Friday, January 26, 2007

My Response

Thank you, readers, for all of your deeply thought-provoking comments to my last post. As much as I would like to address each one of you individually, I’m afraid I just don’t have intelligent responses to all of the questions posed.

I have heard of several people having similar experiences where an illness whether mysterious or not was misdiagnosed, undiagnosed or diagnosed in such a tardy fashion as to no longer be applicable. One clucks and shakes their heads at these stories until it happens to them. I hadn’t experienced first hand the frustration of seeing a loved one in pain while doctors twiddle their thumbs and leisurely plod through bureaucratic bullshit.

Ultimately, it all comes down though to trying to save a buck. While diagnostics may be a dying art form that is shifting irreversibly to pure technology, there is a way to use it to our advantage. If CT scans were even somewhat routine in general medicine, of course Dean’s condition wouldn’t have taken as long to be diagnosed. But think of how many tumors could be detected before symptoms are presented. There is a way to use CT scans to assess artery plaque build up before you even have a heart attack! Of course health insurance companies won’t pay for it because they don’t believe in early detection; just treatment after the shit hits the fan.

For health care to improve in this country, health insurance companies need to look beyond their noses and see value in catching diseases early, before the long hospital stays and surgeries. The government must also value preventative medicine and get off their asses to make sure everyone has health care. And no, simply giving a tax break so that people can optionally use that money for private health insurance isn’t going to cut it. Don’t tell me that people need to be responsible for their own health because when it comes down to choosing between using that money to get a seemingly trivial annual pap smear and feeding your family, which one will win? And it’s not an education thing. I can’t count how many fellow physics grad students don’t have health insurance. Funny how it is illegal in Florida to drive without car insurance, but perfectly legal to live without health insurance. When will people learn that women will stop dying from breast and cervical cancer when every single woman gets examined on a yearly basis?

Okay, now I’m way off topic. But really, these are the sorts of things I know other Americans will be thinking about when they go to the polls next year. We are sick of special interests, Big Pharma and the paralysis of trying to get fixed simply because our insurance would rather shell out later than sooner. I might not have thought about it as seriously had I not had a front row seat to the circus that is our health care system.

Thank you especially to the three nurses and one pharmacist who weighed in and gave some of their insight into this (as well as the biologist, the two physicists, the ever articulate barista and the two kickass tech guys). Damn we have some good conversations!


Runner Girl FL said...

My health insurance wouldn't pay for orthodics in my shoes to prevent knee injuries and stress fractures in my shins when I run....(they pay only if I ALREADY have diabetes)… I run with out them so they can pay for the bills for these things? Do I not run and not reap the ENORMISE health benefits from running I would save them money in amounts ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more if they pay for orthodics and I keep running.

(My Mommy helped me buy them for a birthday present...she loves me even if the insurance doesn't)

They need to think more than the one calendar year of money they are putting out and look at the longterm of these things too. That alone would start to save us all money.

magnetbabe said...

Excellent example. Exactly my point.

Minnesota blue said...

The following is just one more example of our flawed system. I had been having a medical problem, difficulty breathing, and I went to the Dr. He prescribed a medication for me and after taking it for the prescribed number of days, I was still having difficulty. I went back, was again prescribed another medication. Needless to say, that also didn't help. I then went to the e.r and demanded to be seen. I was seen and then admitted to the hospital. I stayed for four very expensive days, costing thousands of unnecessary dollars. Those dollars would not have been spent if he would have just ordered a simple xray. When he came to see me the day after I was admitted, he did apologize. However, that sure didn,t eliminate the cost or discomfort. The only benefit I recieved was this: He tends to be more aware and when I have to see him, he appears to be a bit more HUMBLE!!!

greensunflower said...

I am excited for the next presidential election. I am (maybe foolishly) filled with hope.

lefty_grrrl said...

If we can't socialize the system, then there need to be strict laws that prevent insurance companies from a) avoiding taxes by having their headquarters offshore, b) profiting to the tune of billions of dollars while people who pay for insurance are uncomfortable and sick because their insurance won't cover them.

Perhaps there should be some percentage of profit versus the total monies generated by the company. And that a percentage of monies generated by the companies HAS to be payed out for health services, especially prevention and alternative treatments. (I'm not an economist, so I can't figure this formula. But someone out there could do it.)

Misdiagnoses should result in reversal of monies to patients and insurance companies. Perhaps more doctors would do their job if they were worried about not getting paid?

I really think that insurance companies are evil. Some of the greatest developments in medicine are happening in nations with socialized healthcare. Why? The doctors are obviously highly trained people, but they are not compensated to the same degree as American doctors. Simply put, they are not looked at as gods. Greed is not the motivating factor for these doctors, and so it is ensured that those practicing medicine are doing it because they love it or because they have a talent - not to make a crapload of money. Perhaps that's where the changes need to start - the doctors themselves, the relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical and insurance companies, and the way the insurance industry treats the patients - as if they are a liability, and not the very reason that this industry is surviving. What if no one bought insurance? Then what?

This was a little less articulate, but hopefully thought-provoking. I'm going to bed now.

Scott said...

I like the idea of early detection. As in most businesses, nobody seems to be forward thinking enough to invest now to save later.