Thursday, June 18, 2009

Health Care Wake-up Call

Congress is "utterly asleep" and "clueless" on the whole health care debate, and the members need a wake-up call about the realities of the system, according to Dr. Jeffrey Feldman, editor of political blog Frameshop, and contributor to the Huffington Post. Ultimately, there is a lot of blowing smoke and soundbites on the issue, as well as entrenched outrage and suspicion. Thus, I am with Dr. Feldman on the need to cut through the politics and solve the problem.

Supposedly, the health care debate is between one group of people who make fortunes via the insanely profitable insurance and pharmaceutical industries and another group of people who want to make sure everybody in American has access to 'affordable' health care. Consider this simple fact: The number of Americans without health care coverage is so big, and has been growing for such a long time, that we can now simply say that the United States is a country with a systemic lack of health care for its citizens.

This is a salient point that needs much honesty. The reality is that America has the best available health care in one of the worst possible systems. And that's just not right. So, how to maintain the quality care without sacrificing it for efficiency and universality.

In a nation with a systemic lack of health care, there is a radical divide between the haves and the have-nots. Those with health care live in a world that is radically different from those who live in a world without it. The haves are able to treat their health like any other good or service in the economy. Because health care is a privilege of income, the haves can go out and buy health care whenever they want, even to the point of excess. And so health care becomes not just a means to feeling better, but a luxury good to be consumed with lavish abandon.

As much as the tone of this can be disconcerting, and it invokes passionate ideological responses, there is much validity to the statement.

Those without health care, by contrast, live in a much different world. For the have-nots, appetite for procedures and pills in the health care market is replaced by constant concern about a future health crisis or incident. Life without health care becomes a constant game of odds making: I if I spend X dollars on this procedure, will I be able to afford Y and Z 18 months down the road? How long, at my age, would it be wise to go uninsured? Can I risk coverage for my children, but not for myself? Is 5 years too long to go without getting a full physical? How about 7? If the lump in my breast does not hurt, can it be that bad? And so on, and so forth. What happens when millions of people spend decades without health care is so shocking and so heartbreaking, that anyone who thinks about it would be instantly offended by the current Congressional debate.

Again, I understand the emotional and ideological hairs going up on the back of some necks. Yet, the only conclusion I can draw is this: It's just not right. This sort of discrepancy and systemic failure is just not right. What the answer is? Well, that's the problem. But the fact is we have a problem. And the realities of today are just not right.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Identifying when something is wrong doesn't exactly help the situation.
It's a moral challenge to those of us covered by health care to sit idly by and watch those without attempt to live their lives as frugally as possible but minus the ability to visit a doctor.
I have worked in a hospital in my lifetime, and it's heartbreaking to either watch people become denied by their own insurance or denied the right to live a healthier life because beaurocracy has stepped in the way. I have had a cousin who found a lump in her breast, was told by a physician friend of hers that it was likely malignant, but she could not afford the tests to actually learn her own fate, nonetheless afford the treatment.
It's true that something isn't right. It's also true that not much can be done. We, as Americans, would become ridiculous as a country to nationalize health care. The quality of care would decrease, the number of hypochondriacs would skyrocket and nobody could acquire adequate care, all on the nation's dwindling tab.
I suppose we will all have to wait until the Michael P. Mazenko Really Smart Guy Health Care System graces the internet.
Or The MPM Socially Magical Adequate Reform of Therapeutics.
Or, MPM= SMART. I think that speaks for itself.

Daughter of Eve said...

Hey Uncle Michael! Just wanted to let you know I found you're blog. :) I'll bookmark it. :D

~Queen Lucy~

mmazenko said...

Interesting commentary - and valid and true.

Yet, in terms of the USA, the really smart plan is in the offering - it's the HAA or the FEHBP.

Can't figure out why people aren't talking about it as an alternative.

Any thoughts?

Maiden of Rohan said...

Good grief, you and Anonymous sure had a long debate on "Perspectives on Health Care and Politics"!! :P :P I'm kind of leaning towards his side...But anyway. :P I find this a very different type of blog. :P

Maiden of Rohan said...

Side note: I'm not making fun of it or anything, just giving my observation. ;)

mmazenko said...

Queen Lucy,

How nice to hear from you. It was wonderful visiting with you. Drop by the blog from time to time.

mmazenko said...

Maiden of Rohan,

Thanks for discovering the blog and commenting. Hopefully, it will remain interesting to you.