Sweet Tweets

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Southern Suggestion: Know What's Happening

It's been a while since I've given any Southern Suggestions, so I'll go with just one today.

* Educate yourself about Health Care and the legislation changing it.*

We live in a country where the system is by no means perfect, BUT, it is the center for most of the innovation happening in medicine, where researchers flock to work on the latest therapies, everyone has access to health care, the best and the brightest doctors practice here and we are curing and treating diseases that had no answers just a few years ago.

Costs have risen over the years, and, looking at the cost of prescription drugs, I understand that it can feel like a punch to the stomach when it comes time to pay for an expensive prescription at the drugstore. But, if there existed no cure for the eventual heart failure you would experience for chronic high blood pressure, or the cancer that is wreaking havoc on your body and your immune system, and someone said "I have a pill that will make you well again and extend your life," how much would you be willing to pay for that unexpected miracle? For the years that you would get back in an instant?

So, my question is, when did we become angry over the cost of life-saving drugs and stop being thankful for the miracles that they work to improve not only the quality of our life, but the length of it as well? Did we just become accustomed to the idea that such therapies existed?

Life-saving drugs are not a right. They are a blessing, a gift of a researcher's talented mind and a company's years of work to get it to market. Twenty years ago a cancer victim would have paid almost any amount to have today's therapies that would keep them alive. Today's patient might be indignant that their life-saving treatment will cost them more than their $1,000 deductible. I understand that handing over $1,000 isn't easy. It isn't easy in my life, and I don't assume it is for others. But, if that's what it costs (or much more) to save your life, why wouldn't you pay it?!?

Why do we expect the best drugs, treatments, doctors and hospitals to be free as if they are something we intrinsically deserve? They are a blessings, not an entitlement.

I'm not saying that there aren't lying, cheating and fraudulent companies and practitioners out there that are gouging the system for their own benefit. But, they are in a small minority.

I don't want free health care. I choose excellent health care over free health care any day. And they are mutually exclusive concepts.

Now, for some lighter fare...

2 Remarks:

Anonymous said...

Would you write this post if you didn't have health insurance, or the means to pay for your own treatment? I don't mean to sound contrarian, but want to present the other side of the coin. Those who have the option to "choose excellent health care" are very fortunate.

Melissa Merkel said...

The fact is, when I say that I choose excellent health care, it's because I believe we can't have excellent health care while expecting to pay nothing for it. And when I'm talking about health care - I mean the care that we receive, not the insurance that helps to pay for it.

My point is more focused on those that choose to spend their money elsewhere and are outraged when it comes to spending money on medicine. I read a great article by a California physician giving her perspective on the recipients of Medicare she sees - too often they had "smart" phones, which usually carry a $100 monthly plan, drive nice cars and are dressed well. They chose to spend their money on what they found to be important, and expected the state to pick up the medical bill. You can read that article here: http://tinyurl.com/yl3276o

The problem with expecting health care to be "free" is that we will quickly slide into "poor" health care. So while people will be able to afford it, it won't do them much good. Physicians will leave their practices since they will no longer be financially able to stay in business and rationing of care will result because of fewer doctors. There will be fewer specialists and doctors in the future since who would choose to pay for medical school for 4 years (most are $50K per year) and then train for 6 to 8 years a student's wages past there? Innovation will decline, availability will be scarce and then while it will be free, we won't want it.

My broader point is that the current proposals by Reid and Baccus DO NOT cut costs. They add costs. The Congressional Budget Office itself says that the bills don't accurately reflect true costs. And we know from the experience of Medicare, that the actual costs are usually 100% higher if not more. There are proposals that seek to cut costs not just grab control like bills that are currently being debated.