Day 23: The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Prompt (#HAWMC) for today is: “Health Activist Choice. Write about whatever you want!” I like this. Not the subject that I’ve chosen, but the fact that I get to choose.
A friend wrote a post recently about someone who is being denied life-saving surgery because of the expense, and it made me think about the subject of “death panels” that we heard so much about during the original healthcare reform debates.
I think that what most people were missing in that whole controversy is that we’ve had the equivalent of “death panels” for years. Of course, they aren’t called that, if they were, people would be having a fit about them; but they’re there nonetheless. (And they have absolutely NOTHING to do with President Obama’s healthcare reform.)
Every insurance company (including Medicare and Medicaid) has one, usually called something innocuous, like a “treatment review board.” Hospitals have them too, to decide which patients are “appropriate candidates” for transplants or other procedures that can’t be performed for every patient that needs them. They aren’t CALLED death panels, but that’s what they are. What it all boils down to is a committee deciding who lives and who dies.
In an ideal world, everyone who needs a life-saving treatment would get it, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world with limited resources, and a profit-driven society that is controlled by people, institutions, and corporations that care only about making more and more money.
Because of this “profit is everything” mindset, cost is one of the main factors that play into the decisions of these review boards (and is frequently the only thing that actually counts, especially in the for-profit insurance industry.) People die every year because an insurance company wouldn’t pay for a treatment. Even though there is an appeals process in place, by the time a treatment is finally approved (IF it is approved,) the patient may have died or no longer be a good candidate because of the delay.
Medicare and Medicaid aren’t any better, either. Even though neither program is set up to make a profit, their resources are extremely limited. With the current lack of jobs that pay a living wage, even more people are being forced to fall back on government programs for healthcare, straining those resources even more. Throw in Congressional attempts to cut funding for both programs, and the situation becomes even more desperate, leaving even more people to die.
There is a solution, but it’s not likely to happen. The solution is to make people more important than profit margins and six figure bonuses for CEOs. It’s making people more important than cutting costs by cutting hours, reducing benefits and wages, and laying off employees or moving production to countries where you can pay 25 cents an hour. It’s making insurance a non-profit industry, where decisions are based on how likely a treatment is to work, not on how much it will cut into the company’s profits or the committee’s bonus package. It’s also eliminating tax loopholes that allow companies to make billions in profit while paying nothing in taxes, reducing military spending (we spend about 33% more than the next 9 highest spending countries in the world COMBINED) and making congress live with the same healthcare options as the rest of us.
This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J
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Source for the military spending comment: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/04/05/how-does-u-s-defense-spending-compare-with-other-countries/