Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reform the Health Insurance Industry


It took me a year of searching to find a medical neurologist in Tom Green County that would agree to see my uninsured 45-year old daughter.

She had her first epileptic seizure while working in the kitchen of a public school north of San Antonio. She badly sprained her wrist as she fell to the floor that day. Her school health insurance paid for that emergency hospital visit. When it was evident doctors would not release her to return to work, she was given sick leave and had insurance for three months.

Still unable to work, the school dropped the insurance. There were other seizures and the bills and pills increased. Being recently widowed and with a 10-year old boy in special ed, the darkness made its home in her house.

Living in San Angelo, we found it very difficult to be of much help to here 200 miles away. She moved to San Angelo and the search was on for some medical help. I was informed by a certain hospital staff member that there might be a neurologist in Brownwood, and maybe in Midland, that would see uninsured patients. This same official informed me there were no San Angelo neurologists seeing the uninsured.

Calls were made to Brownwood and a neurologist agreed to see her. But the travel expense and charges were beyond us. We found the same problem in Midland.

I will jump ahead to say we finally found a San Angelo neurologist that would in faith, take on the challenge. But only after I assured his office we would pay cash as long as we had it. Had they inspected my bank account they might have had second thoughts.

This year the guidance of a fine neurologist and his staff and the medications (Shannon Prescriptions Assistance Program) have certainly helped her condition.

A recent national survey estimates that 12.6 million non-elderly adults (like our daughter) have tried to purchase health insurance but because of a pre-existing condition, or dropped coverage due to illness, insurance was out of the question. (Without reform, projections suggest the12.6 million number will rise to about 72 million in 2040.)

Besides these problems, Americans are paying more for health coverage due to health insurance premiums having nearly doubled since 2000 (A rate three times faster than wages). It does not take a math wizard to figure out that a full-time minimum wage job individual makes health insurance out of reach for them.

Insurance of all kinds is generally a good thing to have. The insurance industry has created millions of millionaires and not a few billionaires, many of them honest, caring people. But when insurance CEOs can take millions in bonus and more when they retire, the lock on the hen house is broken.

The national press informs us that half of all personal bankruptcies are partly due to rising medical expenses. Some have called it "Heartbreak in the Heartland."

The average small businessman or woman finds it more and more difficult to meet payrolls because of the health coverage policy increase. In the last nine years small businesses offering insurance overage dropped from 68% to 59%.

I know my Uncle Louis and his little grocery store could not stay open with the Wal-Marts, etc., and would certainly folded if faced with today's industry of health insurance providers. If no reform comes from Congress the insurance industry will continue to pave the road to the poor house.

A lady who works for the insurance industry began the myth that doctor-patient-family consultation encourages early death for old folks. Consultation with a dying patient or the family is something every doctor probably is already doing, without being paid extra for it. And it certainly does not encourage "euthanasia," as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has said. (I watched his "town hall" meeting on C-Span and could not believe anyone so incoherent and stumbling could be a senator.) Many families need to face the reality of death and who better to know the situation than the patient and doctor?

Medicare is safe and sound and will not die because of reforms. Another myth has health insurance reform affecting veterans' access to care. Not so. Veteran's care is increased in the reforms.

Reform will make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. If you have insurance, you are not forced to drop it. Reform will expand choices, not eliminate them. Lounette Templeton assured me of that. She is one old nurse you can trust (not as in old age, she's just a good old girl, as in "good old boys").

The government will not touch your bank account. That absurd myth must have come from offices high up in some profit-making health care facility. I read that myself in the yet-to-be-passed reforms.

Reforms will not allow Insurance companies to refuse renewal because someone gets sick. Plus, they cannot raise the policy cost when they learn of your illness.

A friend, in the business of processing insurance claims, said how amazed he was in the many and varied excuses insurance companies have for not paying a claim. This is a personal call for fairness and honesty. Reform brings us part-way toward humane treatment for all.

"Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off." (The Washington Post)

We will not have health reform until health care is a not-for-profit undertaking again. It worked years ago and can work again.

1 comment:

A. Lin said...

Excellent post. I read it through the EthicsDaily website. It made me think of Jesus' instructions about the "least of these."