Wednesday, August 22, 2007

GETTING POLITICAL: UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

OK, so granted Michael Moore isn't the best spokesperson for most discussions I still have to give big kudos to him for his film on Universal Health Care.

Jason and I just finished watching "Sicko" and I have to say that we really agree with the message. Universal health care is such a great system to have and I really don't understand why the US has gone so far from caring for its people (on so many levels). Because we live in the UK, we have experienced first hand the benefits of such a program. There is absolutely no fear of medical bills and all are equal--rich, and poor alike. It is unbelievable that one of the richest nations, the US, can ignore such a massive problem and go to great lengths to make sure its citizens fear a universal health program. With such wealth, I feel that the level of health care or lack of it for many Americans is one of biggest follies and sins of the US government.

They have a wonderful program here in the UK and we have been very pleased with our doctors. We live one minute walking from the ER and had to take Soren a few months ago. During our visit the doctors and nurses even encouraged us to stay longer to make sure everything was OK. There was no stress that we weren't going to afford something and the doctors always showed that they were there for our best interests. They will even do house calls when situations require it. . . again, free of charge. If you take a taxi to the ER they will even refund what you spent on the taxi! All medication costs the same-- $6.50. If you have a medication that is, lets just say 500 dollars in the states, guess what you pay? Yep, $6.50. This eliminates the drug pushing that is constantly going on in the states all over the TV. "Ask your doctor about this drug. . ." was such a common phrase from commercials and is absolutely absurd. . . Legal drug pushing. Doctors in the states actually get bonuses for having patients use certain drugs. Scary.

When insurance companies wrongfully deny patients they will spend billions settling out of court so that their cases don't become public and this keeps them rich beyond belief and not having to change their ways.

After seeing the documentary, I spoke with some of my Scottish friends about the differences with the US and UK health care systems and they couldn't believe what I was telling them. One of the fears that is pushed in the US is that with a socialized program there will be horrible waiting--this has not been our experience. There are signs up in the ER that say, "if you have been waiting longer that 15 min, please let a nurse know." I have been told that in very difficult situations (like specific rare treatments) one may have to wait but they is no question as to whether someone will be treated. In the US, in my opinion, the waiting seems much worse. At times a patient is waiting to know if treatments will be covered by insurance or if they can pay the deductible. They don't even know if they will be helped.

With the socialized program here, one can also have private health insurance as well. So, if you aren't satisfied with the government program you can pay for something more. It is a win, win situation. I don't think I know anyone with private health care though--it seems like most are happy with the government program.

Doctors are encouraged to help their patients stay well with incentives to the doctor for those patients that quit smoking and the like. They live well although they may not have the massive wealth that doctors acquire in the states. They live a good life and focus on getting people well. They would probably make about 200,000 pounds (400,000 dollars) per year (I'm guessing). Not bad.

It seems to us that universal health care is the most ethical and reasonable option for a health care system. Jason told me that he had recently read a news article about a bill that had been passed to provide universal health care to children in the US, but that it was expected that it may be vetoed by the President. We are really hoping that Moore's new movie will encourage enough interest and debate that universal health care will be provided for everyone in the US.

26 comments:

Cammie said...

Hi Carol and Steph,

I'm sorry that your comments got deleted. We had some major problems with Blogger this am. Grrrr. Thanks for your comments.

Cammie said...

PS. You can sent a repeat if you like. Otherwise, don't worry I know you are busy ladies.

Michelle said...

I'm so glad you wrote this! Devon and I saw the movie too and that's where I got my kick start. I think you do a much better job advocating for it though! I really think the British model is very good, I like that you still have the option to have private insurance, HR676 doesn't alow it and I wonder what the reason is. Either way that could be worked out. It totally is a win-win situation! Devon and I both have written candidates on universal health care especially Mit Romney,our distant relative, his plan is still privately run my insurance companies and they will always be looking out for how they can make more money- bottom line. I agree Michael Moore can be quirky and offensive as far as his sarcasm goes, but he is spot on! If we consider ourselves a Christian country, why are we so worried about paying for someone else who is less fortunate? We who gets to benefit from tithing, so why should we for a basic human right!? I am going to refer to your post, if it's ok with you, on another future post!

Michelle said...

whoops what I meant to say was- we don't get to decide who benefits from tithing. Sorry I got a bit excited

Cammie said...

No problem Michelle--I'm so glad you started this discussion! I love your blog/post. . . and let me just say that you do a fab job at talking about the issues. You inspire!

PS. On a lighter note. . . how do you get the music payer on your blog to fit on the blog. we have the same one and it doesn't seem to work.

carol said...

I can tell you Universal Health Care sounds real nice about now for us. The hoops we have been jumping through for Doug and the WAITING for approval for every bloody procedure is making us insane. I'm sure we would have a lot less dr. appts. if the doctors were allowed to just do their jobs with insurance interferance.

Steph said...

It would be nice to not worry about insurance. I agree with you all the way.

Jason said...

This is certainly an issue that has been twisted by political parties for their own benefit. It seems that the average American supports universal health care, but people have been scared off of the idea by people who equate adopting it to accepting communism and the destruction of our way of life and values.

The argument that government programs are never as effective as when we let the market have its way is just not correct. The market isn't really in control when politicians take millions of dollars each year from insurers so they can benefit from protection from the laws. And, there are some things that I just don't want corporations controlling. There is something wrong with a system in which the insurers make more money by providing fewer services that people need for their health. This just isn't something that should have the dollar as the bottom line- as it always is with corporations which are designed for that sole purpose.

That line of thinking only benefits the rich who can afford better health care for themselves and who then do not have to worry about whether their employees or neighbors are covered. The only real difference for the rest of us between paying monthly insurance premiums and paying a universal health tax is that one gives us partial coverage if we filled the forms out correctly and we have an air tight case while the other gives full coverage and the comfort that other family and neighbors have coverage as well and the other.

I have really been impressed with health care in the UK. I have been to the ER, our general practitioner and even a specialist here. I felt like the service was excellent, and that the time I had to wait for an appointment was perhaps even less than it would have been in the US. I have been able to set up an appointment for a general practitioner for the same day, and only had to wait a week after that to see a specialist. My experience here leads me to believe that the idea of waiting in long lines for poor service is just a myth.

I would however be interested to find out more about Mitt Romney's market-based universal health coverage in Massachusetts. I would be very impressed if it actually works, but I haven't heard any details about it.

pcottontail said...

I am glad to hear that you both are happy with the healthcare system there.
I have not been too impressed with the Massachusetts Health Care initiative.
From my understanding(and please correct me if I am wrong), the program is similar to requirements most states have for auto insurance. Every individual must purchase health insurance. Those who qualify for medicaid are enrolled automatically and those under the poverty line who do not qualify for medicaid receive subsisized private health insurance without premiums or deductibles. Those who have incomes 100% to 300% of the poverty line can purchase subsidized private insurance with premiums and deductibles.

One problem is that even at the subsidized rate, those above the poverty line without health insurance currently could face substantial premiums. According the state, the average uninsured individual would be required to pay about 175$ a month at a minimum(this plan wouldn't cover prescriptions).

Here is a link to the details:

http://hcfama.org/_uploads/documents/live/HealthInsurancePressRelease.pdf

Healthcare deductibles for those who are above the poverty line are really high, ranging from 2000-5000$. This doesn't seem affordable for many low to middle income families.

This is an interview with a health economist about the Mass. plan on npr:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5330937

I think I agree with this health economist in that the Mass. plan is a step towards a healthcare solution for this country. I also agree with this economist that this plan is very "American". Mass. will take the lowest bid any private insurance company will give them when they go shopping for healthcare plans. They will then provide subsidies for that "bare bones" plan and then mandate that those, who may not be able to afford the health insurance in the first place, purchase that plan. I definitely think that poo insurance is better than no insurance. However, for some lower income individuals and families, being forced to purchase insurance may be difficult.

For these reasons I am not entirely convinced that the plan will work. But I think it is progress.

Michelle said...

I'm just not convinced by the old American homage, "pull yourself up by the bootstraps". In a world where equal opportunity really exists it's fair enough, otherwise holding everyone to the same expectation of taking care of their own health needs doesn't fly for me.

charles said...

You wrote: "It is unbelievable that one of the richest nations, the US, can ignore such a massive problem and go to great lengths to make sure its citizens fear a universal health program."

As a nation, the U.S. has been bankrupt for decades! The leaders of this country (the people who do have money, like bankers) would never allow for such equality. Sad and shameful! We want to get out of the U.S., too!

Elizabeth said...

I totally agree! I love a story my Dad tells about one of his high school students. An exchange student from Germany. They were talking about the heath care system and students were shocked to find out that even a bum on the street in Germany could walk in and get the health care he needed. The students asked him why the country why the his country allowed this. And he said, because he is German.

Meaghan said...

I have "excellent" health coverage. One of the best plans you can get and I'm still paying off the baby I had 4 months ago. We pay high monthly fee's and huge deductables. I think I'd be better off without insurance because then I could have had the baby for free!

Cammie said...

I know what you mean, Meaghan!

gian said...

wow... don't get the pierotti's started. We watched sicko with michelle and ryan thompson and then ranted and raved about the issues for hours. Its really frustrating.

I liked the idea of incentives for doctors who actually improve patient's health and are successful with preventative measures.I feel that like is one huge obstacle for america-- we're so unhealthy.

It was also profound to hear that these things would never happen in france because the people of france would never allow it. Americans are afraid of the government. The government if afraid of its french people. Sometimes I feel like Americans need to get so much more productively MAD!

... on another terrifying note. Have you heard about all the coal power plants they have plans for in Utah? Yikes! Then we'll really need health care.

Jason said...

I think you are right, Gian. We were in Paris last week and I was thinking about how different it is when people actually have a significant part in the political process. It makes it all more understandable why the French would be disgusted with Americans over Iraq. They simply wouldn't stand for a leader who mislead them to start a war. I am sure it is perplexing to them how the majority of Americans do not support the war, but it still rages on.

Last night we watched Bringing Down a Dictator about the nonviolent overthrow of Milosovic in Serbia. It is really an amazing story how a small group of young students started a movement that removed a dictator that wasn't removed by the previous NATO bombings or other militant means. I think Americans could use a good dose of that level of political activism- especially when so many Americans don't feel like they have any say in the process.

Cammie said...

I love that story Liz.

AzĂșcar said...

My mom had two babies in Switzerland. She stayed in a room over looking Lake Zurich with down comforters, fresh flowers and baked goods. When they heard she had two toddlers at home, they would not allow her to leave for at least two weeks. She said it was like a hotel, not a hospital. She didn’t pay a penny and WE’RE NOT EVEN SWISS.

Ok, sorry, I’ve been on this bandwagon for a long time. It just makes me so upset. I didn’t even see Sicko because I know it would just upset me more. I can’t believe we pay more money and get less services. I can’t believe that we have to make MAJOR career decisions on whether or not health insurance is an option. It absolutely disgusts me.

If you’re a religious person, I think this is one aspect that we’re failing in as moral beings.

p.s. Michelle sent me :)

Holly said...

Hi Cammie and Jason! Thank you for writing on this subject. This kind of thing has been on my mind for a long time since I worked at an urgent care 7 years ago. Pharmaceutical reps would come in and bribe us with food and treats every week. Then leave tons of samples of this "great sleeping pill", or "the perfect pain reliever", or "got a runny nose???...take THIS antibiotic" and encourage us all to take it like we're 2 year olds waiting for some sweets! It was outrageous and most of the staff, doctors and patients would believe it. The more a rep would come in and "entice" the office with his/her gifts, the more prescriptions the doctor would prescribe from their pharmaceutical company. I was nuts and an obvious scam!

And then the insurance situation… I actually saw doctors turn sick people away (dislocations, broken bones, fevers, etc.) because they don't have health insurance or enough money for the visit. That vision in my mind will always make me ill. How can you turn away a person in need? And sure...not every person has that kind of helpless experience. Especially you’re a person paying thousands a year for health insurance. And even then (trust me, my family is one of them) you are not fully "covered" and "cared" for.

It's a really sad situation and I appreciate you putting so much passion into it. If we can all come together and spread the word, we can eventually make a change and a difference. I'm glad to hear guys happy with the system out there. Hopefully we can merge it into the US somehow, someday. Miss you sooooooo much!!!!

Cammie said...

Azucar-- Ya, I know what you mean. It is really maddening and frustrating to think about what is happening with this regard. After we finished the film I felt so frustrated and upset. Thanks for commenting. I've heard really great things about the Swiss. Your mom's experience is a great example.

Holly-- Those stories are so tragic and you saw it first hand. Thanks for commenting. You have some important experiences to share. Miss you too!!

AzĂșcar said...

p.s. I was induced with my last in part because I was losing health insurance two days later.

That kind of makes me sick--What if there had been complications from inducing before the baby was ready to come?

Cammie said...

Ya, that is so horrible that in the states we have to worry and think about how we will afford to have a baby with all the medical bills. Here there is absolutely no stress. They even give moms free stuff for babies to go home with.

My friend was telling me that they use to give out free diapers and then they stopped. After she had her baby the nurses kept apologizing for not having them anymore.

sun moon rainbow farmer said...

Great discussion everyone. We recently lived in Cambridge Massachusetts, and had the opportunity to hear Dr. Paul Farmer speak on the topic. Here is something he said,
“We aspire to have health care as a right and not a commodity — something you have rather than something you buy. It’s yours because you’re human. If we could push that forward as the #1 priority, other things would follow.”
I would encourage you all to read his books or those that have been written about him!

Cammie said...

Thanks sun moon rainbow farmer--we are going to check it out!

Cammie said...

Andrea, maybe you could cut and paste your post to the discussion. It is really powerful and tragic and I think it needs to be heard.

Fig said...

Came from the Jet Set, and this is awesome. Thanks!

Also - I'm probably moving to Switzerland to give birth, a la Brangelina and Namibia.