Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thinking of Health Care

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about health care lately. As I approach 60 years of age, I suppose this is fairly common. My wife just had her second hip replaced at a fairly young age - I don't dare say it because she reads this column. In a few words; here is my take on my wife's experience:
Lousy forms - Great Doctor (surgeon) - Great nurses - Lousy forms - Great hospital - Lousy nurses - Adequate food (Hospital) - Lousy food (Rehab) - Disgusting food (Rehab) - Lousy forms - Too many computers - Lousy forms - Not enough nursing care - Lousy doctors - Lousy forms - Lousy ambulance drivers - Lousy roads - Lousy forms - Great physical therapists - Lousy forms - Good home care services - Lousy forms - Pain - Black and blue - Good insurance - Great husband!

OK; the great husband part might be a little much. We are both so lucky in the final analysis because we have health insurance. I can attest that my wife lived in considerable pain for a long time before the eventual diagnosis came our way. Even when we were informed that surgery would be required, the only question left was; when?

I can only imagine the pain that people will endure for years of their lives because they have no health insurance. Everyone in this country should have adequate health care. How can we improve health care and provide for keeping people well? Keep the good doctors - Keep the good nurses - Get some additional good nurses - Teach somebody how to cook - Teach ambulance drivers how to drive - Fix the damn roads - Fill out one form once (there was more time spent filling out forms than performing a complicated surgery) - Insist on good insurance for everyone - Keep the great husband.

My wife is so lucky because she has good health insurance and a good husband!! Let's see if she comments. She can't get to the computer yet!


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Health Care Public Option is Needed!

Ask yourself why the insurance companies are all fighting so hard to eliminate any chance of a public option? Why? Why? Dah! The insurance companies don't want the competition because the public option would blow them out of the water. Yes, Government can do it cheaper simply because there are no government employees expecting $25 million bonuses this year. It is a common misconception that government is always inefficient or more expensive.

I'll go back to my Postal Service example. When my son was living in Eastern Europe, I tried to mail a $50 package to him. He suggested using FedEx. The local FedEx office wanted $375 to send the package. I told them the package did not need a personal escort and left. The U.S. postal service took the package and I paid $42. The package arrived safe and sound. I immediately thought of all our citizens trying to mail care packages to Iran and Afghanistan. The U.S. Postal service is efficient and gets the job done for the lower cost.

When my son moved to Massachusetts from Rhode Island he moved from a semi-rural town to Cambridge, Mass. His auto insurance went down hundreds of dollars. Why? How could this be? Simple; the state of Massachusetts regulates the insurance companies (the few that agree to write insurance there) and the companies are held accountable. In Rhode Island, it's free market all of the way, and boy do we pay for it. Another side note: in Massachusetts the insurance companies are required to pay for any broken windshield. Not in Rhode Island, I've had to replace 3 because of our shitty roads.

Massachusetts, affectionately called Taxachusetts by the people that hate government is now projected to be leading the way out of the current recession. Many indicators are showing that Massachusetts never fell as far behind as most states and the recovery here is ahead of most states. Maybe the heavy hand of government is gently helping the people?

I do have a recommendation for a health care public option though. This is not my idea in its entirety as I heard one legislator outline something similar, but I can't remember who it was. I can't even remember whether the legislator was a Republican of Democrat, but I do remember thinking - that's a great idea! Simply put; the public insurance should kick in for catastrophic circumstances. If you define catastrophic illness as reaching a $100,000 threshold within a given period of time, the government would then assume the insurance and relieve the insurance company.

This would be a windfall for insurance companies, but the government should then insist on a commensurate reduction in premiums for their insured. This reduction would save all buyers of insurance as well as all business. This plan would provide a real shot in the arm for everyone struggling with today's costs. The government could hold the insurance companies feet to the fire by threatening to increase the catastrophic threshold if they don't respond by significantly reducing health care premiums. Business would not back away from health insurance commitments to employees because they could see their own bottom lines improving.

How do you pay for it? Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as Obama has suggested. Additionally, tie taxation rates on the drug companies to an index that follows their cost of medications in the United States as compared to the identical medications in foreign nations. One of two things will happen; either the cost of medications will drop dramatically in this country or the government will enjoy a huge windfall to pay for citizens with catastrophic illness.

Do it Democrats! Do it now! Forget the Republicans; don't you know that the first word that a baby likes to use is "No"! Sounds familiar; No. Where have I heard that lately? I guess from some baby somewhere!