Friday, July 06, 2007

Are you "Sicko" yet?

I just sent this letter (without the graphics) to both of my senators:
Yesterday I went to see Michael Moore's film, Sicko. I left the theater wondering why -- if America is the smartest, richest, most innovative and powerful nation in the world -- we can't figure out how to provide good health care to all Americans.

If the Canadians, the British and the French can do it (to say nothing of the Cubans), why can't we?

For example, did you know that in Great Britain, doctors get bonuses based on the improved health of people in their care? If their patients stop smoking, lower their blood pressure, etc., they get a bonus. In the United States, doctors get bonuses for seeing the most patients per day, for not making referrals, and for denying requests for treatment. Our insurance companies reward doctors and other employees for denying coverage and courses of treatment -- for limiting costs, not for helping people. We've got it entirely backwards.

It is clear that our national priority has been to make health care profitable for PPOs, HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, not to care for people. This has to change. We need to put people first, not corporate profits. We need to make health care a national right, not a profit center.

I think it's time to refocus the health care debate...away from incremental and useless changes like requiring people to buy insurance (so are they supposed to stop eating to pay for coverage?), or funding some coverage for poor children (at least until those funds run out -- tonight I watched NOW's Insuring the Children on PBS; it talked about how the State Children's Health Insurance Program is running out of funds and what that means to children can't get the Georgia girl who is likely to die without her diabetes meds).

Frankly, health insurance is not the answer. It is no guarantee of health care, not when insurance companies focus on making profits by denying claims and coverage.

One of my friends, a woman in her 50s who recently changed careers, is deeply worried about losing her job. Loss of income is bad enough, but the thing that really keeps her awake at night is the fear of losing her health insurance. She's got a health problem and she's worried that it will become a "pre-existing condition" and she'll won't be able to afford to get treated. And if she can't get treated, she won't be able to work.

In other developed countries, people can focus on doing their jobs, living their lives and caring for their families. They don't have to worry about being bankrupted by an illness or injury. They don't have to worry about dying because some bureaucrat denied them coverage or a needed treatment.

I want what other developed countries have. I want the security of knowing that if I get sick or am injured, it won't bankrupt my family. I want to know that if I get a serious injury or illness, I won't be allowed to die so some insurance executive can get a bonus. I want to know that, should I be unfortunate enough to end up with Alzheimer's like my mother, my family won't go have to through hell and destitute themselves trying to care for me.

National polls now show that health care is a top concern of a majority of Americans. That's because even those of us who have insurance know we are just one job and one claim away from denial of treatment or loss of coverage.

Please, it's time to change the debate on health care. It's time to make health care a basic right, not another privatized profit-making venture. Please do something.
If you want to do something, you can start by writing your representatives a letter too. Feel free to recycle parts of mine, if you like. And go see Sicko. See through the propaganda we've been fed all our lives, and see how the other half of the developed world lives.


Anonymous said...

Do people realize that we are 47th in the world when it comes to modern medicine? If you have a serious condition go elsewhere. The US is not the place to be. Isn't that sad? We used to be the country where foreigners came to school, spent their hard earned money, believing they were getting the best education money could buy. Now, we can't even afford to treat our own people. I am one of the lucky ones who has insurance, but it has still become a major run around, especially, when it comes to medication. I have a prescription that I have had for ten years. When I was first prescribed it was $15 a month, now it costs me 130. That is nothing compared to what my elderly mother on medicare has to pay for medication. Republican candidates claim that we are socialists, or supporters of, if we agree to a universal health care plan. It has worked for European countries. They have over a thousand years on us. Maybe we could learn something. Edwards plan is mandatory, Clinton's is not. Edwards admits his plan would have to be supported by raising taxes. Hillary thinks she can make it by the extra bucks after cutting the Bush tax cuts for the rich. I'm siding with Hillary. Yes, she failed in the 90's, but I want to go with the candidate that has learned a thing or two. Love them or hate them. At this point nobody can deny that we were a much better country with the Clintons than the Bush's. We had respect around the globe and open communication. Now, we are the punch line in jokes around the world. Please get the Gop the hell out of office. Even Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave.

A.Venegas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.Venegas said...

I loved this post. My mom died in 2005 of lung cancer, and my family battled with our insurance agencies all the way to her grave. It wasn't enough that we had to worry about whether or not treatments would be effective for her, we had to seriously worry whether we could afford to give her the treatments at all.

I feel great shame for living in a country, so great in so many other ways, that denies the basic right to life and liberty that its founders guarenteed to citizens so long ago.

Things must change, for the sake of our people, and for the credibility of the values we espouse.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I don't need to. I covered managed health care for almost three years. That included stories on HMOs, the PBMs, the drug companies, and all the other little dudes in between that feed off the system (like brokers, network PPOs, etc.).

It does make me sick. Health insurance is one of the main two reasons that I work instead of staying home to raise my four-month old son.

I don't mind waiting for non-emergency health care, especially if my taxes are what helps pay for it. Let the rich people have their boutique, on-call medical services, I'll take socialized medicine any day.