By Joni Williams
In the past year, I’ve undergone a lot of diagnostics simply trying to get a, well, diagnosis. This included two MRIs, one CT scan and enough x-rays to turn me into a human glow stick. I also had a needle longer than my forearm stuck through my back, kind of like a rotisserie chicken. I was even poisoned in the name of medicine.
Honestly, up until then I didn’t feel sick. But I sure did afterwards. Especially when I’d see the bills. Affordable Care Act? I think not. I’d suggest any ACA revisions be more aptly named the Unaffordable Care Act. But hey, what do I know? I’m not a member of Congress. If I were, I’d get a cushy 72 percent federal subsidy to help pay for a top-tier, gold-level ACA plan. And I definitely do not.
Trust me. I know firsthand how crazy expensive our healthcare system is. Monthly insurance premiums can cost anywhere from the equivalent of an economy car to a luxury house payment. Still, considering the exorbitant cost of medical diagnosis, treatment and physician fees, it’s almost justifiable.
Likewise, I now understand why doctors charge so much. After all, they have bills to pay. Those Maseratis, Porsches and Mercedes they drive don’t come cheap. And have you checked the price of a vacation home lately? No wonder they charge fees of $20 and up per minute.
Thank goodness we don’t have a single payer system like other nations. If we did, docs would probably be reduced to driving Toyotas and vacationing at the Red Roof Inn, just like the rest of us. Not even a rock star would settle for that. So it certainly doesn’t make sense to expect those who work in America’s highest paid professions to trim their luxuries.
Anyway, physician fees are a bargain compared to hospitals. It’s estimated that my upcoming surgery and hospital stay will cost $50-60,000 for three days. If I were up for a trip, I could have the same operation abroad for about a third of the cost. Only my insurance wouldn’t cover it.
And unlike the U.S., where non-citizens are covered by Medicaid (even in states like Florida that didn’t expand Medicaid coverage), other developed countries do not reciprocate our generosity. They actually make non-citizens and uninsured ex-pats pay for their medical treatment, including unplanned emergencies. Holy Hemoglobin! No wonder people don’t want to become legal citizens when they immigrate to the U.S.
No matter how you look at it, the American healthcare system is sick. What’s the cure? Obviously, no one really knows. So why not treat it like a disease? The politicians should stop tinkering with the symptoms and start at the root of the problem. Simply put, it’s too expensive. We have, by far, the most expensive health care in the world. But it’s also not the best, according to world rankings. Nor are our mortality rates, which are becoming more dismal by the day.
Does this mean American physicians aren’t worthy of the nation’s highest salaries? The good ones probably are. But plenty of others shouldn’t even be in the game. I should know. Using my finest investigative journalism skills (translation—I hit Google), I discovered the surgeon who did my last operation was charged with grand theft during his residency after video surveillance revealed his not-so-secret habit of stealing medical supplies. He also settled a large malpractice claim just before my surgery.
I’m not sure what he did, but he caused me a lot of pain. But filing a malpractice suit was not an option for me. Except in clear-cut, extreme cases, it’s almost impossible, ever since laws were tightened to protect physicians, reducing their liability insurance costs. Sounds good until you consider that medical error has now been deemed the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
There’s no getting around it. The quality and cost of our healthcare system requires drastic improvement. And the government, estimated to pick up the tab for about 60 percent of healthcare, is in a prime position to negotiate, which President Trump—the man who literally wrote the book on making good deals—wisely realized. As the leader of the only nation in the free world to pay outrageously jacked up prices for prescription drugs, Trump was set to negotiate with the absurdly high-profit pharmaceutical industry. But according to at least one news brief, he changed his mind.
He may instead opt to do nothing. Apparently, he’s ticked at fellow conservatives who refused to back his own recent healthcare plan, citing their lack of loyalty to him. Understandable, except his concept of loyalty is backwards. As public servants, politicians are expected to be loyal…to the people. All of us.
And as a good Southern mama would say, they should always remember we are the ones who gave them life—at least, as politicians. And, come the next election, we can take it away.