Monday, November 19, 2007

Note to Democratic Presidential Candidates, continued -- the other side of the coin

And I do mean coin.

Here's another Prickly City comic, this one from November 17, also taken from Yahoo! Comics. (Click to enlarge.)

My blogfriend Hilda responded to the preceding post, also illustrated with a Prickly City comic strip, in which I asked why we shouldn't be afraid of national health care in America. She said, "Because many other industrialized nations have socialized medicine and manage just fine. Despite recent election results and the fact that 'The Bachelor' is still on the air we're not dumber than they are, so we should be able to do it right."

But Jean-Luc Picard (who seems very well acquainted with conditions in 21st Century Britain for one piloting a starship in the 24th Century) responded, "The NHS isn't that good here in Britain."

But that's just an opinion. My blogfriend Claire has been writing about the trials and tribulations of her mother, the cupboard monster, and her on-again, off-again surgery and attendant complications. She wasn't being political -- she wrote as a concerned -- if almost completely irreverent -- daughter. I would not want necessary surgery for someone in my family set and canceled and set and canceled again because of someone else's priorities....

But, Hilda says, "[M]ost of the Democratic plans as I understand them will give you the option to maintain a private plan if you and/or your employer choose to BUT those who don't have that option will at least get some degree of health care so they don't die in the street like animals."

Point 1 first: Wal-Mart can't wait for national health care. Do you think any major American employer is going to continue to offer private health insurance (except maybe as a perk for top executives) once we get our own national health system? One of the big excuses for the decline of the American auto industry is that too much is paid into health and pension plans and not enough into coming up with cars that best the foreign competition.

Well, private pensions are already just about history. Do you think American auto manufacturers will offer private health insurance on day one after national health comes into effect?

Then Point 2: At least in Chicago, people don't die in the street from lack of health care. They may die waiting in line....

I had the uncomfortable experience of trying to get public health service for my brother a little more than a year ago. The lines before the clinic opened were horrific and the people waiting seemed listless and sullen and there was (it seemed to me) an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. We have great emergency care for the poor -- we have a number of public hospitals and all hospitals that accept public money -- and that's all of them -- are obliged to take a certain percentage of charity cases of lose that privilege. (There has been a modest scandal here about how few charity cases some of the Catholic hospitals really take. About all I can say for certain is that my brother had to be admitted recently -- and he was diagnosed with an "anxiety attack." The cynic in me says this is what hospitals call heart attacks when patients have no insurance; because of the minimal diagnosis, he could be, and was, released in only a day or two.)

Long lines and short staffing in clinics prompts people to overburden emergency services, even where there is no emergency. I have heard stories of expectant mothers calling 911 for rides to clinics for well-baby care. (In the stories I've heard and read the callers don't state the real reason in the call; they claim 'difficulty breathing.') Sometimes these stories come out when someone dies waiting for an ambulance in a real emergency (because, for example, someone didn't believe a real difficulty breathing call).

But I can't help but think that part of the problem with delivery of health services to our poorest people here is the fact that it is already politicized. It is already a patronage haven. There may be less than generous funding that has come into our system from Washington -- dominated as it was for several years recently by right-wing Republicans. But it isn't Republicans who allocate where the money is spent here. And it isn't Republicans who provide the local component of our public health care funding. Nor is it Republicans who are cutting nursing jobs and sparing management positions in Cook County.

So... I'm not reassured. But I'm not thrilled with our current system either. I wrote just last month about abuses I've witnessed in our current system. But I'd like another option, please.


Jeni said...

Call me just plain stupid I guess, but is a National Healthcare plan going to totally eliminate physicians having their own offices and force everyone to go to healthcare clinics?
Four plus years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, had no insurance (nothing new there as low-paying employers rarely offer any type of insurance and even then, its rarely affordable to low paid employees) but I had to go on welfare in order to get medical assistance. I got the same care I would have received had I had regular insurance except with a much lower deductible -only had to pay $1.00 per doctor visit as opposed to the $15 per visit I pay now with insurance combined with medicare. Of course, the fact I was unemployed, had some bearing on how I got accepted for the state medical assistance to begin with as lots of people who get ill can't get any assistance in paying for truly outrageously huge medical bills and are in hock to the medical community then for the rest of their lives.
Perhaps if there were better means of making medical care affordable to EVERYONE there wouldn't be the long, long lines involved in clinics and such. I dunno -sure as heck am no expert in economics and such but there is definitely a need for something to be done to assure people of medical care that won't involve bankruptcy immediately or shortly thereafter.

Anonymous said...

We've been hearing a lot in our press about Hillary Clinton's camp making accusations about Obama which she refuses to substantiate. This really turns people off elections.

Our big issues include the health service too. I have found it has been great with my son, it's the old people and pensioners who particularly seem to struggle and be neglected.

My husband has a private health cover for us, otherwise I would be very worried if I had to rely on the NHS.

Lahdeedah said...

I think there has to be a balance between private and free national health service. Precisely because private insurance a) doesn't cover anything and b) your plan that you have through your employer may have a lifetime cap. Then what?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I agree with Ellee, and what she said. When I said the NHS isn't that good here in Britain, elderly people are neglected, sometimes left in corridors, wards can be filthy, creating superbugs that kill patients, and some wards are mixed, meaning patients, no matter what their age, or sex, sleep in the same ward, reducing their dignity.

crpitt said...

Hey Curmy, I have at times been 100% pissed off with the NHS. Especially in the last couple of months as you have witnessed.
But saying that, my mum (cupboard monster) is on some extremely expensive drugs, growth hormone and a fancy bone treatment. If things were changed and it was all insurance, how long would that insurance last?

The Curmudgeon said...

You see now why I only have questions -- no certain answers. I wish I did.