Friday, November 30, 2007

The Shame of the American Health Care System

As is well publicized, over 47,000,000 Americans have no health insurance—more than 15 % of the population. Even more Americans do not have any dental insurance. With the exception of the United States, most developed countries have a National health system which benefits all of its citizens both rich and poor. Although the United States is a first world country, for the more than 47 million uninsured, medical care is third world.

I recently read an article, “Patients without Borders” by Sara Corbett, in the November 18, 2007 edition of The New York Times Magazine, which made me feel very ashamed of the state of the health care situation in the United States. This photo journal told of some very generous and humane physicians, dentists, optometrists, and nurses who belong to a group called Remote Area Medical (RAM). The original purpose of this group was to send health expeditions to such 3rd world countries as Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti. The only difference was that this time the expedition took place right in the United States.

On a rainy July weekend, at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia, right after the finish of the Virginia-Kentucky Fair and Horse Show, volunteers from the Virginia Lions Clubs scrub down the facilities and ready the fairgrounds for the Remote Area Medical team. Working in animal stalls and makeshift tents, these volunteers provided free eyeglasses, dental work, radiology, and even minor surgery to over 2,500 patients without health insurance. These patients had to wait on long lines and were treated in less than comfortable surroundings. At the end of the weekend, several hundred patients were turned away because they simply arrived too late to be seen. This expedition is only held once a year. What happens to these patients if they become ill and have medical or dental needs before the RAM team returns?

Many of the RAM health expedition patients are hard working people who simply can’t afford the high cost of medical care or the medical insurance needed to pay for this costly care. Is good medical care only a privilege of the wealthy?

To the credit of the Democratic candidates running for President, each of them does have a health care plan which would ease the current health care crisis. Unfortunately a few of them only address the needs of children whose families don’t have any health insurance. While this might be a good place to start, don’t adults need medical care as well?

If you listen to the Republicans, the solution to the current health insurance debacle can be found in the private sector. Hasn’t the private sector failed? It is the private sector that has brought us managed care, overly priced pharmaceuticals, and out of control prices. Can we trust our health care to a private sector that cares more about corporate profit margins than the health of Americans? If you listen to the Republicans debate, you come away with the feeling that they have more interest in abortion, guns, gay marriage, persecuting undocumented immigrants, spying on American citizens, and what goes on in our bedroom than in providing decent health care to hard working Americans.

George Bush fooled the American people by stating that he would be a compassionate Conservative. Do these 2 words even go together? This so-called compassionate Conservative vetoed the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan) which would have extended more health benefits to children without insurance. There were not enough Republicans to join with the Democrats for the 2/3 majority needed to override the presidential veto.

Keep health care in mind when you vote in the upcoming primary elections and the November 2008 general election. In the meantime, if you are one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance or the 7 out of 10 without any dental benefits, visit for information on how to save money on your health care.


nsafley said...

Great point! I recently talked with a lady who said she had a rare illness and needed medication. Her husband asked her everyday if she was taking her meds, and she said yes. She said she had to lie to him because he didn't want him worrying even more. Every night, she would see him either crying or praying about how they were going to pay their bills. She didn't want to worry him, but she couldn't afford the $2400 a month for meds. It's a shame!!

Helene said...

She is not alone. You would have to be very wealthy to be able to afford $2,400 in medication expenses every month.

Some of my earlier blog posts give some information about patient assistance programs run by the big pharmaceutical companies. There are 2 catches. You have to meet the income eligibility requirement which is 2 times the poverty level, and you must also fill out complicated and cumbersome paperwork for each company that your prescription is with.

I was pleased that the company that I am with, AmeriPlan®, has added a new prescription advocacy program. There is a small service fee charged, but our program handles all of the paperwork, contacts all of the patient's healthcare providers for the prescribing information, coordinates with each of the pharmaceutical companies, and makes sure that the patient has his supply of medications each month. If a patient falls outside of the income eligibility requirement, our program does make some allowance for hardship cases.