One Of Those Weeks
It’s been one of those weeks. We are at Mom’s. She has several skin cancers that need to be removed over the next several weeks. She had the first and worst one done yesterday. She saw a Mohs micrographic surgeon, who removed a piece of skin roughly one inch by two inches from the middle of her forehead. Yikes! He barely got the wound closed. Needless to say, she’s in incredible pain. Unfortunately, her skin heals very slowly. They want her to return to remove the stitches next week, but I can’t imagine it will be healed by then.
The Mohs surgery is pretty amazing. They remove the cancer and then examine it under a special microscope to make sure they got it all. Some of the margins were not clear, so after an hour of waiting (sitting there with this huge open wound) the doctor came back in and removed more. This time (and hour later) the margins were clear and he was able to stitch her up. Amazing technology. Exhausting day.
Today I took her to her primary doc for an unhealed wound on her leg – from her last fall. Her leg has been swelling and yesterday it was quite inflamed. He thinks it’s doing OK even though it’s been weeks. She has another cut on her arm – also not healing well. And she has three more skin cancers to remove. This is going to be a long summer for all of us.
I feel bad that I need to leave tomorrow, but I have class on Saturday and a party on Monday for friends from the east coast that we haven't’ seen in at least 15 years. My brother is coming to help Mom out for the weekend. Every time I experience this, I wonder what my only-child son and DIL will do. Smooshed anyone?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
When I Grow Up…You’ve got to see this lady! Ruth Seamands is the 92-year old mother of my friend, author Brandilyn Collins. When Ruth had to give up driving recently, she bought herself a red golf cart and had her own logo painted on it: Ruth’s Rocket. She uses it to get around her retirement community in style.
I met Ruth back in the early 90s when she would have been in her mid-70s. She was attending a writers’ conference where I was a speaker and she managed to keep up with the younger conferees, no problem. I’ve had the opportunity to visit with her a few times since, and always enjoy her. She’s optimistic. Active (does 30 minutes of stretches per day). Full of faith (a former missionary). Interested in life. And nothing keeps her down.
When I grow up, I want to be like Ruth!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Why We Can’t Afford National Health Insurance
Jeffrey H. Anderson and Investors Business Daily published one of the best articles I’ve read on the problems with national health insurance or Medicare for all. They explain the simple economics of a public payer in any situation, and particularly in health care, where normal competition doesn’t work. According to the article:
Health insurers don't provide a service, per se. They are middlemen or financiers. They contract with others — doctors, nurses, hospitals — who provide the actual service. In such a context, genuine private-public competition is impossible. For no one can match government's ability to dictate the prices and availability of services rendered by others.
In discussing the “Medicare for all” option, the article says, “More often the choice will be made by employers, who will decide whether they want to keep offering private insurance to their employees. To save money, many will choose to offer only the government-run plan, which should be called the "employer option" or perhaps the "government option for employers." By any name, it's an option for employers to force employees into government-run care.”
Because government is such a large contractor, it already pays only 81 cents for every dollar of service provided. Doctors, nurses and hospitals go without the difference or pass along the costs to private insurers or individuals. So government can fix prices, at little or no cost to itself.
The article offers three reasons why it’s bad, even if government can lower health care costs in this way:
First, Medicare pays less per procedure, but it doesn't pay less. What Medicare gains per procedure, it loses in poorly coordinated care, wasteful procedures, fraudulent claims and bureaucratic waste.
Despite paying only 81 cents on the dollar, Medicare's costs since 1970 have risen more than twice as fast as the costs of all other health care in America combined. Per patient, Medicare costs have risen 27% more than all other nationwide health care costs — 41% if you include the prescription drug benefit.
Medicare is far more expensive than privately run care, and it's leading us toward financial disaster.
Second, a government-run system would kill any chance at real reform. The core problem with American health care is that the patients aren't the payers. So providers and insurers don't cater to patients, and patients don't shop for value. Each element caters to whoever pays it: Providers cater to insurers (and the government); insurers cater to employers. Nobody caters to consumers.
A vibrant free market would aggressively cater to consumers, who in turn would shop for value — thereby making health care more consumer friendly, affordable and better. We'll never get there if the government takes over the insurance business. That will cement in place the core problem with today's system. We need a change, not another coat of cement.
Third, once government has run private insurance out of business, providers will no longer be able to shift costs to them. This will result in higher costs to taxpayers and lower wages for medical professionals, which will attract fewer people to the profession. If anyone doubts this, do they also doubt that higher pay attracts teachers?
Lines will form, care will be rationed and a two-tiered system will emerge: The very rich will pay for the care they want — whether here or abroad — out of their own pockets. The rest of us will have plenty of time, while we stand in line, to reflect on how nice it would be to have private insurance and the personal freedom it affords.
I don’t know about you, but any further government involvement in health care scares me to death.