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Plan Well, Retire Well

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Healthcare Debate Moves to Facebook

Every day brings interesting new twists and turns in the healthcare debate. From Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst to more talk of death panels, the debate continues on and public opinion has become more polarized than ever. In my last blog, I told you if you sent me an email, I may include your comments in my next blog. Boy, do you have opinions. I received a cross-section of responses from health professionals, concerned citizens, and outraged taxpayers. Here are some of the comments you posted to my Facebook page.

Tanyanika Conaway commented on how she has noticed that people without insurance receive "okay" service, but not the best because they don't have insurance. Karen Grove Hereford, another health professional, feels that if healthcare is free for everyone, services will be substandard. She sees the bigger picture of hospitals not being able to charge their normal rates, which would lead to salary cuts to employees. She stated "I pay a lot for my insurance and I feel I should get good service. I give excellent service to patients whether they have insurance or not."

Daryl Van Johnson feels a competitive public option would balance things. "There is no incentive for insurance companies to do anything for us. They deny claims that are expensive for them, they drop people who get too sick and all this while pushing the cost of premiums through the roof. A public option would cause the cost to be lower, which would force insurance companies to lower their prices to keep people from moving to the public option."

Tasha Thomas, an RN Supervisor said "I hear what everyone is saying and you all have good points. The health care system is big and there is not an easy fix to it...Research Canada universal are put on a waiting list for surgery (if it is not emergent). The taxes in other countries for universal insurance are expensive. Remember that employers pay their share into benefits and they pick the packages for their employees...and they set limits to the benefits offered to their employees, not the insurance company. I always tell people to educate themselves regarding the health care system because what you don't know can hurt you."

To place this debate in perspective for you, please allow me to share my personal medical stories over the past month. In August, my mother-in-law passed away. She died of complications related to lung cancer. She had been in and out of the hospital for quite some time. She had Medicare and Medicaid. I'm sure her bills were in excess of $1 million. We have not seen a bill yet; my guess, it's all been paid. My son got food poisoning that same week. He went to the emergency room and was admitted for overnight observation. He was released by 12 noon. He didn't spend a full 24 hours in the hospital. His bill was almost $10,000 and we are expected to pay a little over $1,000 out of pocket.

In addition to all of this, my husband has been having the same tests done for about four years now. Our insurance normally paid the entire cost minus a $20 co pay. Last week, we received a bill for almost $300 for his routine tests. The tests were not considered "necessary" and we were responsible for the entire cost (which would have actually been $750 without insurance). Our health insurance was switched to a different carrier this year by my husband's company. We supposedly have "good insurance." The thing is we pay a higher premium and are responsible for more out of pocket costs than in the past. When I think back to what we paid three to five years ago, health insurance costs have skyrocketed. Left or right, I think we can all agree if something isn't done, we will all be in trouble.

As far as the death panel discussion goes, I believe as many of you do, these panels have existed all along. This won't be anything new. My father-in-law has been in the hospital for a couple of months. Talks of placing him in hospice care have escalated recently; his insurance is running out. When insurance companies and hospitals decide that it is medically unlikely that your condition will improve, financial considerations take priority.

I would like to close this blog with the comments Dr. Tonya Coats stated in her email to me. "I am very conflicted about this debate. It is mainly a matter of semantics. We call it a "healthcare" debate when it is actually a "health care coverage" debate. This is where people who are worried about the government's interference in our lives get it twisted. I believe everyone should have access to basic healthcare screening and emergent needs. It doesn't matter if the economy is good or bad because for some it is always bad. My big problem as a healthcare provider has been the lack of personal responsibility. Take cervical cancer, for instance, screening for it will prevent death. So everyone should be screened. But, it is a sexually transmitted disease. Are we willing to stop having inappropriate or unprotected intercourse? (Personal responsibility) Further, some of the most common and expensive disease processess (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers) are strongly impacted by life choices. No one wants to put down the fork and get up and exercise to lose weight (Personal Responsibility). None of this is being discussed and all we seem to want to do is throw money at the problem - "The American Way." Finally, nobody wants to take the financial responsibility. Paying for health insurance has to come from taxes, get ready to pay. When this bill passes a lot of people are going to be very disappointed when they don't become magically healthier."

It's up to us. We have to take responsibility for our lives; no one can regulate our choices. But, as Christina Glover so profoundly stated "I understand about personal responsibility, but sometimes bad things happen to good people." If we have a choice, we should choose wisely. Until we talk again...

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