I was a family physician in Fremont County, Colorado for 28 years. When my patients began ending up in Intensive Care on ventilators because they could not afford their asthma medications and dying from metastatic colon cancer because they could not afford colonoscopies, I finally threw up my hands and decided my time would be better spent working on universal health care.
In addition, the cost of a private rural practice became untenable. Providers in this country spend $84,000 a year just to interact with insurance companies, and spend hours trying to convince insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies of their patients’ needs. Then, we spend weeks and months trying to get reimbursement for care. If I were a family physician in Canada, I would have my private practice and spend my time taking care of patients. And, it would take 13 seconds to submit a bill, with money in my bank account within two weeks. In addition, I would not be trying to stay on increasingly narrow insurance panels: Patients in a universal health care system can see ANY provider or go to ANY facility in the country.
And, as a human, I too, am a patient. At 61, I paid almost $800 a month with $7,150 out of pocket this year, and we are promised yet another 30 percent increase this year. In addition, since I live in a rural county, my rates went up 30 percent last year, whereas if I’d lived up the road in Colorado Springs, it would have “only” gone up 10 percent. My most recent experience with this company’s refusal to even allow me to pay towards my deductible occurred a month or so ago. I had a hemorrhage in my eye. One reason I chose this company was that they would let me see my eye doctor of many years. However, they said she was “out of network” for “medical;” in other words, I could only see her for my yearly eye exam. Well, then, why am I paying $800 for MEDICAL insurance? It all makes sense when you remember that their goal is to collect premiums and avoid paying out any benefits. They are thieves whose only concern is their profit.
Health care is a human need. We live in human bodies that will get sick, injured, and age. That is reality. People are only temporarily healthy. Health care is not the same as buying a flat screen TV. It is not a commodity. People do not choose to get cancer. They do not say, “Oh, I think I’ll have a heart attack today. Where can I get the cheapest one?” and get online for the best deal.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Health care is analogous to clean air, clean water, and safe food. The primary function of government is protection: Defense, police, firefighters, access to water, food and breathable air. Without these basic requirements, freedom is impossible. If people live in fear of losing their access to health care, they are not free. If they lose their home and all their assets due to crushing medical debt, they are not free. If they lose their job due to illness, and so their health insurance, they are not free.
Contrary to what politicians, insurance companies, and Big Pharma tell you, the solution to health care is NOT access to insurance, but access to health care. Just as Congress threw taxpayer money at banks and Wall Street during the Great Recession, the solution is not throwing taxpayer money at insurance companies and Big Pharma. In fact, that solution is insane: They are giving our hard-earned dollars to the people who caused the problem in the first place.
The really sad thing is that most of the world has figured out how to provide health care to all their people. They have realized that this is the cheapest and most effective way to keep their people healthy, happy, and productive. And they have made the moral decision that this is the right thing to do. They pay less than half per capita per year what the U.S. spends on health care and ALL their people are covered from cradle to grave. They pay one-third to one-half the cost of the same drugs. A child can be treated for cancer without losing the roof over his head. A young mother doesn’t have to choose between feeding her kids, paying rent, or dealing with insurance and pharmaceutical bills as she faces death from breast cancer. People in other countries are shocked that Americans face these impossible situations when faced with the inevitable event of injury and illness.
The solutions are staring us in the face. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel. In fact, two bills are sitting in Congress as we speak, HR 676 in the House, and Improved Medicare for All in the Senate. It is our representatives, with their warped greed for money from Big Pharma and the health insurance industry, that are ignoring these solutions. These industries pay millions yearly for lobbyists. It is up to We the People to insist that our representatives take our needs into consideration over the greed of these industries. They are there to serve We the People, not the billionaires who pad their checking accounts.
Stand up and demand justice. Write letters to the editors. Write, call your representatives at all levels of government. Tell them the stories of the injustices you are dealing with. The tide is turning. You can help.
Madeleine Jacobs, MD