Friday, September 25, 2009

Healthcare Throwdown!

(Roughly written on September 18, 2009. Posted today)

I had an encounter with a republican guy (Rick Wilson) who is running against Dale Kildee for the 5th Michigan Congressional District. He has invited/challenged Kildee to come to a town hall meeting on healthcare reform. I picked up a flier and I asked him what exactly did he see as needing to be done about healthcare reform. His sole changes would be to change the litigation laws to keep the lawsuits to a minimum, and to help the poorest of the poor, ignoring the middle class altogether.
He only ever mentioned the poorest, from what I can tell, as a sort of nod to political correctness. He looked me in the eye and said “I am not my brothers’ keeper.”

Wilson definitely knows his history in terms of when insurance abuses and such started, but he has no compassion for people. He did say something good in that people need to take an active roll in making their healthcare decisions. The flaw in his argument is that his sole reasoning for that is to save the insurance companies money. He said that people need higher medical co pays so that they can say “no” to expensive tests (and not necessary by his terms) that their doctor might want to order. This guy not only lacks compassion, but he over estimates the ability of the average person to understand the exact medical terminology and standards of care and purpose of various tests and treatments that doctors take years of training to understand.

When I said that primary care physicians need to be paid more, he skirted that issue and said that the ones who really manage their patients’ care should get paid better. He doesn’t seem to realize that if primary care physicians were paid better, they would be able to take the time to care for people properly instead of only allowing for 3-5 minutes of talking at them instead of taking the time to really listen to their circumstances. He seems to not understand that in order to cover education, insurance, personnel and other overhead costs, combined with the limited payouts of the insurance companies, primary care physicians have to over schedule their days at the expense of time with each patient. If they were paid what they are worth, they would be able to schedule fewer patients in a day and longer times with each patient.
This Wilson guy has everything backwards. If people had access to affordable preventative care and early screenings, that would greatly reduce the costs to insurance companies and individuals and any governmental agencies that help with medical expenses. If people had primary care physicians that they trust and who get paid a fair wage to spend the time it takes to properly diagnose their patients, emergency rooms wouldn’t be overtaxed with people going in for well baby checks and routine maintenance, not to mention all of the emergencies that are caused by waiting until it was a life or death situation when something as simple as blood pressure medication or a home nebulizer could have prevented it. Without affordable access to those things, ERs become the doctor of the day. Wilson said that Medicare and Medicaid take care of most of those who need help and that the working (very) poor are the only ones who need help still. He said basically that people who are middle class need to buy their own insurance and have higher co pays. He also said if they “choose” not to buy insurance, they should get no help from the government. (“People are willing to pay for their iPods and cell phones, so they need to set priorities and pay for their own healthcare.”)

I ran several different real-life health scenarios by him to find out how his politics would weigh in on each. The first scenario was the fact that I am a cancer survivor and because of that I can never change jobs for fear of losing health insurance for a preexisting condition. He did say that preexisting conditions should be covered, but only if you have had continuous previous health insurance, not if you were uninsured before being diagnosed, or if your insurance had lapsed after a diagnosis and/or remission, then been restarted. He said that my circumstances would allow a safety net because I have insurance already and have not let it lapse.

I also get the impression that this Wilson guy is homophobic because when I started to pose the second situation, I mentioned my domestic partner… he interrupted me there, tilting his head so far sideways I was thinking I should be looking for a hinge in his neck, “you said your PARTNER?” I said, “yes, my partner…”again he cut me off, “not your legal spouse, a husband…” I then interrupted him, ”right, my partner of fifteen years who I can’t even legally marry, but that is a whole different issue that has no part in this conversation.” I went on to say that due to Medicare and her insurance from the job she retired from, that the very expensive product that keeps her alive is covered. I said that it costs about $60,000 per year and that if her circumstances were different and she didn’t have Medicare or insurance to pick up the difference, but was still in a middle class income bracket, she would have no help under his plan. He looked me in the eye and said that someone in that situation “would have some hard decisions to make then”.

This “town hall meeting” that he has invited/challenged Representative Kildee to is also open to the constituents of the 5th Michigan congressional district. It will be on Wednesday October 7 from 7pm-9pm at U of M Flint in the William S. White building- Tuscola rooms A and B.

I would like to see a good showing of people who support MEANINGFUL healthcare reform come to this meeting. I don’t want it to end up being an attack of zealots against Kildee the way the “town hall meeting” that my dad attended did. (I wrote about that in an earlier post.) I would like to see this be a meaningful, thoughtful and balanced discussion of the issue. And, while we are at it, should we think about thinking about healthcare reform separate from health insurance reform, or is it all one issue? I have no answer to that question, I am just throwing it out there for ponderation (I know, I’m channeling W again in my language, it’s like a big huge mental burp-I can’t help myself.).

I’m debating on whether or not to ask Wilson, who thinks the middle class should fend for themselves, “If elected, will you opt out of congressional medical insurance and your current GM retiree insurance in order to show that a middle class income is enough to cover private medical insurance and medical bills?”

When I called Representative Kildee’s office to voice support for meaningful healthcare reform, the young woman on the phone said that more voices of support need to be heard because those shouting the loudest and the most are mainly those who only want superficial reform.

If you support meaningful healthcare reform, I encourage you to call your representative and let your voice be heard. If you are a supporter of the public option, make sure that your representatives, senators and president know that this is an important part of any healthcare bill in order to level the playing field and make healthcare affordable to everyone. Also, if you live in the 5th Michigan congressional district (all of Genesee County, Tuscola County, The Eastern part of Saginaw County, including the city of Saginaw, and the Southeastern part of Bay County, including Bay City), I encourage you to take two hours out of your evening on October 7 and make your voice heard to our Representative, Dale Kildee, and his republican opponent, Rick Wilson.

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