Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Health Care Redux

The battle for quality and affordable health care continues.  I am so weary of fighting the Republicans who are determined to torpedo Obama's  health care reform, but "needs must".  While I am bitterly disappointed in the lack of a Public Option I think the Health Care Reform Act is a good beginning and can be improved on if it isn't destroyed by the radical right.

For any skeptics that still think we have the best health care system in the world I urge you to study the following graphic provided in the link below.  Please note that the figures speak for themselves.  We spend over twice as much per person on health care and get less bang for the buck than the next country.  And yet the ideologues continue to cry 'socialism' and bleat their lies about 'death panels' and a 'government takeover'.    Just another example of the know-nothings ignoring facts while lying about the true state of our broken health care system.   

It is disheartening that our great country is falling behind more progressive nations in so many ways.  We used to be the country to emulate.

If I were younger I would look into moving to the Netherlands where sanity in government is still possible.  Here's the link to charts that show just how terrible our health care system is compared to other industrialized countries.  They beat us hands down in cost per person and in quality of care.

Us versus the rest of the World

If you have absorbed the figures in the chart then read the following op-ed piece by Paul Krugman in the NYT.   

I assume I am not infringing on copy rights by publishing this because it can be shared. 

Patients Are Not Consumers 


Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I’ll explain in a minute. 
But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.” 
Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough. 
What has gone wrong with us? 
About that advisory board: We have to do something about health care costs, which means that we have to find a way to start saying no. In particular, given continuing medical innovation, we can’t maintain a system in which Medicare essentially pays for anything a doctor recommends. And that’s especially true when that blank-check approach is combined with a system that gives doctors and hospitals — who aren’t saints — a strong financial incentive to engage in excessive care.
Hence the advisory board, whose creation was mandated by last year’s health reform. The board, composed of health-care experts, would be given a target rate of growth in Medicare spending. To keep spending at or below this target, the board would submit “fast-track” recommendations for cost control that would go into effect automatically unless overruled by Congress.
Before you start yelling about “rationing” and “death panels,” bear in mind that we’re not talking about limits on what health care you’re allowed to buy with your own (or your insurance company’s) money. We’re talking only about what will be paid for with taxpayers’ money. And the last time I looked at it, the Declaration of Independence didn’t declare that we had the right to life, liberty, and the all-expenses-paid pursuit of happiness.
And the point is that choices must be made; one way or another, government spending on health care must be limited. 
Now, what House Republicans propose is that the government simply push the problem of rising health care costs on to seniors; that is, that we replace Medicare with vouchers that can be applied to private insurance, and that we count on seniors and insurance companies to work it out somehow. This, they claim, would be superior to expert review because it would open health care to the wonders of “consumer choice.” 
What’s wrong with this idea (aside from the grossly inadequate value of the proposed vouchers)? One answer is that it wouldn’t work. “Consumer-based” medicine has been a bust everywhere it has been tried. To take the most directly relevant example, Medicare Advantage, which was originally called Medicare + Choice, was supposed to save money; it ended up costing substantially more than traditional Medicare. America has the most “consumer-driven” health care system in the advanced world. It also has by far the highest costs yet provides a quality of care no better than far cheaper systems in other countries. 
But the fact that Republicans are demanding that we literally stake our health, even our lives, on an already failed approach is only part of what’s wrong here. As I said earlier, there’s something terribly wrong with the whole notion of patients as “consumers” and health care as simply a financial transaction. 
Medical care, after all, is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made. Yet making such decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge. Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping. 

That’s why we have medical ethics. That’s why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional. There’s a reason we have TV series about heroic doctors, while we don’t have TV series about heroic middle managers. 
The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just “providers” selling services to health care “consumers” — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values.


Kay Dennison said...

I agree, Darlene! In fact. given my health history. all rhe fighting is making me feel tired, depressed and very afraid. Toss in the Social Security fight and I'm terrified.

Alice thinks Denmark is the best option and invited me to go with her and hubby. I've considered going to Mexico. I'm told that I could pretty well down there.

rosaria said...

This is absolutely brilliant!

Darlene said...

*Kay Dennison - I have a friend whose husband (former professor at the U of A)refused to retire and ended up at a University in Mexico.
For several years she would travel to Tucson to see her doctors, but now she is quite happy with her medical care in Mexico. Maybe we should go together to check it out.

*rosaria - Thank you so much for your visit and nice comment.

Looking to the Stars said...

I to, am tired of what they are doing to us in this country. And I have thought that leaving the country would be a benefit but where does one go. You guys have given me some ideas, thanks :)

Darlene said...

*Looking to the Stars - It's fun to dream of leaving, but most of us will still prefer this country to the drawbacks of other ones. I think the answer is to keep fighting to make our country better by fighting for progressive values.

tnlib said...

According to the WHO, the US ranks 32nd in HC amongst industrialized nations. It's appalling that so many people opt for Republican lies to the detriment of their own health.

I used to dream of retiring to Mexico but with the drug cartel situation, it is no longer a viable option. Safety is a serious issue and it goes beyond the border towns.

Medicare doesn't cover HC in foreign countries.

Darlene said...

*tnlib - I know, I know. My friend is affluent enough and the cost of living in Mexico is so low that she is better off financially paying for her own medical treatment than she was in the U. S.. They live in Southern Mexico and are not affected by the drug cartel wars. She has a full time maid and loves her life, but I am leery. I still prefer my own country and am too old to learn Spanish.

tnlib said...

Darlene: I'm going to link that article on FB with credit back to you. It needs to be spread around.

Darlene said...

*tnlib - It's not necessary to credit me. Please just use the article.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks for sharing that EXCELLENT Krugman piece, Darlene!

Darlene said...

*Jack Jodell - You are very welcome. Paul Krugman always nails it.