Monday, August 17, 2009

What the health?!

To say that I am politically conscious sounds more like the punch-line to a joke than anywhere near a reality... but I must admit that I am passionate about human rights and equality and have a strong interest in the field of medicine. So the current interest in the government's plan for health reform has crept its way into my field of view, despite my best efforts to avoid it. Let me highlight the 3 quick anecdotes that have led me to forcefully educate myself on this reform:

1. This American Life - July 24th 2009 - In Act 3 of the podcast Ira Glass hosts a story about a woman who fell victim to her health insurance's fine print. After finding out she was in terminal stage for breast cancer and needed an emergency double mastectomy she was also informed that her insurance would no longer provide her coverage. The fine print of her policy, known as rescission, cited that omission of any previous medical condition is grounds for cancellation. When they flagged her for review they found a previous record of something ridiculous like acne treatment and called that an omission that rendered her ineligible for coverage. With no other way of paying for her procedure she was forced into a 4 month lawsuit against the insurance providers, in which time her tumor doubled, so she could finally get coverage. The podcast reported that insurance companies make nearly 300 million dollars through rescission (either when direct fraud is present or when there is no evidence of fraud, just an ambiguous omission, usually by oversight - like the one in the cancer victim's policy). And when 3 insurance CEOs were asked if they would agree to revoke the rescission policy unless there was definitive evidence of fraud, they all said that they would not.
I like Obama's strong statement that no insurance plan "would be able to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions." But he didn't explain how he would force insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing health problems.

2. There is no set price for doctors and their services. This is the fundamental separation criteria between quality health care and accessible health care. Dr. Gupta cited that "We asked the White House specifically about that and we were told no, there is no plan in any of the bills so far to set prices across the board, across the country." On the other hand, the AMA is pissed because they claim that the government's view on the price of health care (Medicare reimbursement costs for example) is outdated and that if a nation-wide health care program develops the doctors won't be able to pay their rent or electricity (watch around the 5:25 mark).
I guess I think that doctors could endure a small pay cut for the overall improvement of the system. However, I do agree with Dr. Nielsen that in order for compliance on behalf of the AMA, considerable attention must be paid to the well being of the doctors and the up-to-date costs for medical practice.

3. It just blows my mind that there are so little health benefits for gay and lesbian couples. Could you imagine not being granted family medical leave from work to spend with your loved one during their final days? Or not being able to collect survivor benefits if, god forbid, your partner passes away leaving you to support yourself and any dependents. It's awful and completely unjust. I, among the millions of LGBT and equality advocates, was relieved when the health benefit revisions were passed for gay federal workers. While it's a huge step for gay rights, it also draws more pressure for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act that is standing in the way of true equality.

So, basically, if there are facets of this bill that have awakened a little sleeping political advocate within you, I encourage you to get the facts. There's so so so much information to sort through but it's out there, waiting for you. You can start here. Let me know if you have anything interesting to add!

1 comment:

Jamie said...

President Obama released this today on his twitter:

My YouTube Playlist of the Minute