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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Our Health Care Problem

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The New Yorker has a great article this week discussing the many problems the U.S. health care system faces (too many to list in this sentence) and I’ve posted the first four paragraphs, and a link to the rest of the article below.

It’s interesting to note that the article starts with the notion that health care reform, in many industrialized nations, develops after extreme examples of cruelty are made public. And the Bush administration provided many examples (again, too many to list in this parenthetical, but SCHIP being one example, as Bush vetoed the bill passed by the Senate and the House — except the House didn’t have enough votes in favor of the bill to override a veto — in 2007; UnitedHealth reimbursement fraud, etc.) of why health care reform and the way we look at medical treatment in the 21st century needs to evolve and become more accessible and affordable.

United Health, the biggest U.S. health insurer, announced last week it would settle over $400 million in manipulated payments made to doctors and patients for the past 15 years, which resulted in myriad financial hardships for many who were insured by UnitedHealth. And what UnitedHealth (and several other U.S. health insurers) has been doing needs to be put to an end or companies like UnitedHealth need to be severely punished for manipulating not just health care services and payments, but the trust of the individual that is paying a company monthly to ostensibly take care of the individual or his family when they need the medical attention or treatment most.

From The New Yorker:

Getting There from Here

How should Obama reform health care?

by Atul Gawande

In every industrialized nation, the movement to reform health care has begun with stories about cruelty. The Canadians had stories like the 1946 Toronto Globe and Mail report of a woman in labor who was refused help by three successive physicians, apparently because of her inability to pay. In Australia, a 1954 letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald sought help for a young woman who had lung disease. She couldn’t afford to refill her oxygen tank, and had been forced to ration her intake “to a point where she is on the borderline of death.” In Britain, George Bernard Shaw was at a London hospital visiting an eminent physician when an assistant came in to report that a sick man had arrived requesting treatment. “Is he worth it?” the physician asked. It was the normality of the question that shocked Shaw and prompted his scathing and influential 1906 play, “The Doctor’s Dilemma.” The British health system, he charged, was “a conspiracy to exploit popular credulity and human suffering.”

In the United States, our stories are like the one that appeared in the Times before Christmas. Starla Darling, pregnant and due for delivery, had just taken maternity leave from her factory job at Archway & Mother’s Cookie Company, in Ashland, Ohio, when she received a letter informing her that the company was going out of business. In three days, the letter said, she and almost three hundred co-workers would be laid off, and would lose their health-insurance coverage. The company was self-insured, so the employees didn’t have the option of paying for the insurance themselves—their insurance plan was being terminated.

“When I heard that I was losing my insurance, I was scared,” Darling told the Times. Her husband had been laid off from his job, too. “I remember that the bill for my son’s delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself.” So she prevailed on her midwife to induce labor while she still had insurance coverage. During labor, Darling began bleeding profusely, and needed a Cesarean section. Mother and baby pulled through. But the insurer denied Darling’s claim for coverage. The couple ended up owing more than seventeen thousand dollars.

The stories become unconscionable in any society that purports to serve the needs of ordinary people, and, at some alchemical point, they combine with opportunity and leadership to produce change. Britain reached this point and enacted universal health-care coverage in 1945, Canada in 1966, Australia in 1974. The United States may finally be there now. In 2007, fifty-seven million Americans had difficulty paying their medical bills, up fourteen million from 2003. On average, they had two thousand dollars in medical debt and had been contacted by a collection agency at least once. Because, in part, of underpayment, half of American hospitals operated at a loss in 2007. Today, large numbers of employers are limiting or dropping insurance coverage in order to stay afloat, or simply going under—even hospitals themselves.

Article continues here.