On the State of Health Care in America

I found myself really riveted by the film “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” last evening on CNN.  While most of our country, I surmise, was watching “The Bible,” I could not turn from this amazing film.

According to an article which appeared on CNN.com, “ The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received honors at the 2012 Silverdocs, Full Frame, and other prominent festivals.  The two-hour feature-length film was produced and directed by Matthew Heineman and Academy Award nominee Susan Froemke and distributed by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate.”  (http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/01/cnn-launches-escape-fire-on-cable-television-in-march/)

What was so compelling was the confirmation of what many have posited as a major reason for the high cost of healthcare: it is profit-driven rather that patient-driven. Those interviewed, some former employees and/or executives of health insurance companies, sadly yet firmly admitted that the push for profit left far too many people needing basic and preventive health care on the sidelines, sorely abandoned.

A medical doctor said that she left a clinic in which she had been working because she and other physicians were forced to see a set number of patients per day – in order to protect and boost profits. It did not care to the power brokers, the insurance executives, if some patients needed a longer time with a physician. Nor was it on the radar for doctors to spend a lot of time indulging patients in conversations and education on how to prevent disease and illness. Our health care system focuses on treating disease, not on preventing it.

Largely driving costs is not only the attention given to treating disease, but also on a very aggressive pharmaceutical business which, it seems, depends and counts on people being sick so that they can and must buy expensive medicines for conditions which, if caught early enough, could minimize the need for drugs.

The documentary pointed out that only the United States and New Zealand advertise pharmaceuticals on television, driving up demand and in effect forcing doctors to prescribe these drugs for their patients who are drawn to the subliminal message of a complete cure via medication. Such advertising kept insurance and pharmaceutical execs silent for far too long when it was found that Avandia, a drug used to treat diabetes, was causing serious heart problems, including heart attacks.

I was saddened because I don’t see how a nation can continue to thrive when its quest for profit is so aggressive that it does not care for the masses. The article on CNN.com said that Americans spend twice as much on health care as any country on earth, yet “lags behind almost every industrialized nation in the world, ranking 50 out of 220 nations reporting.”

A nation cannot continue to thrive if conditions like that exist, can it?  At a time when the rift between rich and poor is steadily getting wider, when student debt is rising so much and so quickly that it is rivaling the national debt, and when the middle class is almost non-existent, where does all of the frustration of the people go? With the recent sequestration, more and more “average joes” are going to be most impacted, and sooner or later there is going to be widespread public protest. Some politicians keep insisting that the way out of our rising debt is spending cuts…but as the government cuts spending to help average and poor Americans, the fat cats will presumably get fatter …and that just does not bode well with folks.

Watching that documentary made me grateful that I have health insurance, but reminded me that one of the realities about insurance is that it is most valuable when one does not need it and does not use it. Have a house fire, get a serious illness, have too many auto accidents, and one’s insurance can be and very often is, cut off.  People in need of help drain profit and the potential for profit, and they are thus considered dross, extra weight and baggage, which must be eliminated.

The documentary really made me angry. I wondered how many politicians, if any, were watching. The health insurance lobby is a powerful one and, I suspect, supports most those politicians who will fight any potential law or regulation which will eat into insurance profits. That means that the politicians who are sworn to represent the needs of  “the people” don’t care about us, the electorate, except for our votes. They would rather make it seem that the problem is big government, and build a platform upon which many people are eager to stand, when in effect it is big business.

I once asked which was better for a nation, big business or big government, and decided that it would be wonderful, maybe idyllic, if government and business could and would join forces so that people could realize profits while simultaneously making sure that the masses of Americans were taken care of.  It seems that there is enough money in the health care business to make sure everyone is insured and thus have access to quality, preventive health care. That sort of arrangement, though, would cut into profits, so there is no effort to create that reality, or so it seems.

People in this great “democracy” are turned away daily from health care facilities because they cannot pay for care and treatment. Does that mean America is not so much a democracy after all?  Is there a definition of democracy that is “out there” which says democracy is not supposed to be or offer a level playing field? Are we really a democracy if we are more concerned with the proliferation of profits over people, if we are more interested in protecting corporations than the families and individuals which make the success of the corporations possible?

How ironic that, at the same time “The Bible” was playing, a story which mandates people to take care of the poor and the oppressed, this film was also showing which showed the tendency of human beings to outright ignore Biblical directives. The documentary is coming on again this Friday evening. While I don’t want to get angry all over again,I really do what to watch it even more closely, to understand what is going on in our beloved country. Something does not smell right or feel right. Too many people are suffering, and too few people are living high on the hog. There ought to be a middle ground that is beneficial and fair to both groups.

A candid observation


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