Public Health:

    Lately I’ve been giving a lot more thought to the idea of publicly funded health care. In the past I was against it because I thought it eliminated choices and would cost too much. Lately, however, two movies have made me rethink that, Bulworth and John Q.

    Bulworth (which is one of my favorite political movies, notwithstanding the very offensive language) is like a mental grenade. Watch it once, it’ll shake you up. Watch it ten times and it’ll turn your paradigm on its head. Anyway, what is relevant to this subject is what Senator Bulworth says in his sleep deprivation induced-rap song/speech at the snooty fundraiser. In the rap/speech he starts going off on health care and says (if I’m not getting the story mixed up — btw, I’m paraphrasing this quote) that even though the politicians say that private industry is best, the real story is that HMO’s make something like 24 cents on the dollar in profit, while Medicare provides health care for only 8 cents on the dollar in admin costs.


    Ok, keep that thought in mind while we look at the next movie John Q. When I first heard about the movie via reviews of it, I thought it sounded lame. However, when my brother (who is somewhat conservative) tells me that he now supports universal health care, and credits watching John Q to his conversion experience, I know something is up.

    (I don’t want to ruin the movie for you if you haven’t seen it, so if you haven’t skip the next 4 paragraphs.)

    OK, in the movie a struggling bluecollar 2-income African American family is faced with an insurmountable obstacle… their young son needs a heart transplant ASAP or he will die. However, the hospital tells the family that their HMO-insurance will only cover $20,000 for catastrophic events and that the heart transplant will cost $250,000!

    So, the hospital says the family must pay 30% up front or we won’t put your son on the list to get a heart. (And contrary to popular belief, hospitals don’t have to do this kind of thing for free. All they have to do for indigent patients in most states is to stabilize them and send the on their way.)

    So, the family does everything in their power to get the money (selling their wedding rings, furniture, taking collections at church, etc.) but is only able to raise $20k of the needed $70k.

    Then the boy takes a turn for the worst, but the hospital refuses to put his name on the list and instead proceeds to discharge him and send him home to die comfortably.

    At this point, John Q. goes off, gets his gun (which we later find out is unloaded) and holds the ER of the hospital hostage until his son gets medical care. Of course, as this is happening the ER is full of sick folks and even has a gun shot wounded guy arrive via ambulance, so John Q announces “This hospital is under new management! All health care is free!”

    The story progresses from there, but the point of the story is this. Most families in America wouldn’t be able to afford this kind of situation. (Heck, I can’t even afford to get sick at all because I don’t have insurance.) Yet, if we as a society have the means to save a life through extraordinary means, but we refuse to do so because they don’t have enough money, what kind of people are we?

    To me, national (or even state or local-based) universal health care is the way to go. Obviously it will cost a lot, but since the pool of folks is bigger, the costs for those with catastrophic problems is spread out more.

    Maybe I’m all wet here, but it seems like health care should be a universal civil right in this country.

    While I’m talking about this, here’s a NY Times story from today that is relevant:

  • NY Times, Aug 15: Recall Is Ordered at Large Supplier of Implant Tissue – This story is insane. First, why are private companies profiting off of organ donation, and secondly wouldn’t it make more sense for the government to do this?

    I’m all for free enterprise when it works, but when it doesn’t maybe it’s time for a change?