Written by Amy Tenderich
| Published on July 25, 2008
The folks at Consumers Union and Consumer Reports Health were mad as hell about the sorry state of health care coverage in this country. They wanted to make darn sure that politicians are listening to the voices of suffering citizens, and not just those of the "big money lobbyists representing the health care industry." So what did they do? This May, they launched a cross-country RV tour. I kid you not.
A crew of a half-dozen campaigners is roaming the country this summer videotaping Americans talking about the challenges they've experienced getting the affordable, high quality health care they need. You can follow the Cover America Tour at their website and blog.
Here is a recent testimonial from Kathy of Earlville, NY, who can't afford the medications she needs to treat her diabetes:
(Click here to read the core Health Care Reform Principles that Consumers' Union is pushing for.)
Got your own health care nightmare story to share? Click HERE.
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What's really scary to me is the fact that people with what is considered good health insurance (such as myself) still can't make ends meet. It's not just those on Social Security (from retirement or disability) or those without health insurance. The health insurance premiums, the office co-pays and medication co-pays and supply co-pays are quite high and making ends meet after all that, rent, utilities, etc., I pretty much have nothing and work only to pay bills.
Hi from the road, and thanks for the shout-out! Filming Kathy's story was tough, seeing both the physical and mental toll it took on her living with untreated diabetes. We were grateful to meet her and be able to share her story... thank you for posting it. From South Dakota, The Cover America Tour team (oh and by the way, there are - thankfully - only three of us in the RV) :)
More insurance is not the answer; that only gives the insurance companies increased power over the entire field of health care! The current system is broken. The fact that insurance companies are for-profit is a the root of the problem. While they are in it for the profit, they will never consider the best interests of patients, and they will continue to rip off doctors left and right. Currently, the best thing to do is NOT buy tons of coverage. Getting a high-deductible plan and funding an HSA with pre-tax dollars is the best way to pay for everything you need. I am still hoping that a national health care plan that EXCLUDES the immoral insurance company giants is in the offing. Buying more insurance only feeds the beast and gives insurance companies more power to dictate to doctors and patients! I work in the medical field and I'm telling you that insurance plans will soon be worthless, because doctors are not going to accept Medicare or any of the major plans in the future. In California, the trend is taking hold. It's not possible to meet the expenses of a practice on the paltry insurance company "reimbursements," and doctors are just tired of jumping through hoops, doing endless paperwork, and taking salary reductions so the insurance companies can post record profits. Billing insurance is a tremendously expensive thing for physicians to do. They have to pay for software and the staff, and usually a claim is not paid the first time around. After four months of writing appeals and making calls to customer service in Manila, they're lucky to get a check for $28. The system is intolerable, and more doctors will opt out in the coming years, until insurance plans are useless.
After watching this segment and reading the comments, I think it is important to note that the problems with medical coverage in the United States today are not solely the fault of insurance companies. I will give just two examples. I was reading a story about the mounting costs of health insurance in my hometown paper and all the pictures displayed obese persons. While Type 2 diabetes is not caused by obesity, the incidence of obesity surely complicates the treatment and makes the use of "expensive" medications more likely. I have little sympathy for persons who have been obese for decades and then suffer complications, just as I have little sympathy for persons who smoke all their lives knowing the risks. If you look at the costs of healthcare across countries, one reason it is much less expensive in other countries is because these countries do not have such an obese population. Insurance is not intended to cover intentional acts. My tax dollars should not bear the costs of healthcare a person accrues through a lifestyle of bad choices.Second, the medical profession is also at the heart of the problem. For decades it has been obvious that the medical needs of Americans would grow with the aging of the baby boomer population. As a result, more doctors would be required. Despite this, the American Medical Association has not approved ANY new medical schools since the 1970s. The medical profession seems intent on keeping a monopoly over the supply of doctors (in order to protect doctor's salaries and prestige). I think the federal government should prosecute this practice under anti-trust law. All patients suffer from a lack of doctors.
The medical profession is not to blame for the rising cost of insurance premiums. Since the sixties, primary care physicians, pediatricians, and family practitioners have seen their income plummet -- due to the pay cuts imposed by Medicare, and by insurance companies, who base their reimbursements on Medicare fee schedules. Meanwhile the insurance companies are posting record profits and their CEOs are taking home billions. When I finish medical school I will be over a quarter million dollars in debt. I can't repay my loans, let alone hope to own a practice or even buy a home, on $80K per year. Everyone wants to be a dermatologist, radiologist, or plastic surgeon -- because those are the few specialties remaining that pay well and don't require insane work hours. To my thinking, insurance company profits are blood money -- money made by denying payment for life-saving care and treatment. For example, if a cancer is rare, chemotherapy will often be denied by insurance companies, since there isn't data to support its efficacy -- even though a handful of people get the disease each year, and those who get the chemo respond to it. A patient in my clinic, with a rare lymphoma, had to "appeal" the decision to deny his treatment. I was frantically calling NIH to get a statement from a researcher supporting the use of chemo for his disease, so I could put it in the appeal letter. Unbelievable! And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Who are the insurance companies to treat people's lives as numbers on a balance sheet? We can't let them continue to get away with it. Patients and physicians have to take a stand.
I am rather lucky to have excellent federal employee health insurance. I have talked with many who are having difficulities paying for diabetes self-managment tools even with decent health insurance. I know many of us have strong opinions about the state of health care in the United States. We can cite example after example of lack of health care for Americans. We have read and heard many solutions to solve the health care crisis. My question is, "Is there a straight forward plan or initative to provide medical coverage for all Americans"?As many have said the health system is broken, I would agree. However, what is the solution? How can we begin to demand health coverage for all Americans?
So, physicians pay "plummets": which means they go from the top .5 percent of wage earners to the top 3 percent of wage earners. There are real people in America who are trying to make ends meet who actually deserve sympathy.
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