Thoughts from the Bedside on Health Care Reform

   Open your mouth for the voiceless,

For the rights of all the unfortunate.

Open your mouth, judge righteously,

And defend the rights of the needy and the afflicted.

Proverbs 31:8-9


The other day I heard someone ask if health care is a right.

   I don’t know, but it is certainly humane.

   It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard the question, but usually it’s worded more like Why should I work hard and get taxed so that people who’ve made bad choices get bailed out?

   That’s a fair question, and I don’t know the answer to it either. But I do know that most of the people I meet as a nurse, who are uninsured and in need of health care, didn’t necessarily make bad choices. Unless you consider being self-employed a bad choice, or being an artist, a cab driver, a waitress or waiter, a hair stylist, a laborer, a writer, a student…you get the idea. All of these people work, and work hard.

  Another population getting stung when catastrophic illness or injury hits, are people who worked very hard, made lots of money and managed it carefully, in order to retire younger than 65. Oops, here comes the cancer diagnosis or disability and now they are paying out of pocket for what their insurance doesn’t cover and they are too young for Medicare. They worry that they may survive their cancer, but not have enough money left over to survive retirement. They see their assets eaten away, even if chemotherapy, surgery and radiation are effective at preventing cancer from eating their organs. Or it’s the spouse who has the catastrophic diagnosis, and worries that he or she will use up all of their assets, die anyway, and leave their life partner penniless. As if diagnosis and treatment aren’t enough to worry about.

     Most insurance companies deny coverage for experimental treatment that is unproven or off-label already. Unless a patient can pay out of pocket for it, or qualify for a study, it’s a moot point.

     I don’t have data for any of these statements, they are simply observations of what I see daily at work in an outpatient facility.  I do know  a lot of my paycheck goes to taxes and our health care system is broken.  The money used for health care is spent inefficiently at this time.  I’m open to ideas to fix it.