money again.
Okay, maybe some doctors will vote for me.
This is all coming from the imagination of a guy that never completed his education. I only have so much knowledge, and this particular issue has more facets than a diamond with a complex cut. What I recognize is my lack of knowledge, the fact that there's a problem, and that something needs to be done. Instead of standing on a platform with an imagined idea of how to fix it, I'll be the guy on a soapbox shouting, "I have no idea how I'll fix it, but I'm going to bust my butt trying to do so!" This is infinitely better than a guy coming along with a supposed plan that has no chance of working, or the guy with a plan who has no idea what's going on, but pretends he knows.
A promise made is a promise kept. The least I can do is promise to try. The most I could do is find a way to make it work.