As a cancer survivor I know first hand the trauma and financial devastation that goes hand in hand as we struggle to recover from this illness. It’s an uphill battle that sometimes does not turn out favorably.
Fortunately, the number of people who survive has grown and the numbers are impressive. But I can attest to the fact that survival alone is where our determination and will power is focused to achieve recovery. The financial aspect doesn’t even run a close second. By the time we take an accounting of the expenses we have incurred, it is already beyond our comprehension.
There are still far too many lives lost to cancer, and the soaring cost people incur weighs heavily on their families. This financial burden often leaves them buried in debt for years.
We know that in any business the bottom line is profit. We know that the medical profession is a business and that insurance is a business. And we also know the two work together to “cure”, and to “help pay for” those they serve. It is my belief that most people in the medical field, especially those who take the Hippocratic Oath, are duty bound to put the patient first and to treat them above and beyond monetary gain. None the less, the cost of medical care has reached astronomical heights.
Enter the insurance companies. Their obligation to their customers is to help cover the expenses of hospital and medical treatment for an annual fee which customarily includes eighty percent of those expenses. When we buy health insurance we understand these terms and understand that we will be responsible for the twenty percent that is not covered. Therefore, we usually shop around to get the best benefits for the money before we sign up for a health insurance plan.
Once we enroll in an insurance plan, however, we learn that every now and then we are notified that the cost of our health insurance has been increased. Along with this news, we usually learn that some of the coverage has been dropped. The insurance company arbitrarily makes these changes, not with the customer’s well being in mind, but with the bottom line, i.e., their profit, as the main objective. There is no oath taken in the insurance business where they would be obligated to do otherwise.
There are arguments that research is so expensive that these increases are necessary. There are other arguments that the pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the increase. A third argument, which is one I find highly unlikely is, the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies are in business together. I doubt that doctors prescribe only the sample medicines that come into their office because they get a cut of the profits. Only an idiot would believe that.
Somewhere down the line, this medical/research/pharmaceutical/insurance scenario has to reach some effective compromise. The number of uninsured families in this country is shameful. When medical expenses force these families into bankruptcy it only worsens their situation.
The cost of medical research, and the cost of new medical devices and equipment is a multi-million dollar endeavor. Once the latest technology becomes available it is extremely limited in availability and not always readily approved for coverage under most insurance. Unfortunately, sickness does not play favorites. Thus, the vast majority of those who are desperately in need are unable to afford the treatments which are available.
Is it time to consider a national health plan? Is it time to take an in-depth look at national health plans used in other countries? None of them are flawless, but it would seem that we could take the best of other national health plans and modify them in a way that would benefit Americans as a whole. It would be a means of doing away with the confusion, the high cost of medical services which forces many Americans to do without coverage, and would make the latest medical advances much more accessible, regardless of one’s income.
There is no quick fix for this problem. When “national health plan” comes up in conversation as a possibility that should be considered, all the negative and frightening scare tactics surface. Everyone backs away from the idea, and yet, these are exactly the aspects of a national health plan that need to be addressed in order to make it work and work well. Surely there are great minds out there that are capable of solving the problem by seeking a viable solution rather than contributing to the problem.