BILL NEWTON: We Can Do Better by Our Uninsured
My oldest daughter, Iva, lived in New York City until 9/11.
On that terrible day, she witnessed the second terrorist plane crashing into the World Trade Center. This trauma was enough for her to move her family out of the city to a quieter place in upstate New York. Columbia County, near the Connecticut border, was her new home.
Having grown up in a surgeon's family, she knew to take note when a young person is struck by abdominal pain. This happened one day not long ago to her youngest son, Sam. The closest hospital is in Sharon, Conn. Readers from the Northeast will know that this is not a backwater community. Several noted people in the film industry call it home.
Sam was evaluated by the emergency room physician, who decided that he had appendicitis. A surgeon was called, and he agreed with the diagnosis and wanted to remove Sam's appendix. No trip to the operating room just yet. The insurance company required an abdominal CT scan before it would cover the treatment cost.
Most medical people will agree that appendicitis is a clinical diagnosis in a young male and no scan is needed. However, the scan was done but had to be read by a radiologist in a different location. After hours of delay, Sam finally had surgery, but by then his appendix had ruptured. A stormy course in the intensive care unit followed for several days. He eventually had a full recovery.
The insurance company had no thought for the patient's welfare and certainly placed itself between doctor and patient.
T.R. Reid, an international journalist for The Washington Post, traveled to five capitalist countries to study various health-care plans and get a world view of health care. His report has been seen on PBS "Frontline." The countries were Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Taiwan. All have better outcomes and lower costs for their health care than the U.S.
Of the 200 countries on the planet, only 40 have health-care plans for their citizens. There are four basic models for health care. The Beveridge model was thought up by a British sociologist and of course is used by England and Cuba. Health care is financed by the government through taxes. In America, our military and Veterans Administration use this system.
The second model came about in the late 1800s in Germany. Chancellor Bismarck thought that health care should be financed by employers and employees through payroll deductions. Here in the U.S., we use this system for our workers and employed people.
The third model is from Canada and is a national health insurance. It is not socialized medicine, but rather socialized insurance. Our Medicare is patterned here.
The fourth model, or system, is out-of-pocket payment. Of course, this model is used for the vast majority of the world population. If a rich person in Africa, Cambodia, or rural India gets sick, he can see a doctor and will probably live. A poor person in one of these countries will not see a doctor if sick and will probably die. This is the model that the 15 percent of our population that is uninsured has been relegated to.
I trust President Obama to solve our health-care problem. He has more knowledge and passion on the issue than any president in the past. His mother died from ovarian cancer. Having issues with health-care coverage only compounds the suffering from this disease or any other. This was the case with the president's mother.
Some will say that I am un-American or suggest that I should go live in one of these countries with better health care than ours. But the blood of too many of my ancestors was spilled on the way to making this nation great. I'm involved in our health-care debate because I love America. As a great nation we can do better by our medically uninsured. They should not be treated as if they live in a Third World country.
"In most of the countries that revamped health care," T.R. Reid stated, "the moral imperative was the driving force." Profit from health care is a nonissue in the five capitalist countries that he visited.
Sir Winston Churchill said that you can count on Americans to do the right thing after they've tried everything else.
Bill Newton, MD, a former chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, lives in Southern Pines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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