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It’s Enough To Make You Sick

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Anyone who still follows my posts may have noticed that I haven't been writing much lately despite the wealth of topics so generously provided by the Obama administration and the clown posse which style themselves as patriots in pretending to be his opposition. The reason is that I myself have become ensnared within one of these topics.

I can now attest through direct personal experience that the much-touted "best health care system in the world" is anything but. In fact, I have to wonder if being rated 37th internationally (just above Slovenia) isn't being a bit generous. I can tell maybe a bit more than most just how broken our health care system is as I have been around hospitals all my life. My mother is an RN, and several of my siblings and in-laws are as well. I can remember when the ER wasn't the dumping ground for excessive numbers of uninsured poor people, whether citizens or not, and I can remember when the health of the patient mattered most, even more than the profit line. Not so much anymore! Americans now "enjoy" not the best health care, but the most expensive.

My Gullible's Travels through the best health care system in the world began recently with a chemical exposure at work aggravating a hidden medical condition I have, making me appear as if I were having a myocardial infarction. The paramedics thought so based on the EKG they took while on the way to the ER, and the doctors began to treat me accordingly once I arrived.

I can't say how much this relates specifically to my case, but the medical staff was mostly foreign-trained. The doctors were from China and India, and it seemed to me that they weren't sure, even with repeated testing, exactly what they were treating. It was "let's try this and see what happens!" Every two hours around the clock they would come for more blood and check their results. But after taking enough blood out of me to satisfy Dick Cheney's thirst, the lab tests and chest X-ray didn't show any coronary distress. A later angiogram confirmed that this was no heart attack. But in the treatment process, I had something like 17 different drugs running around in my system interacting with one another simultaneously. I was a wreck!

Possibly in order to cover themselves, they kept me in the ICU while I came down from the monster Mickey Finn cocktail they dosed me with. While there, I learned a few things. The nurses were generally foreigners in the wards, except for those in the ICU. These ICU nurses tended to be domestic, but were subject to involuntary part-time employment depending on the patient load. They were discussing among themselves when not attending to me (the only patient in the ward) whether continuing to work as nurses was economically feasible if people were increasingly unable to afford their services. They were understandably upset when it looked like I wasn't going to be staying in the ICU with more than half of their 12-hour shift remaining, yes, 12 hour shifts, and not any of it on overtime, for if I left whey would be sent home early and be unpaid for the balance. They don't ever know if they are working two days in a row, yet I had to wait at least two hours in the ER, waiting for the called-in staff to arrive and prepare my room! It's a good thing I wasn't in serious danger of becoming deceased.

So here I am in the ICU, tied down with IV lines and monitor leads in me own little Lilliput; kept captive in a place where the doctors see me as a biochemical reaction experiment in progress, the nursing staff is concerned about keeping their own economic skins attached to their ever-more-prominent domestic ribs, and I remain worried about how much of this bill is going to be dropped into my lap because my insurance will refuse to cover it!

But wait! That's not all!  Once I got out, my primary care physician (an American-born graduate of Northwestern University) assumed the treatment of my now-visible medical condition, and I have to wonder just what he knows. I had to stop taking each of the first prescriptions he's given me almost immediately, due to nasty side effects, and I am very hesitant to begin taking the third, due to its list of side effects being a combination of those of the previous two. Is there really any benefit to using drugs which treat one symptom while causing many others except to raise the profit margins of the evil alchemists who peddle them? These drugs have made it impossible for me to concentrate enough to put up a post until now, which some readers here might consider a benefit. But I can't remain employed using a drug which is reputed to correct my condition and which instead either turns me into a zombie or makes me so miserable that I start thinking and acting like a conservative. More importantly (to me, at least), if my treatment makes me unemployed, I won't be able to pay for continuing my treatment. At that point, (even the federally subsidized drug manufacturers should be taking notice here) I, and millions of others like me, can no longer prime the profit pump because I don't have the pay for them to play.

I often wonder lately why the doctors are so silent about this. It has to concern them, for it affects not only their plush lifestyles, but also makes it even less likely that those who are repaying huge student loans will ever crawl out from under that smothering debt blanketing them.

It doesn't end there. Another assault on amassing health care wealth is emerging in those places where there isn't enough easy profit to interest the big corporations which currently dominate health care. The Guardian's Chris McGreal reports from Tulsa, OK, regarding how the hospitals there are dropping 30 pieces of silver into the hands of local churches to provide just enough medical care to keep the indigent out of their emergency rooms and off their spreadsheets. And I thought hospitals were too broke to pay attention! As if! One would think that these men of God would remember Matthew 25 should they ever survey the mockery of treatment that they help provide. One wonders how healthy, both physically and spiritually, they really are. Oh, wait, their god is Mammon, isn't it? They are in the pink!

More locally, when I got out of the hospital, I passed a new clinic offering $25 office visits to see doctors. This clinic happens to be sponsored by the local Mexican food market next door (go figure!). Even on the local buses one sees ads from other medical groups offering office visits for less than my own co-payment. One has to wonder how good such care will be, but it has to be better than not getting any at all. I just hope that I don't have to find out about the quality of care the hard way, considering how my own prescriptions are going …

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Obama fiddles about his Oval Office Laputa while the public health burns. About the only beneficial health-related thing his administration has managed to do to date is issue a statement asking employers to be lenient regarding employee absences during the upcoming swine flu pandemic. But do they really think that most employers will heed their Pedantic Imagistry's request? The Boss Class is much more likely to see this as a perfect opportunity to get rid of the old, sick geezers who caused the insurance premiums to rise so high! They can throw out the sedentary senile slackers, and evict the geriatric goldbricks! They can all be replaced with those younger and harder-working illegals loitering at the Home Depot, patiently waiting for that contractor named Good Dough who never arrives to hire them. And if that specific group doesn't work out well, the ICE men just might cometh and allow one to terminate them for failure to appear for work assignments the next day. Since these now-former employees aren't at a legal US address to receive their final checks, then nothing ever leaves the payroll account. As the border might as well not exist when it comes to cheap labor, there will be another set of under-employed citizens of a nation to the immediate south of the United States awaiting recruiting at the local Lowe's – and ICE is always just a phone call away. It's win-win for the management team all around. Yay team!

There is no reason to expect that the Democrats remember that they were once the party of labor and once promoted programs that benefited the worker, like health care in general. It's OK with them if Whirlpool dumps 1100 jobs (even if it might make things a little tough for Republican Senator Richard Lugar's reelection prospects) and who really cares about those soon-to-be-ex-Mercury Marine-employees in Wisconsin anyway, their medical coverage was killing their employers!

As for the Republican Houyhnhnms and their obstinate obstructionism, I sincerely hope that they universally contract the most foul and painful diseases known to mankind. The experience will prepare them for when St. Peter boots their scurvy hindquarters down the chute to Hades to reside with the rest of the damned. It is, after all, harder for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom than it is to pass a camel through the eye of a needle, or so claims the Bible (see: Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25).

As for the rest of us, more of nothing is about all we can expect, and even that will be taxed to pay for healing the banks instead of the people; stealing our children's future to cover the Brobdingnagian appetites of Lilliputian immoralists. The health care crisis will be declared ended the moment both major corporate parties decide to end debate, in time for yet another lavish party hosted by the insurance and pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and grudgingly produce legislation containing only flowery language lamely promising merely to return to exploratory deliberations on the contentious question when the need to do so for appearances' sake arises.

America's Corporate Health Care Racket: It's enough to make anyone sick.

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About pessimist

  • http://mizbviewsfromthetower.blogspot.com Jeanne Browne

    Dear Realist – What a great article: important, beautifully written, and no doubt shocking to some. I’ve been wondering what kind of medical care experiences these reform opponents have had; mine have been much like yours. I hope you’re on the mend soon, despite the poor care you’re receiving. And I can’t wait to see what you write when you’re in top form. You should send this piece to the White House!

  • Doug Hunter

    My experience has been a bit different. I have been very impressed with the level of care and treatment and the quality of hospitals in 90% of my families dealings. I had necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) in the early 90’s and it was diagnosed and treated properly saving my life and limb. My father had a severe ‘widowmaker’ type heart attack during a 5K and received excellent and speedy care including a state of the art induced coma recovery allowing him to survive with full functioning.

    I will admit though, the billing and insurance portions have been less satisfying and expose a corrupt and greedy system.

    As for the liberals love affair with that 37th best healthcare number, it’s total and utter bullshit. That’s a lie, a fucking lie, and most who repeat it are bags of shit in my book who are attempting to mislead people about what the number represents.

    The rankings were not based on quality of care as much as type of care, when the government paid the system got points, when everyone was covered the system got points. That’s not a measure of quality so much as it is a measure of type of care. It’s equally, and probably more, accurate to say we have the 37th most socialized care. That would be the proper use of the stat.

    For actual positive outcomes with specific diseases if you are covered in the US you’re likely getting the very best and cutting edge treatment in the world.

  • Doug Hunter

    Here are the actual criteria used for the 37th best ranking. You’ll notice most of them have nothing to do with the quality of care (especially #2 and #5 which account for 50% of the ranking). I think it is much more accurate to say it measures the level of socialized care rather than the quality of care but you be the judge:

    1. Health Level: 25 percent

    2. Health Distribution: 25 percent

    3. Responsiveness: 12.5 percent

    4. Responsiveness Distribution: 12.5 percent

    5. Financial Fairness: 25 percent

    Now when looking at actual quality measure, like how you fare with a disease in the US you get statistics like this:

    5-year survival rate for ALL malignant cancers(%)

    US EUROPE

    MEN 66.3 47.3

    WOMEN 62.9 55.8

    Where are the bleeding heart morons crying over the 10-15% of cancer patients needlessly dying because of substandard socialized care? Oh, I forgot for the ‘Realists’ of the world facts and reality aren’t imporant. What is important is having your heart in the right place, mortality be damned.

    If you want to know the answer to why we have a lower life expectancy despite our good healthcare consider our out of control fatness and stressful and accident prone lifestyles. If you’re still worried you should move to Hawaii, Minnesota, or Utah which have the highest life expectancies in the US.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Doug,

    You’ll notice most of them have nothing to do with the quality of care

    How do you figure the distribution and financial fairness of a health care system have NOTHING to do with the quality of care of a health care system?

    The rankings assess the health care system in the countries as they apply to the entire population in terms of accessibility, quality of care and so forth. It’s not about who has the “best doctors.” That’s not the proper way to assess the efficacy, efficiency, cost and overall quality of a health care system. You need to take multiple variables into account and the WHO study does.

    You, on the other hand, don’t seem to want to with your repeated parroting of “R&D” variables. You’re as short-sighted in your compilation of facts and figures as you accuse them of being.

    In terms of your cancer rate, once again you’re leaving out other variables and making unreasonable leaps in logic. First, are your figures (could you be so kind as to provide a link, as I’ve seen countless other different figure pertaining to the same data and there actually doesn’t appear to be a year or size of sample in your listed figures) relative to incident rates? That is to say, did the compiler take cancer incident rates into account? Preventative measures (I remember Dave said that they didn’t matter or were irrelevant, which is hilarious when you really think about it) should probably also factor in to the data, as should population data, age, and so forth. You’ve got one thing going for you, Doug: at least you did the service of dividing the “data” into gender. Amazing that the rate of survival for men is actually nearly 20% lower in “Europe” than it is in the United States for “all” malignant forms of cancer.

    If you want to know the answer to why we have a lower life expectancy despite our good healthcare consider our out of control fatness and stressful and accident prone lifestyles

    Or that few people actually go to the doctor initially and that many diseases and conditions are actually caught in late stages? So when your American men and women (the ones with the “higher” survival rates in the US) wind up going to the hospital with malignant cancers, it’s often because the onset was really that far along and they couldn’t afford to go sooner.

    Now I know you’re a hard nut to crack, Doug, given that you don’t think responsiveness, fiscal fairness, reliability, access and distribution have ANYTHING to do with the quality of a health care system, but I’d like you to provide some of the data in its complete form. You say that facts and reality aren’t important for the “Realists” of the world, but it’s ironic that in your post you provide a selection of numbers and expect us to simply take you at your word without any context, without any further location data (Europe’s a big place, age matters, location matters, etc.) and without any actual references so that we can check up for ourselves.

    This isn’t the first time you’ve done this, Doug, and it won’t be the last. The reason is because you’re interested in proving what you believe to be your case; you’re interested in telling us all why we should be cold, heartless sacks of shit and let people continue on in the “wealthiest” and “best” nation in the world without access to care. According to you, we should do this because the “facts” say so.

    Fuck that. Facts without compassion are useless.

  • Jordan Richardson

    That’s a lie, a fucking lie, and most who repeat it are bags of shit in my book who are attempting to mislead people about what the number represents.

    How is it a lie? You might not disagree with it, but explain to me how the WHO is “lying.” Wild, gutless accusations aren’t particularly flattering.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Realist, you are obviously not part of the Tribe – you keep quoting the Christian book. I can’t offer you the invite I offered Mark Schannon on a different thread. If you were to come to Israel, you would get far better care than you are getting in the States – but you would have to pay. You would get doctors trained all over the world – Russia, Europe, New Zealand, Israel, America – and your family would have to provide the non-ICU nursing (it’s a cultural thing, not a medical one).

    But being that you are not a citizen, you would have to pay private rates – and they are damned high.

    The most I can say is refuá shlemá – may you experience a complete recovery and return to the bosom of your loved ones.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Realist, you are obviously not part of the Tribe – you keep quoting the Christian book.

    Ya gotta know your audience, Ruve…

  • Clavos

    they couldn’t afford to go sooner.

    Or simply didn’t go. Ten years ago, I discovered I had had cancer for two years; undiscovered because I was asymptomatic, and I don’t go to the doctor until I have symptoms, not because I wasn’t insured — I was, and with excellent coverage.

    And yes, treating my cancer was much more complicated and expensive as a result, but not to me, insurance paid it.

    Providing everyone with coverage will ensure that everyone will be able to afford medical treatment, but it won’t ensure that everyone will go to the doctor when they feel fine.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Ten years ago, I discovered I had had cancer for two years; undiscovered because I was asymptomatic

    So how did you know you’d had it for two years? :-)

  • zingzing

    ruvy: “Realist, you are obviously not part of the Tribe – you keep quoting the Christian book.”

    people can read and quote more than one book!? what the fuck is going on!? flabbergasting. i’m going to go buy another book.

  • Clavos

    So how did you know you’d had it for two years? :-)

    I went to the Dr. with another complaint, and he found it while examining me. After a biopsy, they were able to tell me that I had had the tumor for at least two years.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good luck, Clavos. I hope you’re not in pain.

  • Clavos

    Thanks, Roger. I’m not; I was treated and have been cancer-free for eight years, now.

    Have a couple of side effects from the treatment, but no pain.