“Do you have health insurance?” I overheard my friendly local barista asking one of her regulars.
“No, what are you talkin about? Of course not,” he shrugged. “Why?”
“Because I was hoping you could fake a sinus infection for me, and get me some antibiotics, for my sinus infection.”
This is what we’ve come to. Our citizens can’t even get medicine without working the system somehow.
I read about the free-dental-work-giveaway last month, when volunteers and dentists took over the Orgeon Convention Center for two days, and offered free dental work to 2000 people who needed it.
Which means that only the people who got in line before 5:30 am the first day got treated.
The article was titled, appropriately, “This is what a broken health care system looks like.”
Lately I’ve realized the only reason I’m putting up with this is because I’m not willing to leave America and go find citizenship somewhere else, in a country where they take care of their people.
With two kids and no insurance, I’m seriously questioning the wisdom of that choice.
A-men! We contemplated going down to get in that line for dental cleanings for the two kids and decided against it when we woke up too late. I am glad we decided against it, as it was after 5:30 when we got up.
Bravo to those who put this event together, but shame on a system that allows these needs to continue to go unmet and that prices so many people right out of needed services.
This particular situation seems extra-broken to me, because plenty of the people getting free care are folks who would be able to pay a reasonable price. So we have three problems:
– There aren’t enough low/moderate-priced dental care options for those paying out of pocket (something beyond the dental schools – I’m talking about a fair cash price for services by a professional)
– Many Americans think that they shouldn’t have to pay a dime for their own health maintenance. “I don’t have health insurance” isn’t a good excuse for not going to the doctor. Sure, ZoomCare will cost you $100, plus the antibiotics, and that is a lot of money, but it’s less than a month of health insurance premiums. So all the employed but uninsured people should quit whining and go to the doctor. 😛 (I’m self-employed, so my premiums and a lot of my health expenses have been out-of-pocket for years.)
-Because of the above two problems, the volunteer efforts of these dentists are so overwhelmed that some very needy people got turned away.
Thanks for your thoughtful commentary on this issue, Caelan! Got me thinking. 🙂
I need to preface my comment with the fact that I’m a health insurance broker. Yes, I know that the system is broken. In my opinion, we need 2 things: transparency and personal responsibility.
If costs were more transparent, and not hidden by health insurance contracts, the market forces would work in our favor. If health care ‘consumers’ knew the costs, then value would become more important and providers would be encouraged to offer it in their prices and their outcomes.
Secondly, I agree with Karin, particularly her second point that ‘many Americans think that they shouldn’t have to pay a dime for their own health maintenance.’ We need to take more personal responsibility in our own health maintenance. We can’t rely on the government to do this for us. We’ve become the ‘now generation’. It’s becoming easier for Americans to put off preventive care, whose neglect will not affect us for years to come. Instead, we will pay more money for faster internet, better TV, and a fancier phone.
Where I think the government is needed is to step in and provide a database of outcomes for hospitals and providers. If you knew you needed a knee surgery, you could look up knee surgeons in your area. You would be able to see how many each provider has done and the results of those surgeries. Providers and hospitals would become experts in specific areas and economies of scale would help to keep costs down.
This is very general and just a start, and it’s only my opinion. I’m happy to listen to anyone else’s opinion too.
JR and Karin,
You both make some good points, but there are other countries (countries that aren’t bankrupt) where all citizens have free health care. It’s not like it’s impossible to accomplish, because it’s obviously working that way elsewhere.
We became accustomed to not paying for health care when insurance covered everything over the decades of the 40s-70s. This was an unbalanced system, so now our costs are out of control. JR, your solutions involve a competitive market, which does not stand up to one inviolable fact: when it comes to fixing your own body, no price is too high.
Now there are very well-fed businesses that make lots of money on medical devices and prescription designer drugs. These companies are waiting for the Boomers to retire, and get sicker, so they can make immense profits. Their lobbying efforts will continue to blunt the effect of any legislation that works to modify the existing system away from their profits. This influence will forever tarnish any solution that tries to fix the current system.
Scrapping it, and starting over, by emulating a functional system in another country, is the kind of fantasy that many uninsured people have. Instead of waiting endlessly for that to happen, I might just go and repatriate myself somewhere that the health care system works.
I’m always happy to hear another opinion, but I would like to have you cite these other non-bankrupt countries where all citizens have ‘free’ health care that is ‘working’. I suspect that you would find citizens in those countries who feel that the care is neither free nor working.
Your assessment that the system in 40s-70s got us in trouble, is spot-on. Many people, including myself, see the ‘free’ health care system that you propose as a slippery slope down the same path.
The point that ‘no price is too high’ is debatable. Sometimes the price for good heath is making good decisions rather than relying on a system to take care of us.
Personal responsibility has been fading from our system. I feel strongly that it will be one of the first steps we need to take in order to start fixing our broken system.
I went to go get a prescription filled yesterday for penicillin. Something available over the counter in most other countries. And I heard something I have heard before being told to the lady in front of me in line by the pharmacist: “You know, this would be cheaper if we didn’t run it through your insurance.”
That’s right, her medication was cheaper when paid for with cash. When it goes through the byzantine insurance billing process, the copays were actually more expensive.