American Healthcare: The Mess Government Intervention Created
Two generations of American citizens, those born in the 1960's and those born in the 1980's, have absolutely no idea that health care used to be available to almost anyone in the United States at reasonable cost. My mother gave birth to me in a ten-bed hospital where the doctor's office and waiting room were up front, the nurses wore white-starched cotton uniforms and the fees were something like $2.00 per office visit. My birth cost $50.00 including mother's ten-day stay in the hospital. That was July of 1935. The place was Culver City, California, close to Santa Monica.
In 1943 my dad had his appendix removed by our family doctor in that same hospital. He paid for the operation and after approximately four days, came home and went back to work. That's how we used to have health care in the United States for the average working person.
In 1962 my mother and I moved from Southern California to the Phoenix, Arizona area. I had to locate a new doctor, and that doctor became the family physician for the ensuing 22 years. I had health insurance through my employer, but my mother, who was now my dependent, was not eligible for coverage under my insurance plan. Plans covered spouses and children, not dependent parents. I was still able to afford her annual physicals and necessary doctor visits.
In 1967 the government unleashed Medicare, which I felt was insurance against catastrophic medical costs such as major surgery or hospitalization that my mother might need. Little did I realize that it was the first major step toward total disaster for American health care as I had known it. I was then 32 years old, but my mother was almost 66 and I foresaw a time when I would not be able to provide for all her medical needs. Coverage for costs above and beyond the normal fees I had always paid seemed like a good idea to me then. Subsequently, I have observed what disasters even a small amount of government intervention can cause.
By 1970 health care costs began to rise. By 1980 they had soared. As long as I had the services of our long-time family physician, I really didn't have to worry. He accepted the Medicare that was provided for my mother, and the insurance coverage I had. Anything not covered could be paid out on a monthly basis.
By 1990 health care costs were not only astronomical but the family physician had retired. This did not affect my mother much, because she was in and out of care centers from 1982 to 1989 and finally, in 1993, became incapable of staying at home alone while I worked and was placed in a long-term care facility. She passed away in September, 1999 just three months short of age 98.
I am now a Medicare recipient as a result of disability. Along with the disability award from Social Security, I became eligible for Medicare benefits. I had not looked at the schedule of deductibles for years. Shock is far too mild a word to describe what I saw. Now, I couldn't afford me! The only option is the Medicare HMO, so I enrolled in our area's major provider program. The first doctor I saw disliked me intensely because I wanted answers and felt that if I had medical questions and concerns, I should be able to make an appointment to see the doctor and discuss the problems. His perspective was that he was to see me every three months unless I had an emergency. He refused further treatment and told me to get another physician from my HMO Plan.
It was then that I began to really investigate what present-day American health care is all about, and I was again shocked and amazed. The doctors in Medicare and other HMO groups are rewarded for holding down costs, which often results in less than adequate care. Doctors are abrupt with patients. I have discovered that tossing out "nuisance" patients who want answers and not excuses is commonplace.
What happened? The government intervened to make health care affordable and instead, it has become less affordable than ever. The government's intervention fed the greed instinct of the health care providers and sent costs soaring. The attorneys fueled the cost problem with added litigation. The United States Congress began seeing the HMO as a way to cut costs, but instead, it has cut the level of care for those who must use the HMO as opposed to the private payee or covered insurance programs of the past.
The only area of agreement I have found in my research on health care in America is that it's a mess and likely to get worse. It is true that lives have been saved by transplants and other exotic medical procedures that were unheard of 40 years ago. It is also true that many people who could afford a doctor in the 1950's can no longer do so. HMO doctors aren't impressed with one of the greatest cost-reduction programs in the world, preventative medicine. I have a condition for which I have been told to tend to it myself and if it becomes an emergency, go to the Emergency Room. What a farce. The doctor is thinking of his brownie points (and possible bonus) for keeping costs down. His concern is obviously not with a patient's painful problem.
Once a government entitlement, especially in an area which is no longer affordable for working or retired people, becomes established, it is almost impossible to discontinue that program. People come to depend on the system they live with, especially with the cost problems involved.
Now it's time for government to do something almost unheard of. They should come up with a truly creative solution to the American health care mess.
It is my hope that the health care fiasco would become a very critical issue for debate in Election 2000. It is my belief that we need to get full disclosure on how bad this mess is before we can draw the attention of the average American working or retired person. And it is time to have some meaningful debate between those who advocate more government intervention and those who can develop creative solutions to help us get back on the road to genuine American health care.
It takes real issues to show real leadership. We have a real issue. What we need is a real crusader to carry this to the forefront and make a lot of noise until the public wakes up.