Monday, January 28, 2008

Nationwide Healthcare?

About half of all bankruptcies filed were due to medical illness which caused tremendous financial problems for families. We Americans have knowns this to be true for a long time. That medical insurance in this country is an absolute must.

Personally I'm for a socialized, nationwide system. To temper this, I'm okay with a second tier being available for those able and willing to pay for services not covered. However, currently the US the lowest ranked westernized country with basic medical treatment. We are first in cutting edge treatment and research and new therapies, but these treatments are not covered by insurance and are paid for out of pocket.

But why should we care? Well it can easily hit the average consumer. Right now my best friend just moved home to Hawaii from California. She was in the process of changing her license plates, getting a new bank, getting a new license, getting a new health insurance, new doctors, and even registered for a class. She's debating about switching careers right now.

Unfortunately she's become ill, and because her private insurance is from CA, it's possible they won't cover treatment in Hawaii, and she'll be forced to go back to CA. Actually already they are covering her care at out-of network costs and anything about what is "usual and customary" will be charged to her. Basically they'll pay $x, and leave the rest for her to figure out. Right now she can't switch to Hawaii insurance because this would be considered a pre-existing condition.

So would you want to be in this scenario? Outside your home state and ill. If you are unable to travel, but have insurance, but it'll only cover a smaller portion than normal what would you do?

That's a major problem with the US system. If we travel anywhere outside our coverage area we could be in trouble. Even with the best insurance they could consider it out of network. And each year the premiums rise and coverage declines.

But how to stop this? What can we do to avert this crisis? Do people really want to be solely responsible for their own care? That they pick and choose what they can afford by privitizing the system entirely? That if you aren't rich enough to afford basic care too bad? Or would they prefer higher taxes to cover themselves?

It's an interesting conundrum, and likely one to be put to the next president. I wonder where we will in another 2-3 years with the american healthcare system, let alone 10-20 years. Things are coming to a head fast with the skyrocketing costs of health insurance.


Jim ~ said...

In one word, NO. I feel that the US has the best health care system in the world, it is the cost of health care that has become the issue. Should we pay more in taxes to the government in order to pay for national health care costs? Can't I just do that myself? I think universal health care is socialism, and I am a capitalist. Even if there was a tier that allowed an individual to pay extra for better coverage, you're still paying more for everyone else. Nobody should be entitled to health care coverage, it should be an individual priority.

Look at all the countries in the world that have universal health care coverage. Would you be willing to contribute up to half your income to the government to pay for it? If you choose to go uninsured you are asking for a bankruptcy to happen. Insurance protects us from the overall impact of health care costs by offsetting it through premiums, deductibles, and co pays.

What I think the country needs is health care reform, to look at the current system we have in place and how we can make it better. This doesn't mean hand over control to the government. Insurance companies and drug companies are always looking to make money by denying claims and pushing some drugs many people don't need. I don't know what will happen in the next decade, but I never look to government to solve my problems.

Living Almost Large said...

You say that being 25. But you'd be the first one in line for government help if you had a child born with disabilities. You'd be the first person looking for help if you needed treatment you couldn't afford.

Everyone doesn't want to pay for medical care until they need it. Then they cry about it. And yes I would pay more in taxes. The differential is only 5% on average for a socialized nation. It is not 50% of your income. 5% to clean up the mess is well worth it.

Wait until something happens. Try to retire at 55 and afford medical premiums between 55 and 65 when medicare kicks in.

Think people don't want medical? What if you don't even qualify due to preexisiting conditions?

Even now, the best health care is available for those who pay. My friend, whom I had dinner with on Saturday, is 31 with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in AUGUST of 2007. She is on her 4th round of chemo today. She was fast-tracked for surgery and chemo because she knew people and has money.

Think someone broke and poor could be almost done with chemo treatments in less than 6 months? HELL NO! And she even talks about how fortunate we all are. We know doctors, have superior medical insurance, and money. How many people wait months to see a specialist and have surgery and get chemo? She saw someone in less than 2 week, surgery within 1 month. Then chemo less than 3 weeks later. Unbelievable care. But average joe? Think they are going to get that sort of fast tracked treatment?

You buy your care in the US. If you are poor you don't get the time of day.

That's not kosher. Everyone needs a minimum level of care. And it would lower costs if we provided prevention and minimum level of care so people wouldn't wait until the last minute and go to the ER.

Costs would go down. Less people in BK. I worry about the day I don't have employer provided medical insurance. I worry and plan to save my money so I can always afford premium care. But I know I'm in the minority.

Anonymous said...

About half of bankruptsies are due to medical bills - this is a misleading statistic.

I know someone who didn't want to pay for health ins. even though he could afford it. He got cancer and had to get medical treatment and ended up with $50,000 in medical bills. He decided he didn't want to even try to pay them. So he divorced his wife (she was earning a good income at the time, he didn't work). He gave her everything in the divorce settlement and then filed bankrupsty to get out of paying his medical bills. He still lives with his wife (divorce was only on paper to get out his bills), and they have enough money to travel often and they're doing a ton of home improvement on their house. They probably spent close to half the amount of his medical bills on their house in one year (not to mention the big screen TV and the nice audio system).

This is why health care is so expensive for everyone. If people would take responsibility for their bills and not sue for everything to get rich, healthcare wouldn't be quite so expensive & out of reach for so many in this country.

We have to look at the real issue here. People run up huge bills and declare bankruptsy just to get out of them. People sue dr's for anything and everything and the rest of us are stuck paying crazy ins. premiums.

Having gv't healthcare doesn't solve anything if the root of the problem is the entitlement sentiment plagueing society.

Sense to Dollars said...

"Would you be willing to contribute up to half your income to the government to pay for it?"

If it insured that I would never lose my house because I got ill and couldn't afford healthcare...YES. ABSOLUTELY YES.

No other emergency can wipe out finances like a medical one. No other emergency can destroy your life in quite the same way, just when you need help the most.

I'd pay anything to make sure I was covered if I got hurt. Even with insurance, health care in this country is russian roulette.

I've seen firsthand what happens if you get sick and don't have enough money to pay because your insurance company decides it doesn't want to cover you. you lose everything, trash your credit, and that's WITH INSURANCE. That's completely absurd. Insurance companies get rewarded for not treating people. Rediculous.

Jim ~ said...

There is an underling reason that health care costs are so high, people don't pay for it! If you go to the doctor and hand the bill to the insurance company, how much do you end up paying? I think it would be better to address why our health care system costs so much and address the costs, not giving control to the government. What we need is a health care IRA type of account that we can privately fund. Just like retirement, you're putting pre-tax dollars away now to use for later, and it would work the same way with healthcare. Some early versions of the system are the FSA and HSA plans. One might also wonder why some people from other countries with social healthcare come here and pay for ours?

I'm bothered by how you feel a simple little 5% tax hike would SOLVE health care costs. At no point does raising taxes solve anything. The best health care is always available at a cost. Like anything out there, if you need something then you have to find a way to get it. The people who don't pay for these services along with the trial lawyers/ambulance chasers are the ones causing the costs to go up. The moment anyone gets injured on the job it turns into their payday through a lawsuit.

Socialism is not something I welcome in this country. There is this ever growing sense of entitlement to have someone provide everything to them.

Living Almost Large said...

Nope, I don't think it will solve all problems magically. Are you in the healtcare field Jim? Do you have friends/family in the field? I do. We live, breathe healthcare in my family.

We see it from many different angles including the side where we're hugely profiting from this horrible medical system.

But I know I could easily fall into a category of people who don't have medical insurance. And while I take care of myself and watch my weight, diet, etc, I do worry.

And 5% is not a lot of money to pay for medical insurance. It's not a lot to pay for a guarantee of care.

Socialized medicine has a problem, such as weighing whether to let you die or not. In the US at the end of our lives we extend it by heroic measures. Socialized medicine does not.

I'm watching the state of the union address and Bush wants to increase the NIH funding 2x as much! Now 7 years later after he cut funding in 2001. PLEASE! HELLO! Where was he 7 years ago when he started cutting our research funds? He didn't believe in research then, and he doesn't know.

He also wants to balance the budget, but he's spent 7 years running a deficit. There are no easy choices.

So why not raise taxes by 5% and direct it to medical care? Start there. Prevent people from going BK. Watch SICKO and worry if you lose your job and don't have medical insurance and you have assets, how much you'll spend being uninsured. Or mayb Jim, you'll pay for COBRA, do you know how much that costs? And if it runs out before you find another employer?

As for people being irresponsible and running up debts. They run up debts without medical bills, but as I showed in the post, it is known that medical bills do drive BK. And it is a statistical fact.

Anon - your friend committed fraud. But that's like tax fraud. Many people collect a government handout while living with their SO and having children out of wedlock. Is it right? No. But should we stop welfare? No.

Same parallel, just a few bad apples ruins the bunch? Then we should stop all socialized programs because there will always be fraud.

Jim ~ said...

You have some valid points, I just don't want to pay for socialized health care. No I'm not in the healthcare industry, but I know how much healthcare can cost when a situation gets ugly. My mom had cancer, it was removed through surgery, and she takes a pill daily now. She was considered high risk to almost nearly uninsurable for 5 years. So try not to talk down to me like I don't understand the costs. I've seen the documentary SICKO and while it's difficult to watch and is extremely one sided on the issue, I don't think universal health care will work for this country.

I think the basis of your argument is very generalized. People with debt that get in a medical debt situation run to BK. I think this happens because people panic and don't look at their options. In the end, someone has to pay for health care, whether it is the individual receiving services or the taxpayers. Your issues with Bush and taxes are a separate issue.

Living Almost Large said...

It won't work because people in the US are selfish. They desire to not pay for care until they need it.

And yes my DH also is in healthcare management right now and looking in at all the expenses. We waste a ton of money with our inefficient system.

Of which people wait until it's urgent to go to the doctor because they don't have insurance.

Also you've only seen your mom's care. Have you ever seen anyone else's? People without money or care? Where people do free medical care? I've seen it. It's not humane to treat people based on costs.

Bitsy Pieces said...

My hubby works in healthcare on the provider side. He's worked with many healthcare providers who have previously lived/worked in countries with socialized medicine. And each one says the same thing: The quality of care in those countries is poor at best.

I've had U.S. healthcare workers tell me that they've vacationed in the UK and spent the entire time praying that they wouldn't get seriously sick over there, because they didn't want to be a patient in a UK hospital.

One U.S. healthcare worker told me of a woman from the UK who was in the U.S. for vacation. She came to the hospital and asked for a CAT scan. She'd been having abdominal pain for 3 years, but the UK medical system would not permit her to have a CAT scan until another 3 years had passed. She offered to pay the U.S. hospital in cash for it, since she was so desperate to have the test done.

Personally, I have a problem offering free healthcare to folks who don't work and simply drag on the system and taxpayers. Instead, I think one possible solution may be to force businesses to subsidize health insurance for all employees (perhaps on a sliding scale based on number of hours worked). I do believe that honest, hard-working folks should get health insurance--even if they make minimum wage--which is not the case today.

But I don't think socialized medicine is the answer. Socialized medicine means that even lazy deadbeats who don't work--and don't pay taxes--get the same healthcare as those of us who DO work. Definitely not a fair arrangement.

As a side note, much in SICKO is, of course, biased. A Cuban doctor told me that the Cuban hospital they show in that "documentary" must have been Castro's... because he had never in his life seen a Cuban hospital that looked that clean, modern or nice.

Living Almost Large said...

Bitsy, my DH was raised in a socialized country. And it was fine. And yes I realize that many places in Cuba are not in that condition. I've actually going to many socialized countries hospitals and so has my husband. I've been to one in Japan, DH in Hong Kong. We've also been to Mexico (not the cleanest, but heck the ones in Southern CA were about the same in the poor areas). And our current roommates has lived in Thailand, India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Europe including the UK. And we all currently are in the medical hospitals.

Consensus by people who have seen it themselves? The US hospitals at the top end are superior. But got to an average or below average place, and it's the same.

Maybe where we work is nicer than most, but you go ghetto hospitals or rural medicine and it's poor conditions. The conditions are sad.

Many rural areas do not have doctors. They have to drive to go to specialists, often times the coverage by their insurance is poor as well because it's not in-network.

So people from US who pray not to get sick. Have they ever been sick? We'll since we've lived extensively in Socialized countries it's not bad. I think they are equivalent. Have your friends actually been in a hospital in a socialized country? My DH and myself have. Not awful and certainly equivalent of average.

My mom does not like us travelling to places where it's 3rd world because care is poor. But in westernized nations? Like Switzerland, Denmark, UK? It's about the same. And probably better than going to rural southern areas.