A Depressing Story

06 Feb
Supporter of a single-payer health care plan d...

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Healthcare-Now!, an organization working to push for a National Single-Payer Healthcare System has an ongoing petition to convince Congress to pass the National Health Insurance Act (HR676). Currently, this legislation is the only one that will create a national, single-payer healthcare system. Like me they seem to have the same opinion on healthcare, “We see healthcare as a human right, not a privilege tied to the ability to pay.”

Part of Healthcare-Now!’s petition process includes the option for signers to include personal stories of how they were let down by our current healthcare system. One of these accounts left me particularly depressed. I’ll include it below, but if you’d like to see it on their site you can do so here.

Dear Speaker Boehner:

My husband died in 2003 due to lack of care for diabetes and cancer after we lost our health insurance. There were times we couldn’t get insulin and no churches or private agencies could help either. We lost our home, our business and eventually him, because the only jobs I could get didn’t offer health insurance, but I made too much for him to qualify for Medicaid.

We finally had to separate and he move to another state that had better Medicaid, but the damage of not having had care had already taken it’s toll. He lost a leg the year before dying, and was in misery for 8 years while dying. He didn’t deserve this. He had worked HARD since he was 12, as have I.

I only recently qualified for medicare having gone for 12 years with no care due to a lack of insurance. I have chronic illnesses that will cut my life short, but even worse, I will not be productive during this time, whereas had I gotten care when I needed it, I would still be working today. We who need health reform and insurance are not lazy. We just don’t come from the same world you do…white, privileged male.

Portland, OR

How many more of these stories are we going to have to hear before we start caring, caring about the wellbeing of our country as a whole, caring about our parents, our grandparents, our friends, and our neighbors. This story is one of many, the petition is full of other disheartening stories just like it. Families filing for bankruptcy due to medical bills, a community clinic physician discussing the numerous times he’s seen people dying with no way to seek treatment, on and on and on. This needs to stop!

I happened to be reading comments on a news article about healthcare the other day when one particular comment caught my eye, it was cold, selfish, and heartless and I pray there aren’t many others that feel this same way. I can’t remember the specific wording of the comment but the gist of it was, “Natural selection, if these people can’t afford healthcare than we’re better off without them.” OH MY GOD! What the hell is wrong with this person. This isn’t ancient Greece, we don’t have to toss people in to a canyon that don’t fit in with the definition of a supreme race. That’s essentially what this person was saying. I’ve always wanted to ask someone like this if they’d be willing to kill someone, I’m guessing they’d say no, but with an attitude like that they’re willing to kill by inaction.

Somethings got to give, and it better be soon.


Posted by on February 6, 2011 in General


6 responses to “A Depressing Story

  1. Pat Reagin

    February 8, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    The reference was indeed to communism and the statement was not about Russia’s current debt. When you say that Cuba’s healthcare was recently praised you need to look at who was doing the praising. That’s like me saying that Fox News praised Sean Hannity for being bi-partisan.

    Ahh yes, the death panels. I don’t know why that is so hard to believe, I think they call it “end of life counseling”. Have you never seen “Soylent Green”?

    • Nick

      February 8, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      So…Communism = example of single-payer failure???
      Who was doing the praising? Try the World Health Organization and their 2010 report on healthcare statistics.

      While Cuba indicated 100% of births being attended by a skilled health professional the US can only reach 99%, not much but certainly no indication of a failure of their healthcare system. In distribution of of health workforce the US is at 20-29.9 per 10,000 population, Cuba is greater than or equal to 30 per 10,000. They don’t specifically come out and praise it but the data speaks for itself. Given the crappy situation many Cubans are in and the fact that they’re under a dictatorship is pretty impressive that their healthcare seems to do so well.

      This isn’t an indicator that we should be migrating to Communism nor is it solid proof that a single payer system is perfect. But using those two factors as arguments against a single payer system just doesn’t hold up.

      End of life counseling is a common practice, at least in the United States, and is nothing more than helping patients that have failing health plan accordingly. This include making funeral arrangements, planning wills, and deciding if DNR orders should be made. All of these things are decisions made by the patient, not a doctor and not a politician. Sarah Palin and her Republican buddies got their hands on this one and twisted it to mean something entirely different to push their agenda. The reason it even came up is that in recent Medicare regulation end-of-life counseling is mentioned as being covered as part of a Medicare patient’s annual checkup (wellness visit) should the patient wish to discuss the issue with their physician, nothing more. This is part of the aging process, and it was important to make sure that people that were approaching the end of their life were given the opportunity to discuss the issue and get the help needed to make necessary plans for the inevitable. You’re probably thinking, “Well, then why did they remove it from the Medicare rules for annual checkups.” The reason is very simple, because nobody would let the “death panel” nonsense go. The conservatives got their hooks in it and just wouldn’t let up, it was just easier to forget the whole thing than try and convince everyone that it meant something entirely different from the lies they had been told. These lies tried to equate end-of-life counseling, a concept that has existed for decades, with marching the expensive and no longer valuable citizens into gas chambers, ala WWII genocide style. I know the Conservatives love comparing Liberals and Democrats to Nazis, but when did truly caring for someone in the last weeks/months/years of their lives become a Nazi idea.

      I haven’t seen Soylent Green, I know, however, that the characters eventually discover that dead people are made into the Soylent Green product. I suppose the producers were former time travelers that got the idea from their recent trip to 2010. 😉

  2. Pat Reagin

    February 7, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    You actually did say that healthcare is a human right: “Like me they seem to have the same opinion on healthcare,’We see healthcare as a human right, not a privilege tied to the ability to pay’.” You said it yourself that we already pay for the un-insured. So, since we already pay for it, why do we need the single payer system? Why can’t we try to reform the problem before we do something drastic that flies in the face of our founding principles? Polish the turd as you say, or at least try to make a silk purse out of a sows ear before we flush the so callled turd.

    You mention that it is the evil insurance company that doesn’t care about the people they insure. That’s not really true. Of course they care about the bottom line, but in the end, what good is it to them if you get sicker or die? “Maintaining profits”, yup that’s right, the insurance company is in business to make a profit, their profit iis regulated (limited) by the government at about 3%. I’ll use myself as an example: If I had to operate on a 3% profit margin, I would need to sell $745,000 worth of widgets to make a living above the poverty line. Does that seem fair? I’m not saying that they should make more profit. I definitely wouldn’t do away with that limit, but the insurance companies are not what is making healthcare so expensive.

    The FDA and USDA are in place for “PUBLIC HEALTH” not the individual’s health. Yes there is a huge difference. “Public Health” is boiled down to the prevention of the spread of disease. The other thing they do is consumer protection by ensuring that a drug does what it says it does.

    I never want to hear about another person going bankrupt because of medical bills either, but I also don’t want to hear about how someone has to die because they are waiting for health care that is being rationed by the government. Would you agree that it is better to go bankrupt than to die in a hospital waiting for care? Wouldn’t you rather go bankrupt than have some government council or regulation tell your mother that they won’t pay for her treatment for uterine cancer because she’s over a certain age and really doesn’t have much societal value left?

    You need to take a look at nanny state countries like Greece, Ireland, England, Portugal, Spain and Canada (to name a few) to see what is really going on in countries that give free healthcare to its citizens. They are all going broke. In a lot of those countries they are trying to get away from those systems to keep from going completely broke (Greece) and their citizens are rioting like spoiled children when you take away a toy. That is the end result of these types of programs. The three countries that have the most experience with single payer health care are: USSR (now Russia), Cuba and North Korea. I shouldn’t need to say more.

    • Nick

      February 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      You’re right, I forgot I had quoted their website, I actually do feel the same way. The problem with doing it the way we have been is that the uninsured go to the ER for even the smallest of problems, those trips are significantly more expensive than if they were covered by some form of insurance and were able to visit a plain old physician. These costs that the hospitals incur are then spread out amongst all of us and are partially paid for with tax dollars. I would love to say that reform would work, but it won’t, at the end of the day healthcare will still be too expensive, and we will still be leaving millions uninsured. What reforms could possibly fix this broken system? I’ve heard lots of people talk about how allowing the insurance companies to sell across state lines would be like this silver bullet that magically makes insurance cheaper. How? By allowing competition? Nonsense, they’ll still have no reason to compete, they’re all making money and don’t see any reason to change that, why compete when you can all pretty much charge the same and make a decent profit on the side. “flies in the face of our founding principles,” I continue to submit to you medicare, social security, public schools, libraries and road systems, all perfect examples of systems flying in the face of our founding principles. You know, over time, we’ve shed a few of our other “founding principles,” think of slavery and woman’s voting rights, these principles are blemishes on our past but as we matured as a nation we began to see the errors of our ways and took steps to mitigate them.

      There is some truth to your words, yes, at the end of the day the insurance companies exist to serve their customers. If the customers die that’s lost profit. However, I’ve heard far too many stories of patients who died because their coverage was cancelled because they became too expensive for the insurance provider. That is what I’m talking about. When the cost of a patient exceeds the profit you’ve earned from them you cut them off. Lifetime maximums would be another prime example of a provider whose focus is on their bank accounts and not their customers. I get it, businesses exist to make a profit, but I’ll go back to the same argument, our health, maybe isn’t the best place for some corporation to be trying to maximize profits. In just about any other place I’m perfectly fine with Capitalism, just not with our health. True, health insurance companies aren’t only to blame, their profit margins hover around Costco’s, hospitals, physicians and pharmaceutical companies deserve a share of the blame as I said in my post about healthcare. As I was saying from end-to-end our system is broken.

      We’re splitting hairs now. To me, there is no difference between public health and individual health. The only difference is that one covers everyone and the other is just one. And no, that is not a huge difference. Health is health is health, regardless of how a government agency sees to its citizen’s health it’s still health. Out of all the nations in the world we’re probably the only one that has citizens that think these two things are truly different. Keep in mind also, when a country’s citizens are healthy they can work, when they can work they can earn money and contribute to the economy and help keep the Capitalism going strong, just saying.

      “Rationed by the government,” I haven’t heard of healthcare being rationed by the government in any countries that subscribe to a single-payer system. There are no limitations in place as to how often a person goes to the doctor and health decisions (at least in Canada) are between the patient and his or her physician. The only times a person might be restricted when it comes to healthcare is with elective or experimental procedures, but that is the same way with our system. Did you know that recent research found that, with Canada’s system for instance, overall wait times for various care went nose-to-nose with ours. While we did better with wait times for normal physicians, diagnostic tests, specialists, and elective surgeries. Canada excelled with obtaining non-emergency care on nights, weekends, and holidays. However, don’t confuse that with confirmation that our system is better, New Zealand and Germany consistently surpassed our scores on all counts. When it comes to emergency rooms, where that life threatening part actually becomes extremely important, they all do it the same way we do, in order of severity. Oh no, you believed the lies about the death panels didn’t you, I don’t even understand where this rumor came from. The fact of the matter is is that your health decisions are between you and your doctor, just as they are now, the only times the government might step in and say no is if a procedure you were looking to have done was experimental or elective and guess what, our insurance companies work exactly the same way. Why would they want to pay for a treatment that you are choosing to get or has no guarantee of actually working. We keep coming back to the philosophy that reaching bankruptcy, after a life event, is perfectly okay, so long as we aren’t paying for some “parasite’s” healthcare.

      Greece is in serious trouble, yes, but have a look here, Greece 2010 Debt Crisis, did you see anything about healthcare being the culprit for their financial woes. Have a look at this a list of sovereign states by public debt. We’re number 12, Ireland is just a tad bit worse at 11 with 98.5% of GDP. The UK, at 68.1% beats us out at the 22nd place. Portugal, 16th place, 83.2%. Spain 63.4%, 28th place. And Canada, 38.1%, 17th place. Hardly an indicator of failure and hardly evidence of public healthcare destroying these nation’s economies. If by your definition these countries are going broke than so is the United States, and if that’s the case than how can that be a valid argument against public healthcare. Try this, here’s a map showing total debt owed to creditors outside of a country, the US is as low as the map goes, sure several members of the EU are there to, but I would venture a guess and say that the cause of that was their bailouts to Greece. Has Greece been considering eliminating their public healthcare, yes, but they haven’t actually done that. As of now they are looking to perform some simple reforms to keep it from bankrupting itself. Greece’s healthcare system was ranked one of the best by the World Health Organization and also happens to be the cheapest in the world, perhaps they made it too cheap. Using Greece as an example of how public healthcare doesn’t work and as an indicator of how one would fail in the States doesn’t hold up. While their system needs fixing, so does ours, but theirs doesn’t necessarily require a complete gutting, just a little reorganization. Like I’ve said before, all of these failures are nothing more than opportunities for us to learn how to do it right.

      Since you first called Russia, USSR, I assume you’re drawing attention to Communism. Russia isn’t even a Communist nation anymore, Cuba may be Communist but I have no idea why we’re so afraid of them (besides, they’re healthcare has been highly praised and their public education trumps ours in many cases), and North Korea…well…that would be a dictatorship and are thus disqualified for using as a comparison for any reason other than showing how a dictatorship generally doesn’t work. I would like to draw your attention back to that list of sovereign states by public debt. Where is Russia? Oh, look at that, all the way at the bottom 123rd place with 9.5% GDP. Cuba? 34.4% 84th place. After looking at the data I don’t see any possibly, valid arguments amongst these examples except an irrational fear of Communism as a result of the Cold War.

      In conclusion, healthcare should be considered a human right, I don’t know who concluded that it shouldn’t be or thought they had the right to make that decision but we’re gonna have to change our way of thinking. Healthcare is prohibitively expensive in its current state and the entire industry deserves the blame and needs to be fixed. The government should very well be concerned with our health, as healthy citizens contribute to a healthy economy. And countries that utilize a single-payer system are all over the map when it comes to their financial situation which is not an indicator of any failure on the part of the single-payer system.

  3. Pat Reagin

    February 6, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    We don’t need to push them off the cliff, but the government doesn’t have to make sure that they are cured either. This sounds heartless yes, but there is not enough money in the world, let alone enough money in this country, to make sure that everyone has free healthcare. Is it sad? Hell yes, it’s sad! Do you pray everyday that something like this doesn’t happen to someone you love? Of course, but I’m sorry, healthcare is not a human right. The government owes you the safety (through laws, regulations and military defense) to live your life as you see fit.The government does not owe you a healthy life.

    I love horror stories, is that perverse? Probably. In Canada they have a single payer type system, in America we don’t. In both systems you are going to hear horror stories of how the system fails the citizenry and great stories of how it saves lives and is so great. Neither one has tremendous benefit over the other except when it comes to money. In America it is on the individual to pay for his own healthcare, in Canada it is the “Collective”.

    Rather than saying a person has a right to healthcare, perhaps we should consider the following: Everyone has a right to AFFORDABLE healthcare. That seems like a better place to start.

    • Nick

      February 7, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      I still don’t understand why having a single-payer healthcare system is such a foreign and terrible concept to some people. “Everyone has free healthcare.” I don’t think I’ve heard anyone asking for free healthcare, we’ll still be paying for it. Will there be enough money for a system of this nature? Of course, have we forgotten that we already pay for the uninsured when they visit the ER for a cold? Sure, the poor and homeless won’t end up paying for their healthcare, so their insurance would be free.

      “Healthcare is not a human right.” I never said that, what I did say was that everyone has a right to be healthy. Regardless, who decided that health (or healthcare) is not a human right? The insurance companies who profit from consumer’s misfortune and illnesses? Yeah, I’m sure our health is their top priority. The politicians who receive kickbacks from the insurance companies? At what point did we conclude that a person’s health was a privilege? That it somehow shouldn’t be treated like food (food stamps), water (public drinking fountains), and shelter (homeless shelters).

      “The government owes you safety.” Absolutely, but who said that the extent of that safety ends with laws, regulations and military defense? I’m pretty sure Medicare and Social Security fall outside of those categories. The government could regulate and regulate the healthcare industry until they have writer’s cramp, in an attempt to make it affordable, but the healthcare providers and insurance companies will always find a way to make their profits because that’s all that matters to them.

      “The government does not owe you a healthy life.” Really? Explain the existence of the FDA and USDA, a prime example of the government giving me a healthy life by inspection of drug and food manufacturers. Sure, their strength is primarily through regulations but these departments’ existence just goes to show that someone, at some point, thought that the government owes us a healthy life in some form or another. Don’t forget, your tax dollars help support free clinics, which contradicts this argument all on its own.

      Yes, you will always find pros and cons to either system. You continue to argue that our system has an advantage when it comes to money. How? It’s that baseless argument yet again, that somehow our system is better just because each person pays for his or her own healthcare. First, I don’t see how this could be seen as a benefit; it’s nothing more than a fundamental difference. Secondly, how do you think health insurance works? It’s broken up into smaller groups because of the numerous insurance providers, but it’s still a “collective.” The healthier of the insured prop up the less healthy; the cost is spread out amongst all of the insured. Ever notice your insurance premiums going up even though you rarely require healthcare services? That’s because there were several, more expensive patients within your group, and to maintain profits the carrier increased the premiums for everyone. There was some “regulation” in place to help curb this, by requiring insurance providers to use a certain percentage of a patient’s premiums on actual healthcare, but we all know what’s happening with those regulations.

      Tell you what. Rather than maintaining the delusion that our current system can somehow, magically be made affordable. Let’s just say that our current system is beyond repair, because it is, and that nothing short of a complete tear down is going to be necessary. You can polish a turd all you want, but when you get done, all you’ve got is a really shiny turd. It’s time to flush this one down and start fresh.

      At this point I can clearly see that a single-payer system will never be a reality in this country, due to misinformation and an ill-founded prejudice towards it. So a compromise is obviously the only option, this compromise needs to account for the numerous uninsured and yet make healthcare affordable to everyone. I never want to hear about someone filing for bankruptcy because they had to go the hospital for something that may have been completely beyond their control again. I also never want to hear about someone unable to afford healthcare dying because they didn’t want to be a burden to the system. These two scenarios are unacceptable and unbecoming of the world’s greatest nation.


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