Humanizing health care

As Obamacare debate rages, don't lose sight of what's most important

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Health care, we’re told constantly, is big business. It’s a sixth of the total economy. In Augusta, one of the Southeast’s biggest hubs of health care, it seems even bigger than that. And it’s growing all the time.

It can be one of a family’s or a business’ biggest expenses, too.

It’s a political football, being tossed about by our leaders in the halls of power like so many kids inside the house on a rainy day.

Health care is a legal argument, and in June will be a landmark ruling – one of the most anticipated, most consequential U.S. Supreme Court cases in history. And along the way, “Obamacare” has been and will be the focus of nonstop non-legal arguments by yakking heads on television.

Website Wikipedia defines health care simply, if clinically, as “the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans.”

It’s all these things, of course. But the business, financial, legal, political – and even clinical – aspects of health care too often cover over the real, vital essence of it.

At its considerable core, health care is simply about how long we will spend on this planet, and how comfortably or productively.

That not only humanizes it, but gives it more urgency than all the facts and figures you can toss into a political soup.

We recently had the privilege of meeting Penny, a radiologist at MCG Health System’s Breast Health Center. The name “Penny” is misleading. She’s worth millions. And so are most health-care providers – who regularly provide miracles. And when they’re not, they’re reducing or eliminating suffering; comforting the afflicted; and providing as much love and dignity as they can to someone wearing a backless gown while the invisible lawyers look on.

So, while we debate the politics and the finances and the legalities of health care, let’s not lose sight of the most important thing: health – and the availability of care. And let’s not forget the human element at its heart. Every second of every day in our hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, an indescribably intense, life-rocking drama takes place. People find out what’s wrong with them, or what’s right. They find out how amazing their health-care system really is – shocking, really, if all you know is the political and legal kerfuffles surrounding it.

Just another day at the office for those in the health-care system. There’s a reason health-care providers wear smocks. It’s the only way to stop from ruffling their wings.

Yet, our political foolishness threatens this most essential of humankind’s systems.

With the upheaval likely this June from the Supreme Court’s ruling on “Obamacare,” it’s essential our political leaders get their act together, as unlikely as that now seems. The federal health-care act appears, on its face, unconstitutional, and sure had all the signs of being in critical condition during oral arguments at the high court.

Folks in Washington need to plan ahead and ask, “What then?”

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems to be tilling the ground for his own bold proposal. But in general, Republicans have been out to lunch on this issue. Democrats seized it and claimed it. If Republicans don’t step up with concrete, practical solutions, they’ll just be seen as uncaring or worse.

Indeed, a Democratic bumper sticker already proclaims, “Obamacare beats the h--- out of I don’t care.”

Step one foot in a health-care facility, and there’s no way you can’t care.

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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 04/24/12 - 12:19 am
3
0
"Do no harm." Would

"Do no harm."

Would Hippocrates have considered patient bankruptcy to be harm?

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 04/24/12 - 01:20 am
2
0
"Presumptive Republican

"Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems to be tilling the ground for his own bold proposal." He's already done that in Massachusetts.

specsta
6505
Points
specsta 04/24/12 - 01:53 am
3
4
Health care should be freely

Health care should be freely available to all citizens, and one shouldn't have to choose between buying groceries to eat or getting a needed CAT scan. A person should not die simply because they are poor.

Availability of health care on an equal basis for all citizens is non-existent in the US. As a matter of fact, according to the World Health organization, the US is not even in the top ten for health care quality. President Obama has tried to remedy this.

Cuba, Brazil and Russia all treat their citizens more effectively when it comes to health care. In Cuba, the emphasis is on preventive care, which reduces costs of illness and disease. In the US, the emphasis is on suffering until you have to see the doctor at the last minute and pray it doesn't wipe out your bank account.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 04/24/12 - 03:46 am
1
3
I wouldn't say health care

I wouldn't say health care should be freely available to all. I would say that an affordable health insurance pool should be available for all, and that everyone should be required to have some kind of health insurance policy.

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 04/24/12 - 04:13 am
4
5
specsta,move to cuba! Or

specsta,move to cuba! Or brazil! Or russia!

Riverman1
84127
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Riverman1 04/24/12 - 05:24 am
2
0
I've got an honest question.

I've got an honest question. We had a discussion the other day about Obama care and what some feel are accounting tricks used to say it will actually save money in the long run. But, let's say they are right. Exactly where does the saved money come from? Doctors, hospitals, drug companies? Where? Somebody explain that to me and tell me why it won't have major consequences on wherever the money is taken.

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 05:37 am
2
1
Specsta-Maybe if we removed

Specsta-Maybe if we removed some of the legal impediments to providing health care, like or current tort system and make the loser pay the bills, say as in England, or you can't sue as in Cuba we could reduce health care costs. Did I notice any tort reform in Obama care? Nope. Riverman, you can save money by allowing Drs. to practice medicine with out having to also treat lawyers. The head of the American College of OBGyn said, "If you want a fetal monitor properly read get a lawyer". John Edwards (Democrat) made a fortune "channeling" a baby being born in medical law suits. This is pure idiocy!

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 04/24/12 - 06:36 am
2
0
Russia's healthcare: In

Russia's healthcare: In 2006, the Russian government launched a national projects plan that aims to improve four sectors of Russian life, one being healthcare. It approved an additional $3.2 billion in spending on healthcare to cover salary increases for doctors and nurses, the purchase of new equipment for clinics and the construction of eight high-tech medical centres in Russia’s outlying regions.

Because regional budgets fund the bulk of healthcare costs, standards and health statistics vary drastically across Russia’s economically diverse regions.

Facilities for the disabled fall far below western standards. Wheelchairs and artificial limbs are in very short supply with wheelchair ramps rarely existing and rehabilitation centres are few and far between.

http://www.allianzworldwidecare.com/healthcare-in-russia

Cuba: A Canadian Medical Association Journal paper states that "The famine in Cuba during the Special Period was caused by political and economic factors similar to the ones that caused a famine in North Korea in the mid-1990s. Both countries were run by authoritarian regimes that denied ordinary people the food to which they were entitled when the public food distribution collapsed; priority was given to the elite classes and the military."[18] The regime did not accept donations of food, medicines and cash from the US until 1993.[18]

Malnutrition created epidemics, but it had positive effects too. Manuel Franco describes the Special Period as "the first, and probably the only, natural experiment, born of unfortunate circumstances, where large effects on diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality have been related to sustained population-wide weight loss as a result of increased physical activity and reduced caloric intake".[19]

(The US obesity rate is so outrageous, you suppose that the government might induce a "malnutrition epidemic" to force those who have a little too much around the mid-section to reduce their health care needs) Scary thought but could happen.

Brazil: With US 600 million dollars from a World Bank loan, efforts are being made to improve the operational infrastructure, training of human resources and research studies. An estimated 25% of the population is covered by at least one form of health insurance; 75% of the insurance plans are offered by commercial operators and companies with self-managed plans.

Brazil's emergency medicine: Pre-hospital emergency medical services use a combination of basic ambulances staffed by technicians and advanced units with physicians on-board. No universal phone number exists for emergency calls, and the dispatch center physician determines whether the call merits an emergency transport or not. Pre-hospital physicians have variable training in emergency care, with training backgrounds ranging from internal medicine to obstetrics to surgery.

(Do you really want, although a physician, someone determining if your situation is an emergency over the phone before they dispatch an ambulance?)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_in_Brazil

None of these health care systems (according to the information I've read) would I even consider for the US as being better than what we have now.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 04/24/12 - 06:46 am
4
0
Let's single out a group of

Let's single out a group of people (doctors) and make them immune to damages caused by their negligence. Grand idea! Why stop there? Limit lawsuits on drivers. Think how low your auto insurance could be? Plus, as an added benefit, you could drive 150mph, run those slowpokes off the road and into the ditch, and never be late to work again. You may have some parking tickets, but heck, all of the families of the people you injured and killed wouldn't have any recourse. A double bonus if you drive for a company. Make you deliveries in half the time and you and the company get off scot-free. Just think of all the other ways this could save time and money. It's amazing what you could do when there are no consequences to your actions. Use shoddy materials in construction? Sorry, tort reform, you can't sue. You can just go on and on. Let doctors and hospitals off the hook and you could save 0.5% on health care. At what cost to the people who are harmed?

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 04/24/12 - 07:17 am
3
3
Techfan,are you calling for

Techfan,are you calling for people to be responsible??

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 04/24/12 - 07:18 am
2
3
Healthcare is the newest

Healthcare is the newest religion. It is a rally cry for new despots. Resist the temptation of its promises.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 04/24/12 - 07:27 am
3
2
Yes, resist healthcare. Die

Yes, resist healthcare. Die instead (or suffer for years, then die).

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 04/24/12 - 07:41 am
2
2
Techfan,how do you get resist

Techfan,how do you get resist health care from "resist the TEMPTATIONS OF IT'S PROMISES"?

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 07:58 am
2
1
Riverman: "Exactly where does

Riverman: "Exactly where does the saved money come from?"

If everyone has an affordable health care plan, more people will get the preemptive care, and preventable medicine- which can stop serious health issues in it's tracks, or prevent them from ever emerging- thus saving lots and lots of money. People will not put off getting something easy fixed, unlike today when people show up and it's too late and costly.

Another way is that if everyone has insurance- should someone end up in the emergency room from injuries from a bike wreck, sporting event, falling the stairs, what have you- they have been paying into the pot. As it stands now, lots of people don't have insurance because they are young and invincible, then show up in the emergency room with broken bones or something, which the costs are passed onto the tax payers and people who have insurance- their premiums go up.

So those are two ways.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 08:30 am
2
1
Young Fred: The rights being

Young Fred: The rights being trampled on is the debate right now- can the government force you to purchase something? I think they can (Although I don't agree), We all have to pay our taxes and we can't just walk up the IRS building and hand them, so we're forced to buy some stamps.

This idea of everyone paying for emergency room, or all future earnings are subject to garnishment... not sure how that will work. An appendix surgery can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $180,000, averaging out to $33,000. There's not a method to the madness- so how much would you garnish from someone? You should someone should be garnished their pay for a thousand dollars a month for 30 years? Appendix surgery is an easy, routine surgery today. Something more complicated will cost much, much more.

Bruno
780
Points
Bruno 04/24/12 - 09:25 am
1
1
I still haven't gotten a good

I still haven't gotten a good answer as to why your health is my problem.

twolane
191
Points
twolane 04/24/12 - 09:29 am
0
0
i get so sick of this if you
Unpublished

i get so sick of this if you can have 5000 dollar rims iphones ipads 300 dollar nikes for everyday of the week 65 inch tvs jet skis boats new 60,000 dollar cars YOU CAN PAY FOR YOUR INSURANCE

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 09:34 am
0
1
Tparty -Forced to buy stamps?

Tparty -Forced to buy stamps? My tax forms were E-mailed!

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 09:36 am
0
1
Techfan-What about making the

Techfan-What about making the loser of the lawsuit responsible for the legal costs? Then it isn't so much a game of chance for trial lawyers with increasing odds of winning the more they sue?

twolane
191
Points
twolane 04/24/12 - 09:37 am
0
0
also you know how the keep
Unpublished

also you know how the keep harping on how these countries with nationalized healthcare keep the costs low....well thats because alot of them die before treatment.....because of the WAITING LIST.....in europe obviously dental plans arent part of this lol

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 04/24/12 - 09:42 am
3
0
New Zealand. On my short list

New Zealand. On my short list of places to see before I die.

dichotomy
33040
Points
dichotomy 04/24/12 - 09:42 am
1
2
"single payer " is the

"single payer " is the operative term. My heartburn is who is doing the paying. We have (had) a great healthcare system. All of this garbage started over the 15% of the people who did not have healthcare insurance. Many of them chose not to buy insurance and the most of the rest of them don't have insurance because they choose not to get a job pay for it. I am firmly against any change that is simply an income redistribution plan to cover those two groups. And that is what all of this is about. Covering people who won't work. All of this wasted time and energy and trampling of our Constitution of because of 15% of the people who don't care enough about the situation to get out and help themselves.

Before we did this radical socialist thing we should have tried some simple obvious things to lower healthcare insurance rates by allowing competition across state lines and tort reform. The folks who throw up the other single payer countries as examples don't talk about the statistics on long waiting times for appointments, difficulties in getting to see specialists, and limiting(rationing) of procedures.

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 09:47 am
1
1
Tparty-"If everyone has an

Tparty-"If everyone has an affordable health care plan, more people will get the preemptive care, and preventable medicine- which can stop serious health issues in it's tracks, or prevent them from ever emerging" Sounds great in theory but take one disease-Prostate cancer- Many poor and poor african American men don't get proper screening, not because it isn't available but because the time, effort, and cost of transportation, etc seems to become to great a burden. So then it isn't even the cost of the health care, but associated costs that prevent treatment including the non monetary cost of time and trouble. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12515993

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 09:47 am
0
0
"Forced to buy stamps? My tax

"Forced to buy stamps? My tax forms were E-mailed!"

You paid for the internet then. Along with the computer, router, modem and electricity.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 09:47 am
1
0
Carcraft: "Many poor and poor

Carcraft: "Many poor and poor african American men don't get proper screening, not because it isn't available but because the time, effort, and cost of transportation, etc seems to become to great a burden."

I would like to know where you got this info, or came to this conclusion.

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 09:48 am
0
0
TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 09:58 am
2
0
Young Fred: I think it's

Young Fred: I think it's somewhere along the lines of 1 out of 6 American's don't have health care coverage. Anyways, I do have the same concerns as you about the cure, and the problems that will arise from it. I also don't like how unions that supported Obama are exempt, but yeah- the cure is more government involvement is a problem. And who knows about the loop holes and places where you can get screwed. This law will only get bigger (if it is upheld), not smaller. Add this complicated system with the complicated tax system, and everyone except the 1% will get screwed- but they can afford the best care anyways, so they don't need this law.

It's a mess... it's a huge mess.

What's going to hurt the GOP though- if the mandate is struck down- they need to have a plan in place. And saying "Doctors cannot be sued and you can you buy from any state" is not acceptable nor will it fix the health care crisis in this country.

carcraft
25944
Points
carcraft 04/24/12 - 10:04 am
0
1
Tparty- Who has advocated

Tparty- Who has advocated Drs. can't be sued? Cite a source. I have pointed out that health care problems are multifactorial from lack of knowledge to problems with time and cost that are not medically related. pumping more money into health care (as with education) isn't always the best answer if people and there significat others aren't properly motivated and educated..

itsanotherday1
43317
Points
itsanotherday1 04/24/12 - 10:10 am
1
0
One other piece of tort

One other piece of tort reform is to immunize drug companies and device manufacturers from lawsuits if their products were approved by the FDA. (absent any manipulation of data submitted for review of course). Every drug has a potential for side effects, and just because you happen to be one of the .0001% who had a reaction and died doesn't mean "somebody gotta pay!".
Like every other profession, some doctors are more skilled than others, and some are downright dangerous. I don't mind a bit malpractice suits to recover damages when someone truly has a case; but I think every case should be reviewed by a professional panel before a lawsuit can be brought, and then judged by legal professionals in trial instead of numbskull jurors who think "this person had a bad outcome, so somebody gotta pay!". Those two things alone would save $billions$'s in costs. (even though it would put a few lawyers in the soup line)

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 04/24/12 - 10:15 am
0
0
Carcraft: I was over

Carcraft: I was over simplifying it- but I was referring about the tort issues.

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