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What You Don’t Know Might Kill You February 8, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Economic Stimulus, Economy, Health Care, Women's Issues.
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ekg2bflatlineTonight as my husband and I were watching the news, there was a lot of talk about the stimulus plan and the need for speed.  Since health care is linked to employment in this country, finding ones self unemployed – as millions of Americans are lately – could lead to worse problems if they or one of their children become ill.  On this particular newscast, the anchor interviewed a financial adviser about what an unfortunate American should do about health care when he or she loses his job.  The financial adviser explained that after a job loss, heath care normally continues for 30 days.  She advised folks to fill all their prescriptions and get dental and eye exams, but under NO circumstances should they have a physical, or ask for help with any new health concerns.  Why?  Because then there would be evidence of a pre-existing condition and when they do get a job that maybe has health benefits, they would be denied coverage. 

So, let me get this straight.  Don’t ask the doctor about that nagging cough.  Heaven forbid, it may be lung cancer.  So instead of getting it taken care of when it can be cured – you can wait six, nine, twelve, or eighteen months until you get a job that has benefits.  Then, the health care company can pay for your end-stage cancer treatment until you die an agonizing and painful death.

Are they serious?

As the economy contracts, people are already foregoing health care in record numbers.  Too many people are finding themselves in the position of affording a doctor’s visit or the heat bill, prescription medication or the rent.  The Charlotte Observer reported today that more than one-third of respondents to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last fall said they or a family member postponed needed health care, a 7 percentage point rise since April.  Also, one in seven Americans under 65 went without prescribed medicines in 2007 as drug costs spiraled upward in the United States, according to recent findings by the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington. That’s up substantially since 2003, when one in 10 people under 65 went without a prescription drug because they couldn’t afford it. 

The entire health care system in the United States is broken beyond repair.  It is time to throw it away and start again.  The first priority MUST be divorcing health care from employment.  Even if the situation were not as dire as it is today,  job loss is endemic to the globalized American economy.   Also, costs have spiraled so far out of control that businesses simply can not afford to provide the benefit of health insurance.  Second, as President Obama has said, our health care system is a disease care system.  It is geared toward dealing with the failures of wellness rather than the promotion of health.  Any new system must focus more on lifestyle and wellness – the Family Practitioner must be more revered and compensated better than a disease-care specialist.  The only way to do this is with a nationalized single-payer program.

Friday was national “Wear Red” day to raise awareness of women’s heart health.  Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.  Early intervention through wellness programs, however, are the best ways to prevent heart disease.  This means that nutrition classes and gym memberships should be covered.  It means that our yoga classes to help deal with stress should be covered.  It means that smoking cessation medications and classes should be covered.  None of these are the focus of any health plan out there.  But when you need that bypass surgery for your five cholesterol-clogged arteries, that is covered.  Maybe.  If you have health insurance.

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