Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And that's what you want?

I was speaking with a friend who was pleased with the progress of healthcare "reform." I asked what she knew about it and why she was in favor of the House bill that recently passed.

She reads headlines. She cited the "fact" that hundreds of thousands die because they don't have health insurance. (That reminded me of the Congressman in a speech referring to the "hundreds of millions" of Americans who do not have affordable health insurance. Since there are only about three hundred million people in the United States, I believe that statement is not credible.) I reminded my friend that most people do, in fact, get treated.

She referred to the inconvenience and long lines in emergency rooms, none of which she had personally experienced or knew of. (Have you read those polls where a majority of people are not experiencing a certain problem, but think everyone else is? Ah, the power of the media.)

Finally, she cited the experience of her nephew in the military. He had a brain tumor and it took months and months and months before the military would authorize his treatment with an "outside" specialist, since there was not an appropriate specialist available within their system. Perhaps they were waiting for one to graduate from medical school, I don't know. But his treatment required approval from within the military hierarchy and it took a long time. Approval was finally granted and the tumor, thankfully benign, was removed.

I don't understand how that anecdote translates into a preference for government supervised healthcare.

When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age fifteen, we did not have to wait in line for a specialist or outside approval for treatment. We had the choice of where she was treated. We were able to do enough research on our own to determine if we would benefit from a second opinion or treatment at a different facility. Thank God there were specialists available, doctors who had put in hard years of training in order to be able to diagnose her rare condition and offer a path to healing.

Had we been dissatisfied, we could have changed her course of treatment during the process. Unlike medicare recipients, if our insurance did not cover expenses, we had the option of paying for costs ourselves. If we had needed to sell our house or liquidate our retirement plans to pay for her life, we would have done it. To put it bluntly, life is not fair. And when you're the unlucky one, you do what it takes.

I don't regret having to pay for her treatment while the indigent child in the next room was served without payment. That's part of life, too. I don't begrudge any of the doctors their incomes, either, these men and women who make life and death judgments every day.

I would be ballistic, however, if I or someone in my family was denied or deferred the opportunity for treatment. There is no "one size fits all" in the world of medicine.

Shouldn't there be many paths to explore in developing better healthcare outcomes for us and our fellow citizens? Do you really think that creating 111 additional government boards and panels with their thousands and thousands of administrators is the first option to try? Do you really think that most Americans are so callous and uncaring that the alternative to government supervised health care is to let people die? I think not.

Rather than reciting headlines and misleading statistics, we all should think for ourselves and investigate source information directly before flippantly assuming the position. With all the research available at our fingertips, there is no excuse for being uninformed or worse, a parrot of others.

In Texas, after tort reform, hospitals are finding their liability insurance costs dropping 20 percent. The hospitals are using these savings to provide additional charity care, upgrade staff, upgrade facilities and equipment, or in some cases simply stay open. Just imagine if you multiplied that across the nation.

If the choices are "lead, follow or get out of the way," I vote for the government to get out of the way. Let the smart, talented citizens of the greatest country in the world work on the problems directly.

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