Saturday, May 24, 2008

Don’t expect health reform any time soon

The Buffalo News: City & Region: Rod Watson: Don’t expect health reform any time soon:
"The stories of unnecessary suffering and infant death in Sunday’s paper should be enough to spark outrage and the overthrow of a mercenary health care system.

But those stories will be repeated four years from now, no matter which of the three candidates becomes president. You can count on it.

As long as we have a system built around private insurers, we will suffer the results as insurance companies do what they do best: take your money and try to keep it. Or, if you have a pre-existing condition, refuse to take your money because they might have to pay too much of it back.

The richest and smartest nation in the world has the dumbest health care system, one that leaves out 47 million people while spending far more than any other nation.

It’s a system in which costly emergency rooms get overused because too many people don’t have access to routine care. Here, for instance, 88 percent of kids’ emergency room visits could have been avoided by regular care, according to a survey by the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

It’s a system in which those on Medicaid — like a father who lost his 4-month-old daughter — get shunned or wonder if they’re getting substandard treatment.

It’s a system other advanced nations would never tolerate.

“The kind of coverage we don’t provide for children, they would be shocked at,” said Dr. Ida Hellander, executive director of Physicians for a National Health Program. “Children in other countries don’t go through periods of uninsurance like our children do.”

Yet you won’t hear Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain talking about the obvious solution: a national, single-payer system that could preserve private doctors and hospitals, yet stop wasting money on health insurers who give no shots and perform no surgeries.

It’s a simplified system that could save enough to insure every American and improve care in a country whose health system ranked 37th in a World Health Organization analysis in 2000 and hasn’t gotten any better since.

The problems nationally are reflected here. In its survey released this year, the Community Health Foundation found a “fragmented” and “fragile” safety net in Western New York, according to President Ann F. Monroe.

Such findings are why a medical journal survey last month found that 59 percent of those who know our system best — doctors — now favor single-payer.

Opponents conjure up bogeymen about waiting times, rationed care and “socialized medicine.” But we already wait to see a doctor, care is rationed by income, and the epitome of socialized medicine — Medicare — is treasured.

Such opposition is all a crock to keep feeding the special interests that leech off the system — a system that fails those like Terrence Gaiter.

Gaiter lost his daughter, Leilani, when an emergency room intern misdiagnosed her infection. He said that no supervising doctor ever looked at the girl, and he suspects he would have gotten better treatment if he hadn’t been on Medicaid.

“Maybe it was the insurance we had is why the doctor never bothered coming into the room,” Gaiter said.

No father should have to live with that.

Single-payer is not a panacea. Monroe cautioned that it would have to be structured with the right incentives.

But other industrialized nations make it work, at far less cost and with far better health outcomes.

But maybe they’re just smarter than we are — or smarter than our politicians think we are."

No comments: