Affordable Health Care for Everyone: the right idea, right now

As a physician who has practiced medicine for the past thirty years, I am asked, several times a day, my opinion of President Barack Obama’s health care package. I have watched while the debate has raged on between both parties. Special interest lobbyists representing the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, medical product suppliers, and unfortunately some doctors, are all waging a battle against the health care reform package. They recount endless reasons why the plan should be defeated. Many of these reasons are recycled arguments that have been used before, such as cost and how it is to be paid for. New vitriol has been circulated, such as elderly death squads, federally funded abortions, etc. But one group of people has been left out of thoughtful consideration: the fourteen thousand Americans that lose their health insurance every day, due to a number of circumstances. These range from job loss, pre-existing conditions, riders on existing policies that exempt treatment, lifetime insurance payout caps, or jobs where the employer does not offer health insurance.

In developing countries it is our responsibility to see that every member of our society has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, which certainly requires that all receive care for injuries, and illness. One may ask how these people without coverage have gotten along until now. It is true that emergency care is rendered to these patients. But it is the preventive care, and the high cost of medications to treat illness such as high blood pressure and diabetes that have fallen through the safety net. Patients who do not have insurance often do not receive treatment in a timely manner that prevents permanent disability or injury. They also do not get optimum treatment and surgery for their disease. I, as have almost all doctors and hospitals, have provided pro bono treatment to these patients. But this is not a manageable situation. For instance, a patient with ovarian cancer often requires surgical and well as chemotherapy treatment. While the doctor can do the surgery pro bono, when it comes to treating the patient for the important follow up chemotherapy, the cost of the drugs can run as high as three to four thousand dollars per treatment. This does not include IV’s, infusion pumps, dressings, nursing time, nausea and ancillary medications. Since the physician must purchase these drugs before the patient is treated, it is not hard to see that it would be cost prohibitive to do this on a pro bono basis.

It is plain to see that our current system is hopelessly broken and needs a solution. President Obama has spent considerable, thoughtful time in trying to come up with a solution. Now, there are many in the system who would like to maintain the status quo, but we have been trying to get by with that for far too long. President Obama made a heartfelt attempt to put to rest the false allegations put out by anti-reform lobbyists. He has stated that the bill does not pay for federally funded abortions, nor are there death panels for the elderly and infirm.

While this will come at a cost, what people do not realize is that we are already paying for the care of the uninsured because their costs are shifted to those who do have insurance. In the long run, this bill will stabilize insurance premiums by providing coverage for the forty five million Americans who do not currently have coverage. Now is the time for Americans to stop the vitriolic exchange and have a thoughtful discussion regarding health care reform. We must do this to allow all Americans the right to a dignified and healthy future.