Got Them Low-Down, High-Deductible Health Care Blues

There was a touching story on the front page of the local section of Bend's Only Daily Newspaper this morning - touching, but also disgusting

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There was a touching story on the front page of the local section of Bend's Only Daily Newspaper this morning - touching, but also disgusting and infuriating.


The story told how there's been an outpouring of sympathy and cash for Lisa Collins, a 44-year-old single mom who needs treatment for colon cancer. She can get treatment for free through Volunteers in Medicine - a wonderful organization, BTW - but Bend Memorial Clinic wouldn't treat her until she paid $900 she owed for treatment of her daughters.

It's a touching story because of the way local people have rallied around one of their neighbors in need.

It's disgusting and infuriating because they had to.

In this, the richest (by some measures) and greatest (again, by some measures) nation on Earth, thousands of people every day are unable to get essential health care that they can get for free, or for very little, in virtually any other developed country in the world. Unless they're lucky enough to get their story in the newspaper or on TV and arouse public sympathy (being a cute kid or a single mom helps) they're screwed.

Personal example: The Eye recently underwent some fairly minor surgery. After the surgery there were some fairly minor complications. It was The Eye's first real hands-on contact in many years with the American medical system, and it induced severe sticker shock.

The tab for the surgery (about a two-hour procedure done on an outpatient basis) was over $12,000. More than $200 for a single office visit (about 10 minutes) with a physician. In the neighborhood of $700 for a CT scan. And on and on and on.

The Eye is very fortunate to be able to afford health insurance, which basically covers about 80% of these costs (after a $5,000 deductible is met). The Eye also is fortunate to have a pretty decent family income and a few bucks in the bank. But those bills still will pinch our budget.

So how the hell could an average working American family living from paycheck to paycheck cover even 20% of such costs, assuming it had health insurance - which 47 million Americans, or almost 16% of the population, does not, according to the Census Bureau?

This, my friends, is an outrage and a national disgrace. And don't tell me we can't afford to do anything about it. As long as we keep shoveling $10 billion a month down a rat hole in Iraq and throwing away more billions on absurdities like the non-functional "missile defense shield," I don't want to hear anybody whining that we can't afford to fix health care.

Also, while we're thinking about affordability, maybe we need to look at the whole health care delivery system in this country. Does a private, for-profit system produce the greatest good for the greatest number - or just enrich insurance companies and health care providers at the expense of consumers? Does every doctor in America need to have a seven-figure income? Does every medical practice need an office building that rivals the Palace of Versailles in splendor?

Just something to think about the next time you're in a doctor's waiting room or sweating about how you're going to pay your medical bills.

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