Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Healthcare - Oh Boy, We Said The H-Word


Healthcare is such a huge issue right now and everyone has a different opinion. Political issues usually tend to divide down party lines but people are all over the place on this one. There are just so many variables. National healthcare sounds great, but then you think of the cost of new government agencies and offices, tax money going to things groups object to such as abortions, loopholes for third party lawsuits, the public option, co-ops, filibusters, objections on individual points of order... it's not surprising that a lot of people we know just want someone else to figure it out. Of course that sort of apathy scares the people who do want to participate. That attitude also prompts politicians to make decisions for us despite clear opposition from their constituents. The whole thing is a huge mess. Healthcare reform is in trouble before it has even begun.
And despite having the "best healthcare in the world" we're still in trouble because of the high costs. There are several reasons costs are so inflated. We hear about the ludicrous itemized costs associated with any hospital stay and it makes me wonder why hospitals have to nickle and dime patients for every little thing when costs are already so high? Then there is the issue of doctor fees. We can't deny that a doctor has been to an extreme amount of schooling and training and can command a fairly high rate. Nevertheless, the fact that there are fewer and fewer doctors in practice (likely due to high malpractice insurance rates - again with the insurance!) and thus no need for competitive pricing, further inflates costs. Another reason for high costs are all the uninsured people who wait till things are really bad, then go to an ER and receive treatment they can't pay for. Later, those costs may have to be absorbed by the hospital. Getting back to insurance issues - my dentist has a private practice with no partners. He has two dental assistants and four office staff. One dentist and two assistants need four people just to handle all the paperwork between their office and the insurance companies! A friend of ours is constantly calling her insurance company to question charges on her daughters doctor bills. Almost every time she calls they tell her the partial coverage was "a mistake", they easily "re-review the claim" and everything goes through. This seems fishy to me. This seems like Aetna is hoping that instead of calling to argue, she'll just take the easy way and pay the bills herself.
With all the objections regarding the current bill on the table, one thing keeps coming back to me. Why should this plan not be the employer provided plan available to all of congress? Is this plan they're trying to pass, somehow sub-par? I can see a lot of problems with this and still I'm told I don't understand all the ins and outs of the bill (probably true). But don't try to first tell me that you know better/more about it and it's fine, but then second, turn around and refuse to participate yourself. I'm not stupid and that's a huge red flag.

The real crisis with healthcare stems from the fact that people are looking to the government to step in and take over, but this is a huge conflict of interest. One of our biggest money making industries in this country is the pharmaceutical industry - an industry in the business of treating illness, not curing it. The lobbyists for these companies are pulling strings in Washington, make no mistake. So we need to be honest with ourselves and ask the question - is the government really the right entity to reform healthcare? Especially when you take into consideration what has happened with any entity the government has bailed out in the past. Because that is basically what this would be: a huge bailout of the insurance companies. There's no question that healthcare is an issue and that reform is a must, but as long as we're waiting for someone outside ourselves to step in and take over, we're giving up our rights, and it will never be what we needs because these are our bodies and we are the ones concerned with them.I'm not going to pretend to know all the answers here, but one thing I do know is that it's time to start being responsible for our own health and well-being, as far as that's possible. Especially when it is in the interest of government and big business to maintain sickness rather than wellness. It's time to get creative and start looking for our own answers. All I can do is speak for myself, but what I've done is found a chiropractor/naturopath who maintains our structural health - which has made a huge difference, I treat myself and my family with herbs & homeopathy - significantly cheaper than pharmaceuticals, I focus on nutrition, education, and preventive care. I also search for answers online - in this age of information, it's all at our fingertips. I do acknowledge this doesn't work for everyone, and there are times when medical intervention is necessary. However I do believe that individually, through education, we can and should find a balance between self-directed care and doctor-directed care. Really instead of waiting for someone else to come save us, we need to be responsible for our own health.

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