Monday, November 23, 2009

Dose of Reality: My Rogue Big Toe

Neil Davis' latest Dose of Reality confronts a cost-saving measure often touted by those who don't follow their thought through to its consequences:
One oft-repeated conservative mantra we hear nowadays is the one telling us that the road to health care reform requires each of us to take on more personal responsibility for our own health care. You have to read between the lines to get the intended message here: each of us needs to take care of our own—and nobody else’s—health care needs. In there also is the idea that we should not help raise overall health care costs by running off to the doctor with every little sniffle and ache.
Davis experienced the hidden ingrown toenail in this viewpoint: quite literally.
I suddenly found myself unable to walk and with severe pain that improved only slowly as I spent the next two days in the Intensive Care Unit of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and then, after being Medivaced to Anchorage, another nine days in the ICU of Providence Hospital.
Sometimes, it's best to let the experts deal with small things, before they turn into big expensive painful things. And since your average person doesn't have the training to recognize when a small thing can become dangerous, how can one distinguish between "taking responsibility" and "risking life and limb"?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baucus bill written by Wellpoint

An interview today on Democracy Now! with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler makes it clear that the health care reform bill is skewed. Woolhandler explains:
The reform process in Washington has been hijacked by the private health insurance industry. If you look at the Baucus framework, which was the basis of the Senate bill—it’s on the Senate Finance Committee website. Just right-click on that document, and it turns out the author of the document was Elizabeth Fowler, who’s a former vice president of Wellpoint, the nation’s largest private insurance company, covering 35 million people. So the private insurance industry has hijacked the process. What’s come out of the House, what’s likely to come out of the Senate, is a completely inadequate bill that takes about $500 billion in taxpayer money and hands it over to the private health insurance industry.

… the Massachusetts plan is considered the model for the national legislation. There’s a mandate that makes it illegal to refuse to purchase private health insurance. The fine is up to $1,068. The good thing with the Massachusetts plan was there was a big Medicaid expansion, but you didn’t need to do the mandates in order to do the Medicaid expansion.

Much of the Massachusetts plan has been wildly expensive. According to the state’s report to its bondholders, it’s cost $1.3 billion this year. The state has opted to pay for that by stealing money from safety net clinics and hospitals, so that safety net providers that care for immigrants, the mentally ill, people with substance abuse, that provide primary care, they’ve seen their funds shrunken, so that money could be handed over to purchase insurance policies. Massachusetts now has the highest healthcare costs in the history of the world.
Democracy Now! has been closely following the health care reform issue. For further background on this bill, see also this recent interview with Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Jane Hamsher.