I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Sickness consumes how we pay for health care
As self-employed writers and artists barely squeaking by, health insurance amounted to taking a lot of vitamin C and keeping our fingers crossed. We were mostly lucky.
We survived a major illness by the good fortune of a provision in the Truman-era Hill-Burton Act of 1946 which covered medically indigent patients, if you were lucky enough to get sick early in the year when the money hadn’t run out.
We survived a life threatening burst appendix by being treated an the University of New Mexico hospital, which also took medically indigent patients and had a policy of accepting small but regular payments if one could make them. We could and did.
After that episode in the early 1970s, health care started to go crazy. HMOs, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical companies, coupled with their obnoxious advertising, made illness and inciting the dread of illness a radically profitable enterprise.
When President Clinton tried to reform the American health care system and was shot down by the medical and pharmaceutical establishments, I lost all faith in the system and in most of its practitioners. And my family and I had been fortunate enough to have no more major health set backs. But we always worried.
In the late 1990s, we went insurance shopping when our business was picking up the pace and we were getting older. We found a program with the Chamber of Commerce here, bought into it, and then watched as an insurance-company-run HMO methodically and regularly upped its rate until we could no longer afford it. Single payer Medicare saved us in the nick of time.
Now, more than 15 years after Clinton’s health care reform defeat, President Obama is trying to clean up the system again. And the same old fat cats are balking.
I am sure most of the opponents of universal health care, or even a public option in a much more complicated system, have never been medically indigent, have never sweated it out at 3 a.m. worrying not only about going to the doctor, but about how to pay for it.
If you haven’t lived with that gnawing fear of financial catastrophe from illness, or if you couldn’t take advantage of preventive medicine because of a lack of funds, you have no idea how helpless, vulnerable and frustrating it is to be among the medically lower classes.
My family is now, because of social security and Medicare, a member of the medical upper classes, strictly by virtue of living long enough and paying our social security taxes.
With Medicare, we have a single payer system for most of our medical needs. This hasn’t turned us into communists or slaves to socialism. We don’t feel the hot sweaty hands of government digging into our brains, government spies aren’t peeking under the door in the doctor’s office.
We use Medicare to avail ourselves of the excellent Lovelace Senior Plan. I’m sure other such plans work well too. We experience no long waits. We choose our own physicians from a good selection. We have very low to modest co-payments. Granted, we don’t go to the doctor much. But when we have to, the overall service is outstanding, and the care so far has been superb. We couldn’t ask for anything better.
This is not the “socialized medicine” that scare-mongers prattle on about. And I really have no idea what they’re talking about. We do not have a for-profit HMO telling us what to do and charging us out the roof. We are not the victims of corporatized medicine, though we have been, and could be again.
We have older friends who have access to health care in France and England. Our plan here is good, but not as good.
In England with its national health, the physician of a seriously ill friend calls her every day to give her new details and check on her well being. She has three nurses around the clock available for consultation. Major surgery will probably be called for, and she won’t pay a cent, beyond what she has been taxed.
Our other friend, who is an American, but who spent much time in France still goes back to Paris for help with his serious eye problems. Even as a resident alien, French national health was open to him, and it still is, for free.
Health care in England and France are considered basic human rights. In the United States, health care is considered a pot of gold for some and the thin edge of the wedge to bankruptcy for many others.
Why would big medicine, big insurance, and big pharma and their hired guns in Congress oppose an Obama plan which would, according to the administration, “reduce long-term growth of health care costs for business and government; protect families from bankruptcy or debt from health care costs; guarantee choice of doctors and health plans;…assure quality health coverage for all Americans; maintain coverage when you lose your job; [and] end barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions”?
They say they do so because they couldn’t compete with government. They don’t compete with each other, any way. In fact, there is absolutely no meaningful competition among insurers, drug makers, and HMOs. They’re like gas stations. They all mysteriously charge the same outrageous prices. Where’s the competition in that?
I count myself among the 70-some percent of Americans who want publicly guaranteed health care. And I think the Medicare model, as it stands now for seniors, is perfectly adequate.
You wonder why people would oppose such a thing. Do they in their heart of hearts think that poor families deserve to be financially broken by illness, while very well-off families deserve whatever their money can buy? Is their fight against universal health care all about punishing the poor for being poor and protecting the wealthy companies who profit from sickness?
It seems that way to me.