Monday, August 24, 2009

Tackling Health Care Part One

OK, going to tackle health care now...big complex issue, divisive, gives rise to great emotion and some irrational behaviour. My friend John, the BikeHiker is involved in an initiative called Forty Days for Health Care. This initiative apparently got a mention on Fox News and John's email and comment portals were inundated with rude and inappropriate emails. This makes it a little bit personal for me, as John is a friend. We need to be free to discuss without concern for our safety or being slammed on the Internet. In addition, three forums are coming up this week, for information and exchange of ideas. Here are the details:

Health Care Forums

Claire McCaskill will have a health forum today at 4:30 pm at Swinney Recreation Center on the UMKC campus. You had better be reading this on your BlackBerry, Palm or iPhone 'cause if you ain't there now, you ain't gonna get in. Senator McCaskill is the only democrat with any brass around here. She has not been shy about having forums and getting down and dirty with the people. I probably agree with her about 5% of the time, but I like her; she has integrity and guts.

Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Avenue, Leawood KS
Tuesday, August 25, 7 pm, Sanctuary
Live webstreaming at
Join us for the opportunity to listen in as a panel of professionals discuss the challenges faced by people who cannot afford health care and the issue of health care reform. Panel participants are:
Sam Turner, CEO, Shawnee Mission Medical Center
Myra Christopher, President and CEO, The Center for Practical BioEthics
Keith Wisdom, CFO, United Health Care Midwest
Rick Kahle, President, Employee Benefits, Lockton Insurance
Hilda Fuentes, CEO, Samuel Rodgers Health Center
Dr. Ritch Richardson, Emergency Room Physician, Johnson CountyEMS Director
Dr. Bill Reed, chair of the department of cardiovascular disease and a member of the Kansas Health Authority board will be helping to craft the questions for the discussion.

On Thursday, August 27, KMBZ radio will be putting on a forum at Rockhurst College. I hope. There's a graphic on the web site but no info.

Two more things to stick here before we proceed. One is a link to a story that Tony's Kansas City found about a doc right here in KC metro. The story is from a British paper, The Guardian.
The second is this essay on socialism that I found on World Net Daily. It's really interesting and I think right on the button, from Pretty dense stuff but worth the read. Print it off and mark it up.

If you read the Political Affairs article, you will see how our governance is a combination of private and public or collective. Companies make private decisions that help their profit picture and benefit stakeholders, but often conduct business under collective government rules. Rules about pay, worker safety and accident compensation; rules like health department inspections of restaurants, gas mileage for the cars our car companies build, standards for construction contractors to adhere to, that kind of thing. Our corporate entities are not totally free to do whatever they want. Then there are fully public organizations or services who are supervised in full by elected officials (our representatives, senators and president) or their proxies; things like Medicare, the VA system, police and fire departments, water services and so on. It's a real mixture: private contractors sometimes perform public/socialist/collective services, and there are hybrids, like GM and Chrysler in their current configuration. I think it is important to understand what we are talking about when we sling around words like "socialism."

So with that groundwork, here is the first question I want to start with: What's wrong , if anything, with the current system?

First, yes, there is stuff wrong with the current system.

It costs too much. I mean everything about it costs too much. Insurance costs too much. Hospital room rates are too high. Acetaminophen and band aids cost too much. X-rays and MRIs cost too much.

We spend way too much money on treatments at the end of a person's life. I know this sentence will get me in lots of trouble. But people should not be treated to within the last minutes of their life, when its obvious to everyone that the illness will lead to imminent death.

The insurance system needs a lot of help. Preexisting condition rules need to be looked at. The rules concerning interstate sales are too restrictive. And, as noted above, it costs too much.

Tax rules are overly restrictive. How about deductions for the majority of medical bills, rather than starting at a certain threshold. Also, more tax advantages for health savings accounts.

We need to evaluate the tort system. Doctors practice defensive medicine all the time. I have heard experienced ER doctors fret about letting patients go, and having that patient get worse somehow, and then suing them, so patients are admitted "just in case, to CYA".

Doctor availability has become an issue. Doctors have been funneling patients to the ER for evaluation, which is expensive and inefficient.

Well, that is a short list, that if you unpack it reveals a lot of complexity. The health care system is complex. So this blogger is going to attack it piecemeal. If you have an addition to "What's wrong with the current system?" feel free to use the comment portal supplied below.

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