Friday, July 31, 2009

Universal Healthcare

The debate is out. I'm on the fence.

On the one hand, I totally disagree with people that say we have the best health care in the world, as we discussed in the comments on my rant and rave post earlier this week. We may have great resources and fantastic doctors available, but are they actually accessible? I really question that. I have multiple refugee families that I know that feel like they can't go to the doctor, period. No matter what. Medicaid pretty much covers the very bottom rung of people, and even most poor refugee families don't fall into that category. However, they don't make enough money to pay for health insurance, thereby making all health care inaccessible.

I also have a number of young working friends that have the type of jobs that don't offer health care coverage. During a period where they didn't have insurance, they had an unexpected hospital trip and dental surgery, and the costs were astronomical.

Then there's us - two young professionals who were living in Chicago, covered by a great insurance plan by Aetna insurance through my work. They are a great provider, and Chicago is a huge city. However, when my husband's foot was badly burned and he needed to see a burn specialist to get skin grafts, Aetna told us that they did not cover ANY burn specialists in the city of Chicago. I asked what in the world I could do... and they had no options for me. RIDICULOUS.

So, here's the thing. I see two options.
1. We open up our system so that insurance, pharmaceuticals, and health care are actually competitive, capitalist systems that we are consumers of. Right now that is NOT what we have. Insurance and pharmaceuticals are a wall that the average consumer cannot access or analyze because they keep their information private.

2. We go for universal health care. People bash the health care in Canada and England, but in my experience the general health care there is much more accessible and better than what we have here. Yes, we'd raise taxes to cover it, but I genuinely question whether the cost I'll end up paying will be more than what I currently pay on work insurance plans.

This is a story written by a guy on a Yelp talk thread discussing universal health care:

Fact: When my pregnant wife and I were in Montreal, she was spotting at at risk of losing our baby. We found a hospital emergency room and were whisked into an examination room within 2 minutes of our arrival. Ultrasound, doctor consult and we were out of there in less than an hour - total cost : 7 dollars2 weeks later the routine repeated itself and this time we were in the states.... 90 minute wait in the emergency room- Ultrasound, doctor consult and we were out of there in 4 hours 30 minutes. Total cost $650- I remember joking that the cheap foam slippers they made her wear were going to cost as much as the hospital visit in Canada - I was correct 7 bucks.


Sturgmom said...

This is quite a can of worms and not something that can be fully hammered out in the comments section of your blog. SO here's my $0.02...

I think good/bad experiences in our current system as well as in a UHC system are going to happen. No system is perfect, so we should be wary of using anecdotal evidence to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

No one in America has NO access to healthcare. Hospitals cannot refuse to treat people. Yes, I know that minor illnesses clogging ERs b/c people don't have insurance and cannot pay (but they cannot be turned away) costs the taxpayers in the long run, BUT they can recieve treatment. I do NOT see this as long-term solution, more like a technicality, but it does happen to be the case.

I will say this: 1) I have no idea what a really good solution would look like, although I agree that we need something different. 2) I'm against the government deciding for me and my family what treatments they will and won't allow. I do not view many government programs as efficient or effective. I do not believe that politicians truly have the people's best interest at heart. And 3) Here's an interesting article (I honestly do not know the political leanings of the site. This article was linked in another board I visit and I thought the article was insightful.).

Kacie said...

Yeah, that is how Isaac's burn ended up being treated - we had to go to the emergency room of a community hospital (can private hospitals refuse to treat people? We were told to go to a community hospital). It was probably the second most horrible place I've ever been - druggies, prisoners in chains, people weeping, people talking to themselves, dirty and hopeless. BUT - they gave healthcare to all, so all came.

I guess I am not AS skeptical about government programs than many people. They can become burdened with bureaucracy, but they can also work, and I see our system NOW as been burdened with bureaucracy. I guess I see my friends from England come to the US and be afraid of what will happen to them if they get sick, because they view our healthcare as being so inaccessible. The people I work with who work overseas buy their drugs overseas. When my family was overseas we stocked up on the needed drugs for things like malaria or basic infections, because if we got sick when we returned to the US we would pay thousands in hospital fees, and it worked better if we treated ourselves

BUT - I do agree that I might prefer a competitive system - I just don't think that's what we have now, and I am not afraid of universal healthcare. That was a good article - The Atlantic usually is! They tend to be somewhat socially liberal probably just because they are a secular news source, but they try to reach across the lines between conservative and liberal. Mostly they are known for amazing, in depth reporting.

The last line in the article is interesting - "If I lived in New Zealand I wouldn't be dead - just a lot poorer". So essentially, the healthcare she needed would have been available, just paid in full by her, probably? The question is - would the ultimate cost even out between the rates we pay for our insurance over our lives, and the one time fees New Zealanders might pay for an expensive procedure?

Kacie said...

Another thought - the refugees I work for are struggling to avoid having children because they can't afford the healthcare involved in having a child as well as their early childhood sicknesses. The same actually goes for my husband and I - we've been unable to afford having children for most of our marriage so far. When I told this to my friend in Australia who really wants us to get going and join them in the journey of parenthood, they couldn't believe it. "What, the government doesn't give you money to help cover the cost of the child?"

Um no. :) It's not that I want the government to start handing out money, but I wish there was a balance between the two. Over there, they get over a hundred dollars a week for their infants, a big chunk when the child is born. Over here, you pay a bunch for the check-ups and hospital fees for the birth.