A Human Right
Posted by Fshrmon
Last night we had a crazy thunder and lighting storm, the humidity fueling this storm with pounding rain. The dog was freaked out and jumpy, so I spent hours just rubbing her belly to let her know that it was going to be alright. While waiting for Susy to get home from class I took the quiet opportunity to read a bit, I feel a backlog right now of magazines and books piled high and I want to read them all. So, while rubbing the dogs belly, I thumbed through my most recent Time magazine that arrived. I came across some statistics that I found alarming and disturbing. While our politicians argue over our energy crisis, that we even had the foresight to predict, these other issues get pushed to the background. In my mind, the energy crisis is actually fairly easy to solve, it’s legislation that makes it difficult to achieve, oh yeah those pesky lobbyists make it worse too. I believe that education, income and health should be a top priority. Here’s what I read: EDUCATION 1 in 4 Americans do not graduate from high school on time, INCOME 1 in 5 American children live in poverty and HEALTH 1 in 6 Americans do not have health insurance http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1823926,00.html). The number one reason people declare bankruptcy is because of medical bills (http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/bankruptcy_study.html). This system is broken, and has been for years. I find myself the older I get, moving father along to the left and pushing the realms of socialism. Especially, when it comes to healthcare. People’s health is a right, not a privilege based on those who can afford, or for that matter, those who take better care of themselves. A person, is a person and everyone has the right to live. However they choose to live that life. That too is their right.
Back in 1999 I had an appendectomy without health insurance. The ER visit, surgery and 5 days in the hospital cost me $8,000, thank god that the hospital in St. Thomas at the time did not have air conditioning or TV’s in the rooms, I’d hate to have to pay for those services too. When I was reviewing my bills, the one line item that was my favorite was the latex gloves used for the surgery cost me $4/pr and there were I believe 4-5 people who needed them. Now that’s a bullshit markup.There is no rationale in the world that makes that ok. Right before I went under, I was talking to the anesthesiologist about how much he was going to cost, he told me it was $300 for him to just stick the needle in my spine (I was having a spinal tap), then it was going to be $75 every 15 min. to keep an eye on me, then I had to pay for the actual drug and he didn’t know how much that was, the hospital would charge me for that. I asked him if he could just hit me in the head with a baseball bat for $50 and we call it good. Of course he didn’t. This isn’t a sob story, it is what it is, and because of this hospital stay my credit is fucked until at-least 2010, and probably a few years after that. Ahh the windfall of the medical machine. The reciprocal of this same story is that while living in Ojai, I knew a man who often came into the brew pub I was working at, and then one day he didn’t come in. When I asked what happened, I was told that he too had an appendectomy, but because he didn’t have any insurance, and knew he couldn’t afford the hospital, he curled up on a friends front porch one night, waiting for him to come home, and died from a ruptured appendix.
If we examine the health care system in Germany and other European countries they are far superior to our own system. Yes, there are stories of people waiting in long lines for major medical care and they may die before they get their care, but doesn’t that already happen here. What is the current waiting list like for a heart or liver transplant? Yeah, that’s what I thought, a long ass time, and the person waiting may die while waiting. Sounds the same to me. The only difference is that the person, not from the land of the Free, will actually get their heart for free. While the other will have to pay some ridiculous amount for it.
Then there’s the evil word of tax. Your damn right. A socialist health care system is paid for by taxation, on a sliding scale. In Germany it’s 8% of your annual income. You can see anyone you like, there is no in or out of network crap to deal with. No satanic HMO company who believes they get to play God and approve or not approve you for medical care you need. Here’s info about Germany’s health care system:
“Germany has the world’s oldest universal health care system, with origins dating back to Otto von Bismarck’s Health Insurance Act of 1883. As mandatory health insurance, it originally applied only to low-income workers and certain government employees, but has gradually expanded to cover virtually the entire population. Currently 85% of the population is covered by a basic ‘Statutory Health Insurance’ plan, which provides the standard level of coverage. The remainder opt for private health insurance, which frequently offers additional benefits. According to the World Health Organization, Germany’s health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2004.
The government’s role is chiefly regulatory. It convenes representatives of consumers, employers, health care professionals, workers unions, and the insurance industry annually to set national standards and reimbursement levels for particular services. Although the government regulates the process, it is administered by myriad health insurance providers and is financed chiefly by a combination of employer and employee contributions. The government also subsidizes the cost of Statutory Health Insurance for the unemployed. It partially reimburses the costs for low-wage workers, whose premiums are capped at a predetermined value. Higher wage workers pay a premium based on their salary. They may also opt for private insurance, which is generally more expensive, but whose price may vary based on the individual’s health status.
In Germany, most hospital care is provided by salaried physicians and nurses in public non-profit hospitals. A smaller number of private non-profit (e.g., church-owned) hospitals exist, but private hospitals are rare. Ambulatory care is generally provided by physicians in individual or small-group practices. Ambulatory care physicians may not be simultaneously employed by hospitals. Reimbursement is on a fee-for-service basis, but the number of physicians allowed to accept Statutory Health Insurance in a given locale is regulated by the government and professional societies.
As in many countries, rising health care costs have been a cause of concern and have led to a number of changes or reforms in the health care system. Capitated care, such as that provided by health maintenance organizations, has been prohibited since the 1930s, but has been recently reconsidered as a cost containment mechanism. Copayments were introduced in the 1980s in an attempt to prevent overutilization. The average length of hospital stay in Germany has decreased in recent years from 14 days to 9 days, still considerably longer than average stays in the U.S. (5 to 6 days). Part of the difference is that the chief consideration for hospital reimbursement is the number of hospital days as opposed to procedures or diagnosis. Drug costs have increased substantially, rising nearly 60% from 1991 through 2005. However, because of the relative simplicity and universality of the reimbursement mechanisms the administrative costs are low, at 160 euro per capita. Despite attempts to contain costs, overall health care expenditures rose to 10.7% of GDP in 2005, comparable to other western European nations, but substantially less than that spent in the U.S. (nearly 16% of GDP).”
Here’s an article that NPR did on the German health care system and most people are happy with it: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91971406.
What triggered this rant today was another NPR story I heard on my drive into work today, about two people suffering from MS, one lives in the US and the other in the UK (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92067101). One is paying $30/wk for physical therapy and the other has lost their house, declared bankruptcy, can’t afford their prescriptions and is on a two year waiting list to see if they WILL get covered by medicare. I’ll give you two guess, but the first two don’t count as for who lives where. This isn’t fuzzy liberal thinking, it should be a basic human right, being a doctor is a job, yes long hours, expensive schooling, etc, but even when they get out, they’ll make a decent living and be able to pay off those school loans, provided they don’t get sick.