Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Chicken Soup in Every Pot

I am sure that the now long deceased President Herbert Hoover would allow me to shift the words of his campaign slogan, "a chicken in every pot", with those I have chosen above. Of course Hoover was looking for an upturn in the disastrous Depression, while I am thinking along the lines of affordable medical coverage for every man, woman and child in this country. And, wouldn't it be lovely if what has affectionately become known as 'Jewish Penicillin' were the easiest way to get that coverage? Is anything in this life that easy?

This topic had been on my back burners for some time, but the recent addition to our family, of a premature grandson, has swung me right back to the subject of affordable health care. We currently, in this country, have a medical community dominated by a bottom line profit industry, The Insurance Companies. Dr.'s do not practice their art so much anymore but rather have offices filled with workers whose sole purpose it is to sort through the myriad reams of health insurance paper work. God help you, should you have to file a claim for some of this insurance which you have faithfully ( and perhaps your employer as well) paid monthly and dearly for, you have embarked on the road to hell.

Several years ago my daughter needed to have her tonsils removed. This used to be a relatively straight forward proposition. Tonsils became infected, they were removed. There was even a group rate, should you have more than one child. Get them all done at once and no need to worry about those nasty old tonsils again. And I am sure that we have all been regaled with stories of those whose tonsilectomies involved the kitchen table as operating room theatre!

But when the question of a tonsilectomy came up for my daughter, this was the pas de deux in the hospital corridor with my daughter's Dr.:

"The tonsils need to be removed, otherwise she will continue to have the sore throats, neck swelling and fevers." says he.
"If that is what needs to be done then we will do it", said I.
"Well good luck getting it done!" said he
"And why is that?" I inquired.
"Because", said he, "it seems the insurance companies felt Dr.'s did for the money and they don't want to pay for it anymore."
Bottom line, the tonsils were removed, but not before I had to take my daughter to see the insurance company Dr. and at which visit I also watched him overcharge the insurance company for the very cursory exam he gave her. My first eye opener there!

I have to admit that I had an unfair advantage growing up. As the daughter of a doctor I did not have to worry about medical care and I had the great advantage of watching my dad, a warm, compassionate man, practice medicine. Do not misunderstand me, we had a very comfortable lifestyle, and yet, money in and of itself was not the motivating feature. Dad participated in a very healthy barter system as well and he gave free care in abundance. It took him until the 1960's to raise his office prices from were they had been set back in the 1930's, and he did it reluctantly. But, at that point he had started to see the handwriting on the wall with the insurance companies. He was close to retiring, he no longer performed surgery, and with nary a blemish on his medical career, his malpractice insurance was going through the roof.

Today we have our grandson who has already had more money spent on medical care , at the tender age of 7 weeks, than any of us would generally spend in a lifetime. The last bill his parents received was $40,000.00 for the care he has received in the NICU of our local hospital. His mother's bill, for less than a week has come to $17,000.00. Call me crazy but I believe this is outrageous. Consider as well, that most people will not have the sort of "catastrophic coverage" that one would need in a situation such as this; my grandson's parents do not. And they do not have it by choice, but because it is cost prohibitive for them. Private insurance would cost them at least 1200 per month and, though he makes excellent money, my son is part of a two man team so employer supported insurance is out of the question as well.

So how is the medical service paid for? Who foots the bill? We all do. Any of us who work and pay taxes to the state or federal government. But, we do not want any sort of universal health care? Even for all of us who pay into an insurance program, catastrophic illness could be our undoing. If we pay a partial premium into a state held insurance program, we risk losing that coverage if our incomes increase by even a dollar. The governor of my state, yesterday, stated that he is looking at ways in which all residents will be able to have health insurance coverage. I sincerely hope he finds a plan. We must do something and soon.

Perhaps Hillary's plan was too bold, not bold enough, or just shut down because of the one proposing it. But we so need to do something with the medical community where costs rise and treatments and time spent by physicians, with patients, dwindles. I am certainly in favor of a situation where Insurance companies are not eligible as investments on the New York Stock Exchange.

I am off to make some chicken soup for supper. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Susan B. Goodwin