Is it Possible to Cut Costs in the Current US Health Care System?
admin 21 April, 2010
Don’t remember if I told you that before, but I work for The Washington Post online panel, which was created in order to improve US health care. It is a complicated issue, hence I wouldn’t like to go into detail too much, and then get lost while trying to explain it. What is more, I want to avoid changing this blog into a political, religious or sexist manifestation. It also wouldn’t be good if I would start writing it in a reality show style. Haven’t we got enough of reality in our life of chronic pain? I want to interest people with my blog, not put them off. In the same time, I believe in free speech and freedom of expression.
Due to chronic illness my energy reserves are quite limited. But this won’t ever stop me from writing and responding to this blog. Besides, I usually lie while writing it, because I wouldn’t be able to sit for so long. I want to emphasize here that this blog is extremely important to me. During the last three years, it was here where I have met so many wonderful people. Furthermore, we all could share our knowledge about chronic pain, and help each other by giving well-tried solutions. I also hope that this blog was, is and always will be a positive impulse for its readers. My intention was to develop faith in all of you. I wanted you to evolve deep respect for yourself, to learn how to love yourself, and how to value your own opinions. And that is the reason why I brought the question from the weekly Washington Post Health Care Rx. Tell me what you think about it. Before you express your opinions, let me warn you that all your replies will as usual be posted on the main page. However, you don’t have to worry about that, because I will add a link from my Washington Post blog to all of them – your privacy will be protected. The only name that is visible on this site is mine, so in case anyone would like to bear some grudges it’s me who’ll take responsibility.
I wouldn’t be myself if I haven’t got my own opinion about this health care issue. But I know that other people may have different point of view on that case, and I respect that. This is what I love about America, we all can have different opinions, and nobody would bear malice because of it. I presume that most of you have been in the health care system for many years now, hence you know very well what are the good and bad things about it. People like us, who experience chronic pain due to long-lasting illness or a past injury, learned US medical system the hard way. I know it from my own experience that even medical personnel won’t escape this hardship. There are people among us who have been ill for a very long time, and they want to share their opinions and hear some answers. While media belabor the issue of health care, society carries a heating debate about a new but extremely expensive medical system. We all are afraid that the already existing US debt will only increase after introducing the system, and that it will eventually cause our country to become a bankrupt. People are really skeptic about the government being involved in the creation of a new health care system. The Post’s today question will be “Do you think it’s possible to cut costs in the current system? If yes, how would you do that?” If you were responsible for the whole country, how would you improve our health care system?
Now I would like to present you some of my own observations. Mind you that these will include both patient’s and RN’s point of view. First, let me discuss the high cost of medicaments. Why there are drugs which cost more than 300$? One of my relatives has a pulmonary hypertension. Not only is it a serious illness but also very expensive. She will have to pay for her medicaments about $50,000 per year. Fortunately, they have managed to get a grant, otherwise I have no idea how would they make the ends meet. Hospitalization is also overpriced. We have to pay for everything from 0.00 worth Kleenex box to an extremely expensive IV drugs. Of course this cannot be compared with trillions of dollars that are going to be spent on our new health care system. When I was a nurse we didn’t even expect costs like this. Today, such numbers don’t make a serious impression on us; we just take them for granted. Last time I was in a hospital, I met a nurse who wasn’t skilled enough to place a urinary catheter. Moreover, she wanted the whole process of placing the catheter to be as sterile as possible, so each time she messed up she brought a new catheter. It wouldn’t be a problem for me if the medical facility would pay for each kit, but it didn’t, so it was me who had to pay for all of the nurse’s attempts. I knew that the money wouldn’t go to any of the nurses working there. I concluded it from the call lights that were so rarely answered. It is worrying that in such a big hospital they can’t staff one of the most important floors as post operative, would you agree? I myself was a nurse so I know that this situation is really frustrating for the personnel.
Bad thing are also happening in the emergency rooms. Many drug addicts come to ER’s just to get some drugs. They say they’re in pain and they need a prescription, so what can we do? Most doctors are afraid of a lawsuit; hence, they have to give the junkies what they want. The situation gets worse when the addict returns again and again. Now you understand why the physicians so often doubt our pain. Several times, in the middle of the night, I have seen mothers entering the ER, accompanied by a group of small children with colds. I have asked myself, “Why aren’t those children in beds?”, “What’re they doing here so late at night?”, “Why couldn’t she wait till morning?” “Why didn’t she take them to their own doctor, instead of ER?” This kind of situations are straining the hospital’s budget too much, often driving to bankruptcy. I think that the ER abuse is one of the most serious problems harassing our health care system.
I would also like to complain about the hospital equipment. Many times I have seen a newspaper add announcing that a hospital in city X has just bought a new MRI. Don’t you think that medical facilities shouldn’t compete with each other? There are machines from the older equipment which work just fine, and there is no need of buying new ones. Providers are falling over themselves to equip hospitals with as many shiny new toys as possible. More co-operation in this area between different companies would do much better than constant competition. Does a town with 8,000 residents really need more than two MRI’s?
It is so wrong that Medicare spends billions of dollars because of unjustified accusations, large number of misunderstandings, or badly coded, sometimes illegal payments. Why is that we have three MRIs in our town, but there is no bandage when needed? I’m asking then, who is responsible for all this? Who establishes the hierarchy of values?
There are three institutions involved in this case: hospitals, drug companies and insurance companies. Just imagine how many billions of dollars are wasted here. We don’t need a health care system run by the government. Honestly, I have never seen an agency, or a state bureaucracy run by the government which would work properly. Politicians are not medically trained people, so why should they make medical decisions? They haven’t got a clue what does it mean to run a hospital. I understand that the reform is needed, but changing the whole system? Is it necessary? I’m sure we can think of something what will improve our current health care system. There is no need to change everything. It won’t do any good if we will throw the baby out with the bath water. For me it is highly irresponsible to let politicians decide whom and why will we meet for treatment. Wouldn’t you agree? In Canada for instance, people wait 2 to 10 hours at the ER to be examined. Is it going to be like this is US? I am also afraid that one day some doc, due to the cost cuts will tell me that I am “too old” or “too short” for a surgery. I want to have one if there will be a need, and that’s all.
Is there are a problem with our current health system? Yes, there is. But I think it would be better to deal with it prudently and without rush. Let’s prepare a thought out plan instead of introducing spontaneous changes. This is not just another tax; it is a health care system. One wrong decision may have tragic consequences.
I think it would be better if the government introduced some serious rules and limitations for insurance and drug companies, as well as Medicare. We have to tighten our belts and start to control spending. I have recently heard that the Mayo clinic has also criticized the idea of a new health care system. Will any of our politicians take their opinion into consideration? Even the Congressional Budget Office stated that it will be beyond US financial capabilities. Don’t know about you, but I need to see a rational and clear plan of the reform, if I’m to believe in it. What do you all think about the current health care system? How it can be improved? I’ll be glad to read your opinions.
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