Bitter Medicine: Our Health Care Scandal

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My wife suffers from several medical ailments. Some are minor and don’t require much treatment. Others are more chronic and require regular Doctor appointments and even an occasional ER visit. With all of these problems comes a regular dosage of prescriptions. We have medical insurance which is offered through my employer. My employer happens to be a family run business that my father and I have been managing  for over twenty years. We employ about 10-12 people and have watched our insurance costs increase year after year. In the last couple of years we have also noticed a simultaneous decrease in what that insurance covers. Deductibles continue to rise as do co-pays and most recently a large prescription deductible. It also seems that the “contract amounts” the Hospitals, procedure centers and doctors’ offices charge have also become overwhelmingly high. This of course comes as a shock to probably no one reading these words.

Recently a small example hit close to home. My daughter who is a nineteen year old college student and dance instructor hurt her back. She was advised by our physician to get a series of x-rays. We went to our local imaging center and were advised that our insurance was accepted but that since her deductible was not met we would have to pay the full amount up to $2500. Ok, how much could a couple of x-rays be? About $1500. Seriously? I was advised, “That is the contract amount we bill your insurance company.” Ok, what if I didn’t have insurance and was paying in cash? Answer, $138. Seriously? Needless to say I wrote the check.

A few weeks later my wife was suffering from abdominal pains in the night that required a trip to the local Emergency room. We were there for a total of four and a half hours. During that time there was one blood draw for testing, she was given one IV bag of saline solution and then an ultrasound. We were sent home and advised to follow up with our physician. At the time we paid a $100 co-pay. And then a few days later received the bill for our less than 5 hour visit; $16,000. I have an inquiry out as to what the “cash amount” would be. As for our insurance, our deductible is met so our amount due is about $6000. This of course does not include the ER doctor bill sent separately for his 4 minute consult. $694 is that amount. Of course this is by no means an extreme example. It is one of many that people throughout America (including our beloved OC) face daily. It is a system that is seriously broken.

The number one reason for bankruptcy in America is due to medical bills. People, who work all their lives, pay their bills (play by the rules) and even perhaps pay off a mortgage find themselves wiped out from one illness. The government, which technically means the public, can find the money to save GM and many other corporations and banks that have failed (often not playing by the rules) and somehow the heads of these companies at the end of the day still find themselves wealthy despite being the failures and fools that they are.

My short and small examples are not very dire and we will overcome them. But American’s do die every day because of a lack of medical resources. People do not get the medicines or treatments they need. Parents have to make choices that are unthinkable to most of us. I can’t think of a greater and more imminent threat to our National Security. Yet the Treasury can open up its coffers to rain a trillion dollars for wars of occupation to “protect our security” but not to help the security of our own suffering.

The lack of political will to have a serious discussion about the crisis in health care in this country in any meaningful way should itself be considered a scandal. The folks who just a few years ago were angry with the French (to the point of renaming a staple potato treat “Freedom Fries”) haven’t seemed to notice that France is number one in delivery of health services and care to its citizens. The US (usually determined to hold all things in number one position) is in the mid thirties (just ahead of the embargoed island of Cuba-which is another story itself). Our leaders and our punditry are incapable of at least examining a method by which we can move ahead into the first world and truly have a number one health system for all of our people.

It seems to me that until we can do that it is very hard to proclaim ourselves a super power.


About Ted Tipton