05 March, 2007

Okay, Kleinheider, You Asked For It: The Hypochondriac Weighs In On Universal Health Care

Last Friday, Kleinheider said this
I have noticed, though, that much of the chatter on the right bemoan the results of this poll as evidence of the death of personal responsibility in America. Maybe that's true.

However, I can't help the part of me that wants these same bloggers to experience a catastrophic illness, emerge from hospital with $30,000 in debt, and then set them in front of their computers with their blogging platform dialed up and start them atypin'.

So here I am, set in front of my computer and startin' a-typin. Okay, I don't entirely fit the profile, as I'm not catastrophically ill. I'm chronically ill, and in some ways that's worse. I never imagined myself in this position, and now that I'm here I can't begin to describe the feelings of frustration that accompany the constant red tape of dealing with doctors and insurance.

Which is why I think that the idea of Universal Health Coverage is one of the worst things I've ever heard.

Yes, health care in this country needs to be fixed, and fixed quickly. It's too hard to get and too expensive to pay for. I've long suspected that the negative savings rate is due in no small part to the rising cost of health care. At my last job the company was in fiscal crisis, so no raises larger than 3% were given. Each year the cost of insurance, however, doubled. That amounts to a paycut--and I can't imagine we were the only company working the numbers like this. It's easy to see why your average worker thinks that the government should just step in and pay for everyone, since they're already watching their take-home be decimated by insurance premiums. That has nothing to do with self-reliance and everything to do with being burnt at both ends.

But Universal Health Coverage, brought to you by the people who brought you the IRS, the DMV and Homeland Security is nothing short of a recipe for disaster. I say that as a person who deals with doctors and insurance companies on an obscene basis. A few weeks ago my insurance company messed up with my COBRA payment, and I had to wait more than a week to see a doctor for a serious problem. By the time I finally got my appointment the problem was not only much worse, but I had an additional problem as well--likely caused by the delay in getting the first thing treated.

In countries with Universal Health Coverage--like Great Britain and Canada--stories like mine are a dime a dozen. The National Health Service of Great Britian is full of horror stories that make my little COBRA experience look like a walk in the park.

I think it's far better to fix what we've got than to run to the Government to take over. Because, honestly, how much better do you think they could run it? Look at New Orleans. Look at Ground Zero.

Oh, come on. Let's cut to the chase. The liberal blogosphere was full of commentary last week about the hideous conditions at Walter Reed VA Hospital. I cannot understand how people can look at the one healthcare system which is currently under complete governmental control--the VA--and think that ALL our hospitals won't turn into little Walter Reeds once the Government takes 'responsibility' for our health care. Yes, conditions at Walter Reed are deplorable. Patients are misplaced. Floors are rotting. Treatment is overlooked or misapplied. And yet we're to accept that it's a grand idea for those in charge of Walter Reed to take control of every patient in the country? Boggles the mind, it does.


At 11:16 AM, March 05, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

I oppose full Universal Health Care, for many of the reasons you mention. Still, I wonder what kind of "enlightened" society is so cold and callous as to allow it's own to die simply because they hit a spat of bad financial luck.

I don't support the government paying for every sniffle anyone picks up, however I will not and cannot support leaving the poverty-stricken out to die.

At 12:00 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...


I can't comment on this too much because of conflict of interest issues, but...


At 12:17 PM, March 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a chronic disease. I have a very mild variety of a lupus, disease that can be extremely serious. I estimate that I miss about a day of work a year due to complications of my illness, when I can get appropriate medication. And, for decades, I did.

When I changed jobs, though, I was refused anything but Guaranteed Issue insurance because I have lupus. I took the highest possible deductible, but my monthly premiums are still high enough that I have to eat into my retirement savings to pay them. If I get hit by a truck, I'll be OK. But I haven't seen a doctor in years now, because I can't afford to pay one cent more than I already do for health care. That means no yearly checkup, no gyn visits, pap smears, or mammograms, and certainly no visits to the rheumatologist who could prescribe the (fairly inexpensive) medication that would control the disease. So, guess what? I get sick a lot more than I need to, and I have a lot more pain than I need to, and I get more tired than I need to, because the insurance companies are allowed to decide that I'm uninsurable.

I don't live an expensive life. I eat leftovers for lunch, I wear the same clothes and shoes for years, I keep the heat at 55 degrees overnight in the winter. But I'm one of those Americans who has to choose between paying the mortgate and health care. I'll take paperwork blunders any day (and in fact, I don't think they happen more frequently in the public sector--my experience has been that the private sector is more error-prone) if it means I'll get put into the same insurance pool as everyone else my age who has my work-attendance/absenteeism rate.

At 12:47 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I get sick a lot more than I need to, and I have a lot more pain than I need to, and I get more tired than I need to, because the insurance companies are allowed to decide that I'm uninsurable.

It wouldn't matter if you WERE insurable. I have insurance through my husband. I can see the doctor on occasion. And I'm still sick a lot more than I need to be, have more pain than I need to be and get more tired than I need to. Not because I'm uninsurable but because the Federal Government has decided that it's a bad idea to give people like me the drugs they need to control their illnessess.
That's another reason that having those same people control healthcare bothers me. They've already cast a huge pall over my personal treatment.

The pain meds which would best control my chronic conditions are such a dirty word that the government actually has a watch list for doctors who prescribe them. I've had several doctors admit that they are giving me a substandard pain medication because they don't want to raise any red flags.

Your problem seems to be that you need to pay less for your insurance. You most likely would not pay less under a UHC program. You'd just pay it in a different place. The amount the government takes out of your check would be larger.

At 1:13 PM, March 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt that if all Americans were in the same health insurance pool, with actual health-care costs capped by the government, my taxes would be so high that they equalled the premiums charged as if I were extremely ill. But you know what? If they were, I'd take that with a better grace than I feel knowing that I'm being charged those insane amounts in order to pad a private insurer's bottom line. I don't mind being in a situation all together with everyone else. I do mind having my life possibly shortened and my current quality of life compromised so someone else can make more money.

At 1:49 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Patrick said...

I doubt that if all Americans were in the same health insurance pool, with actual health-care costs capped by the government, my taxes would be so high that they equalled the premiums charged as if I were extremely ill.

And that's all you have for that: doubt. I don't want to test that doubt... what if your doubt is wrong and we're ALL paying more in taxes than the sickest among us are paying in health insurance now?

Kat, I wish I could "thumb up" your last paragraph. That's the perfect point.

Maybe we could have a bloated universal healthcare program that's funded by a national lottery!

At 3:41 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Aunt B said...

Kat, I'm not sure if you're right or wrong about the larger issue, but I did want to say that support services at Walter Reed were privatized and in the hands of an ex-Halliburton dude.

Unless we're assuming that universal healthcare would eventually be run by some ex-Halliburton dude (and who's to say that it wouldn't?), I think we can't really use Walter Reed as an example for why publicly provided healthcare wouldn't work.

At 3:56 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I talked about this over at VV but not here.

The problem with WR "privatisation" is that it wasn't really privatised. Part of the services were privatised, but not all of them. The government retained ultimate control.

Regardless of who is ultimately to blame for the current fiasco--FedGov or the Outsourcee--the fact remains that the Federal Government is the chief responsible entity.

What happens if some future federal government decides to outsource UHC benefits to some mismanaged crony firm? You're still paying for a benefit run by a shoddy entity.

With the VA people relied on the Government for Health Care. The Government let them down. In all of the stories about Walter Reed did anyone say "My poor Veteran Son was let down by a subsidiary of Haliburton"? No. It was always "...by his country." Because that's who took responsibility and made the commitment for veteran's health care.

The fact that those responsible appeared to give not one iota of a crap about the people who were going to be 'underserved' says a lot to me about the mentality of government-run health services.

At 4:05 PM, March 05, 2007, Anonymous nm said...

Or about the mentality of the people currently running the gov't.

At 5:08 PM, March 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether the UHC system would be administered directly by the federal government or by a third-party "privatiz[s]ed" provider, the end result is still a single-provider system. AKA, a monopoly. And why aren't monopolies a good thing? Because they eliminate things like pricing controls that are the natural result of competition in a free market.

Granted, there's a lot wrong with the current health care system and far too often it's prohibitively expensive. But at the end of the day, if State Farm offers a certain policy at a certain price, United Healthcare is under some pressure to offer comparable coverage at a similar price. But if the government's UHC system is the only game in town, what's to keep them from charging whatever premiums (aka, taxes) they choose? Do we really want an entity with a reputation for paying $300 for a hammer deciding what's a "reasonable" co-pay for your next office visit or a set of X-rays?

Beyond that, under the current system you can at least opt out of coverage if you determine that you can't afford it. It's unfortunate that so many people have to do so, but at least now you have the option of not being charged for something that you can't afford. But what happens when the cost of a UHC system is rolled into the federal tax system? Does anyone really expect that the government will offer tax vouchers for people who decide that they need the money more than they need the coverage?

While the concept of Universal Health Care sounds beautifully warm and fuzzy on the surface, the reality is that turning health care over to the federal government is putting it into the hands of those who are perhaps least qualified to handle that trust.

At 5:23 PM, March 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister concieved #1 niece through the IV facilities at Walter Reed and I can tell you that there is a huge difference between the level of care given through the public side of that hospital and the VA side of that hospital. She was eligible for the private level of care at a deeply discounted military rate+some private deductible. It's a shame that level of care didn't carry over to the military people who didn't have other healthcare options.

I was also very disappointed in the level of care given at another military run hospital when #1 niece was born. They were understaffed, inexperienced (I had delivered 1 more baby than her Dr and I'm not a medical person) and outdated with their equipment and facilities. If she had not been moved to a private non-military hospital at my insistence she would have died. I don't want those people in charge of my healthcare decisions ever.


At 9:55 PM, March 05, 2007, Blogger Lynnster said...

I have no rose colored glasses about universal health care and the like. I can verify that there are people from Canada and from a certain Middle Eastern country that came to Tennessee for surgery, because to wait until their turn came up in their own would have meant either probable death before surgery, or at least being so debilitated by then, it would have meant they were no longer surgical candidates.

At 5:09 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Chance said...

I do notice that things that are heavily government regulated, such as schools (k-12 and higher) and the health care industry have costs skyrocketing, whereas other industries, anything electronic for example, produce products that are getting cheaper and cheaper for better stuff.


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