Start shaping our health care future

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As an emergency-room physician in Augusta, I wish to echo Dr. Robert M. Clark's concern regarding access to health care, and our looming shortage of primary care physicians ("Our health care crisis: A doctor's view," July 27).

Too many of our families and friends have heart-wrenching stories to share of getting tangled up in America's health care web. They encounter hassles finding a doctor, often receive a rushed physician visit and are then left to deal with their insurance company - or, if uninsured, face an expense bill. As a nation we seem to be spending more and more for health care but receiving less and less. Sixty years ago health care costs equaled 3.5 percent of our Gross National Product. This year it is 17 percent, and if the trend continues, health care will total 29 percent of GNP by 2030.

Yet, the Institute of Medicine estimates that nearly 20,000 Americans die each year because of limited access to health care - and, as Dr. Clark points out, the United States has one of the highest death rates from treatable illness among industrialized countries.

In this election year, if you are not demanding a workable health plan from your candidate, you are doing yourself and our nation a disservice. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for the future of health care to unfold. I encourage citizens of the CSRA - and particularly our many doctors, nurses and other health professionals - to take an active role shaping the future.

Paul Bonucci, M.D., M.B.A., Martinez

(The writer has been practicing emergency medicine in Augusta since 2000.)

Comments (18) Add comment
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patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 08/05/08 - 05:40 am
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Socialized medicine? Would

Socialized medicine? Would anything improve? Or are you suggesting we take steps to get government out of the medical services field so the free market forces can go back to work as they were when medical care was 3.5% of our GNP.

myobgdi
6
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myobgdi 08/05/08 - 07:32 am
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Does either candidate HAVE a

Does either candidate HAVE a WORKABLE health plan?

Bizarro
13
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Bizarro 08/05/08 - 07:34 am
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People go crazy over the huge

People go crazy over the huge profits the oil companies are enjoying, yet the pharmaceutical and insurance industries are doing the same. When a doctor accepts medicare he generally makes 30-50 cent on the dollar charged so there is no profit and even loss. That translates to fewer doctors accepting medicare patients. Fewer bright individuals will seek medicine as a career with no means to pay back their huge debt in attaining their education. Something needs to be done.

digmick
20
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digmick 08/05/08 - 08:09 am
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Ms. Thomas, your free market

Ms. Thomas, your free market has worked so well in the banking industry. The government is now bailing out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae after bailing out Bear Sterns.

convertedsoutherner
2
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convertedsoutherner 08/05/08 - 08:23 am
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Do you realize the profit in

Do you realize the profit in insurance companies? They have daily available cash by the premiums they receive. Just think about the govt and how they spend our money and look how much money they receive monthly with the medicare/prescription premiums they are receiving. How much do you want to bet that money isn't sitting in a fund waiting to be spent? Let's just say your money has already been spent (you haven't even used any)- so you better keep paying. And... you want the govt to be in charge of our health care system.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 08/05/08 - 08:26 am
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Wrong digmick, when the

Wrong digmick, when the government took steps to force banks to make unsecured loans ( have you ever heard of that happening at a bank before) THEN the government had to try to save the banks. If you noticed, only the banks that invested heavily in unsecured loans are in trouble. 95% of home loans are still being paid on time. The free market was working, as usual, the government interference was again the problem.

digmick
20
Points
digmick 08/05/08 - 08:45 am
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If the free market was

If the free market was working why bail the banks out. let them fail... that's what the free market is all about. These banks made the unsecured loans becuase they traded the loans as a way to generate more profits.

digmick
20
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digmick 08/05/08 - 08:49 am
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I'm not sure health of a

I'm not sure health of a person should be based on a profit-generating incentive. Currently, the United States is ranked 42 in life expectency. It seems that the 41 countries ranked above us don't worship the free market approach when it comes to healthcare.

Bizarro
13
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Bizarro 08/05/08 - 08:53 am
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It would be fallacious to

It would be fallacious to assume because the other countries are socialistic or socialistic-communistic that is the reason for their ranking in life expectency. The U.S. ranks 45th but probably not because of health care, but because the population doesn't practice preventive health care measures so diabetes and heart disease are epidemic because of diet, obesity, lack of exercise, and other risks. Life expectancy is really an idiotic measure and comparison, and most of those ranked above do have free markets.

griesella
0
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griesella 08/05/08 - 01:00 pm
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Will socialized medicine stop

Will socialized medicine stop people from overeating and/or eating the wrong food? I don't think so. Your healthl care has to begin with the individual as do most things inl life. You can't regulate bad habits.

convertedsoutherner
2
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convertedsoutherner 08/05/08 - 04:01 pm
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Have good health habits, diet

Have good health habits, diet and lifestyle = limited medical expenses.
Proper handling of the money you have and your expenses = being able to pay your bills.

UncleBill
6
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UncleBill 08/05/08 - 07:49 pm
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PT, who I do not know, jumped

PT, who I do not know, jumped right in and began to discuss socialized medicine. Where does the writer mention socialized medicine? I don't think anyone wants "socialized medicine"? (Of course if you are in the Army that is what you get.) I think that the point is to have health care available to every American. Mandatory health care insurance is not at all the same thing as socialized medicine. The writer is an emergency physician who deals regularly with the problems created by the currented haphazard system.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 08/05/08 - 09:29 pm
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digmik, you are not SERIOUSLY

digmik, you are not SERIOUSLY suggesting that a GOVERNMENT bailout of two GOVERNMENT-chartered financial institutions, who got themselves in a great big hole following the directives of their GOVERNMENT sponsors, constitutes an example of how the FREE MARKET failed. You cannot possibly be suggesting that. I went to a truly awful public school, and I can spot the logical flaw in your argument, if that is what you mean. UncleBill, the LTE states that "if you are not demanding a workable health plan from your candidate, you are doing yourself and our nation a disservice." Doctors and pharmacists are not, in their professional capacities, "candidates" (though some, like Broun and Paul, do of course become politicians). Therefore, the LTE is exhorting voters to demand a health care plan from politicians. Unless the "plan" is to eliminate all gov't controls, any "plan" being offered that would change health care in any substantial way, is a "plan" that involves a greater gov't role in health care. Many of us would, not unreasonably, consider that some greater or lesser degree of "socialized medicine." Let's discuss the merits of gov't intervention, and worry about what to call it later..

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 08/05/08 - 09:34 pm
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"If the free market was

"If the free market was working why bail the banks out. let them fail... that's what the free market is all about. These banks made the unsecured loans becuase they traded the loans as a way to generate more profits. " Digmik, that is the classical liberal (what we now call "conservative") opinion. Conservatives believe that markets reward good decisions, and punish bad ones. If you set up shop selling buggy whips, when everyone is driving a car, you have made a poor decision. The market will punish that, and you will go out of business. On the other hand, if the gov't requires you to go into the buggy whip business as a condition of licensing you to do business selling cars, and if you then lose so much on the buggy whips that your car dealership is about to go under, you might find politicians of both PARTIES, but of only one PHILOSOPHY (modern progressivism / socialism, what we now call "liberals") pushing to "bail out" your company. Again, it has little to do with the "free market," except that part where people don't buy buggy whips. In our real-world example, that's the part where people w/no income and no bank account, default on their mortgages.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 08/05/08 - 09:43 pm
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"I'm not sure health of a

"I'm not sure health of a person should be based on a profit-generating incentive. Currently, the United States is ranked 42 in life expectency. It seems that the 41 countries ranked above us don't worship the free market approach when it comes to healthcare." Oddly enough, those areas in which we allow the "profit-generating incentive" are PRECISELY where we best deliver needed goods and services. The most profit-intensive aspect of healthcare is pharma. Doctors frequently work for "non-profits" and follow labyrinthine insurance and gov't rules that I cannot imagine trying to figure out. Pharma, on the other hand-Pfizer et al.-operate in ways that we easily recognize as "big business," just like Caterpillar or Boeing. They pour huge amounts of capital into R&D, trying to develop products that will solve their customers' problems or meet their needs, in a way that is either better than the competitor's product, or less expensive. When they develop such a product, they try to sell as much as they can for the highest price they can get for it.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 08/05/08 - 09:43 pm
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The result? An absolute

The result? An absolute explosion of drugs to treat everything from life-threatening cancers to "quality of life" problems like impotence and baldness. And they jump through all those hoops, put in all that work, fund all the failed attempts along the way, in the hope of cashing in and making it big. And should they not? If I am diagnosed with some awful condition that is about to kill me, I think that the very BEST news I can hear is that the cure would represent a HUGE windfall for whoever finds it, and Merck, Pfizer and BMS are all working FRANTICALLY to be the first to market with a safe and effective treatment. Forgive me for saying that, the statement "The Federal Government has set up a working group to look at that." would not be anywhere NEAR as comforting. Also, please note that all those countries with wonderful "free" healthcare (where, by the way, they are learning that they cannot fund their systems, even WITH rationed care), they are effectively stealing the drugs that American companies developed. Also note, please, that life expectancy in the US is low primarily due to violent deaths, not to any defect in health care, which is the best in the world in this country.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 08/05/08 - 09:54 pm
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Please note, further, that

Please note, further, that that area of pharma activity most bound up with gov't regulation, is the least profitable and the most likely to be a cost center for the company, frequently leading those companies to choose not to produce. I am referring to vaccines. The gov't requires that vaccinate our children (don't get me wrong, I'm a smart guy and I would do so w/out the gov't requirement). Therefore, people who do not wish to vaccinate their children, must do so in order to comply. Pharma must offer vaccines at a very modest profit in order to prevent gov't from seizing the vaccines w/out compensation. However, the same gov't that requires me to vaccinate my child, with a substance approved by ANOTHER gov't agency (FDA), does not indemnify the producer of that vaccine. So, if my child ends up with a tragic condition that I, in my expert medical opinion, decide is related to the vaccine, then I sue and win. Let me make up some numbers: if pharma earns $2M in profit each year on the MMR vaccine, and loses a $10M judgment every four years on that vaccine b/c an uninformed jury believed a witch doctor's testimony, should that corp. continue to mfgr MMR vaccine?

dont live there anymore
2
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dont live there anymore 08/06/08 - 01:11 am
0
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johnsmith: A good lecture

johnsmith: A good lecture and a good lesson.

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