Dr. Linda Halteman Lewis: What are we so afraid of?

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Emotions are running high around the health care debate. Fear, anger and resentment are all over the radio and TV, in town halls and even shouted at the president during his speech to Congress. Why are some of our citizens so afraid? The first fear mentioned is typically "socialized medicine." One of the best examples worldwide of socialized medicine is our own Veterans Administration: It is completely government-owned and operated, with the hospitals and doctors employed by the federal government. An excellent example of partially government-run health care is Medicare: Payment comes from the government, but doctors and hospitals are private. And yet Medicare and the Veterans Administration are two of the favorite forms of health care in this country. Maybe "socialized medicine" isn't quite as scary as we've been told.

Great fear has been generated about a "government take-over of health care." Do you really trust profit-centered insurance companies, whose CEOs walk away with millions of dollars in salary and bonuses and - as one of the country's largest insurance companies did - drop 8 million clients to improve their stock price? Will they really do a better job of caring for you when you need it most? Compare this to our freedom to get to know our chosen legislative candidates and then work hard to elect them. Once in office, these people who are responsible to us are not getting wealthy from their oversight of health care and can be voted out of office if we don't approve of their performance. We have no such control of huge multibillion-dollar insurance companies.

Much fear also has been created around the ideas of government taking away choice and denying care. Our choice already is severely limited. If we have coverage, for example, there are limits depending on whether our provider is in or out of network, or whether the needed type of care is covered. Worse yet, many policy-holders find their coverage denied when they hit an arbitrary ceiling. And for folks without coverage, if you don't have the money, you don't get care, period. But there's always the emergency room, right? People without coverage are forced to wait until they can't endure the pain any longer and then go in for the most expensive care possible, paid for by everyone else.

And speaking of taking care of everyone else, what has happened to care and compassion for others? That most important concept is remarkably lacking in a discussion about one of the most basic needs of humanity. From my understanding, being caring and compassionate is at the heart of Jesus' message, and that of every other major religion. Let's take this message to heart and pool our resources to care for all.

Other countries around the world have this figured out. National health care covers everyone, for a fraction of the cost, and with much better health outcomes. "The Healing of America" is written by journalist T.R. Reid, who lived on three continents with his family and used local health care systems in each country. His book compares health care in France, Japan, Germany, Britain and Canada on an apples-to-apples basis. These countries use a variety of systems, ranging from total government operation to free-market insurance companies and private doctors and hospitals. The one huge difference is that their insurance companies are nonprofits; health care is considered a basic right, not a profit center. Because of their size and bargaining power, drugs (the same brand and manufacturer) cost one-quarter to one-half as much as in the U.S., and hospital and doctor costs are strictly regulated. Doctors are paid reasonably and promptly, with extremely low malpractice insurance rates and incidence of being sued. For patients, there is more choice, less waiting (in many countries), and no denial of care. Reid provides a reasoned and informed voice in naming the benefits and drawbacks present in each system.

The United States is on a precipice; we can do the morally upright thing and institute national health care for all, or we can continue to rely on an overpriced, inequitable and profit-driven health care system. Let's have the humility and intelligence to learn from others' experience. Let's put together a system with the best of each country's time-proven ideas, make it our own and cover every one of our citizens.

Linda was a Chiropractor in Steamboat from 1980 to 2008.

Comments

Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

Linda, I feel like a bee in a nudist colony, I don't know where to start. Initiate tort reform here and half the battle would be over without changing anything. If the Dems special interests were removed I don't think there would we have a problem. Let companies compete, but you will not find one word in over 1100 pages to address these issues. Might that be the reason the whole thing will tank, except for a watered down save face measure?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

Linda, I don't want to leave anyone out, do you favor unionizing the health care, by the presidents union ally? He grew up with Acorn-SEIU, do you suppose there is anything here for them? I'm one or those redneck illiterates shaking my fist in the presidents face calling him the racketeer that he is. I want many of the same things that you do, but I have to draw the line on my integrity at some point.

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trump_suit 4 years, 7 months ago

I for one would love to see a "watered down, save face measure" that includes.

No more groups. SSN = "in the group" unemployed, self-employed, small business, GM all get access to the same policies. Shouldn't matter where you live either.

No more pre-existing conditions. 60 day grace period and you are totally and completely covered. *Insurance companies should not even be allowed to see your previous health history. The abuse of this information has been proven and is a one of the primary causes in the growth of the number of un-insured

No more out of network denials. Insurance company can tell you we are paying $x for that procedure. If you want the Primo Doctor, you pay the difference.

I would love to see torte reform also.

Leave out big Gov't plans and coverage. Lets start out small and see if the industry responds. The goal here is to get he premiums affordable and an insurance plan for every need.

The insurance companies should not be allowed to pick and choose what they consider to be the best of the bunch but should be required to offer the same market competitive rates to all. A 45 year old white married female has the same basic heatlh risk whether she lives in California or Maine, and does it really matter who she works for , or if she even works at all?

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Troutguy 4 years, 7 months ago

According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice costs were $30.4 billion in 2007. We have more than a $2 trillion health care system. That put's litigation costs and malpractice insurance costs at 1-1.5% of total medical costs.

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trump_suit 4 years, 7 months ago

Trout,

What is not included in those numbers is the cost of Medical malpractice insurance to the Doctor and what that is adding to the total.

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1999 4 years, 7 months ago

government run clinics.

works great in san fran

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seeuski 4 years, 7 months ago

Right on trump_suit, that is exactly what should be done. Start with tort, portability, interstate competition and all inclusive clinics to eliminate the abuse in ER's. Lets see how that works and build on it. As far as the good Dr. and her claim of Medicare being so good.....

"Medicare's total unfunded liability is more than five times larger than that of Social Security. " http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba662

Can the Government do better with the massive expansion of our health care system as proposed by HR3200? The shortfall in money deficits from Medicare is paid for by private insurance, why is that fact ignored when these folks attack the insurers? Who will pay when the insurance companies are forced out? Show me the money! They will be taxing more than just sodas and fruit drinks to pay for it all.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

Malpractice claims are 50% frivolous, put a loser pay clause in the process and watch the claims drop. This will happen over this administrations dead body. The other down side, is the defensive medicine cost needed to thwart the ambulance chasers. You folks need to attend a tea party meeting, we hope to cut this crap out from all politicians, hopefully before our debt consumes us.

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Kevin Nerney 4 years, 7 months ago

Congress doesn't want tort reform because they are all lawyers. Lawyers make money suing doctors. Doctors charge more to pay malpractice ins. It's just one big circle jerk. On another note the VA has some of the worst run hospitals around, or are the veterans just a bunch of whiny crybabies. How quickly we forget the tour Pres. Bush took of Walter Reed Hosp. and the others.

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Oscar 4 years, 7 months ago

We clearly need health insurance reform; but just as clearly we don't need government run health care. Every program the govenment runs is inefficient, ineffective and bankrupt, and so will govenment run health care.

The fear of rationing of health care is very real. You can't suddenly have 40 million more people with health insurance with no increase in doctors, health care workers, and health services without suddenly having the whole system badly backlogged. What are 40 million more people with health insurance going to do with it - of course, they're going to use it. Especially those that have huge medical problems because they have been abusing their bodies with alchohol, drugs, cigarettes, and/or excessive calories.

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Troutguy 4 years, 7 months ago

Actually Trump, that does include the cost of malpractice insurance. The CBO estimates the total cost of litigation/malpractice insurance costs at around 2% of total health care expenses. (I've searched, and 1.5%-2% of total health care costs comes from litigation/malpractice insurance costs. If anyone else finds something different, I'd like to hear it because I can't find it). While tort reform should be part of the conversation, it is not the silver bullet to fix health care. Part of the reason that malpractice insurance for doctors has gone up is that the insurance cos. are yielding a lower investment income, so they pass on the losses in higher premiums for doctors.

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Troutguy 4 years, 7 months ago

Fred, I do agree that there should be some sort of 'loser pay clause'. If people had to pay lawyers fees when they lose, they would think twice about filing. Lawyers who file these frivilous lawsuits should be penalized also.

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seeuski 4 years, 7 months ago

Tort reform: "Just six years ago, Texas was mired in a health care crisis. Our doctors were leaving the state, or abandoning the profession entirely, because of frivolous lawsuits and the steadily increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums that resulted." "We capped non-economic damages at $250,000 per defendant, or up to $750,000 per incident, while placing no cap on more easily determined economic damages, such as lost wages or cost of medical care due to injury. We ended the practice of allowing baseless, but expensive, lawsuits to drag on indefinitely, requiring plaintiffs to provide expert witness reports to support their claims within four months of filing suit or drop the case." "Changes were seen immediately, and continue to be felt. All major liability insurers cut their rates upon passage of our reforms, with most of those cuts ranging in the double-digits. More than 10 new insurance carriers entered the Texas market, increasing competition and further lowering costs. As a result, Texas doctors have seen their insurance rates decline by, on average, 27 percent." "And what about the money that used to go to defending all those frivolous lawsuits? You can find it in budgets for upgraded equipment, expanded emergency rooms, patient safety programs and improved primary and charity care."

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/OpEd-Contributor/Tort-reform-must-be-part-of-health-care-reform-8096175.html

Why would one not look at actual success stories in regard to what mal-practice actually costs and how to fix it? The answers are already there folks.

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Troutguy 4 years, 7 months ago

Just read that the 'gang of six' pulled in 25% more campaign contributions this year from the pharm, hospital, insurance, & nursing home industries than their other fellow senators. This is why we will never see health care reform that is good for the nation. As long as giving money to a politician is considered free speech, we're screwed.

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