Health care makes U.S. sick

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recently, our friends Tom and Mary Rose stopped by Birdland on their way from the Ontario/Buffalo area to Ft. Lauderdale. These are friends of some 40 years and there are a lot of stories that could be told around this relationship. Tom worked for many years in the healthcare industry, mostly in the area of bio-medical engineering training physicians to do joint replacement procedures involving the products that his company produced. These two remarkable people have also run a tissue bank in south Florida for many years so they have extensive experience with the system that manages health care in this country.
One fateful day in 1992, Mary Rose was involved in a terrible automobile accident that left her with fractures to her spine. The technology of the day provided no answers to repairing those fractures and Tom set about to invent, patent and get through FDA approval, a particular device that allowed surgeons to bind the fragments together. Today Mary Rose walks and sits normally. Although she has residual pain, she isnt paralyzed and, obviously, isnt confined to home or a wheel chair. Tom is one of my heroes. You can imagine how Mary Rose feels about him.
During their 4 or 5 days here at Birdland, there were long and interesting conversations on the screened porch. Since health care reform is perhaps the burning issue in the current national conversation, this topic was discussed at some length. Today I want to offer some points made during those conversations, most of which are attributable to Tom.

Everyone should have coverage.
If you work, you should pay something (as affordable).
A catastrophic situation should not force a family into bankruptcy or result in the loss of your home.
A huge percentage (perhaps 50% or more) of the overall cost of medical treatments in the U.S. is related to attempts to find cures during the last 6 months of life. This needs scrutiny and hard decisions need to be addressed easing the difficulty of passing is different from trying more expensive treatments that may only serve to extend life that is spent in misery anyway.
Another inordinate amount of money is spent on malpractice insurance. Tort reform is needed.
A third source of waste is the amount of paperwork required by the federal government. Paperwork requirements need to be abbreviated or eliminated when possible.
Doctors (and/or their agents) who commit fraud against insurance companies or federal agencies like Medicaid should be jailed, stripped of their licenses and prohibited from practicing.
Pharmaceutical companies are charging U.S. citizens up to 4 times the cost that Europeans are charged for the same drugs. Direct negotiation between government entities and Big Pharmacies should be instituted to bring these costs down.
Doctors, not HMOs, should be making the decisions about which patients are eligible for treatment. HMOs do NOT seem to be saving money they are simply taking a slice out of the pie and contributing to stockholder accounts. It may be time to eliminate them.
Stronger drugs for the treatment of arthritis and back pain should be offered over-the-counter. This would greatly reduce the number of hospital and doctors office visits.
The truly poor are already being served in the current system through hospital emergency rooms, a very expensive way to do treatment. Support local aid station type facilities, or even expanded local Health Department facilities to employ nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc. who operate under physician supervision.
As a nation, we need to get behind providing medical care to all our citizens. There is a lot of waste that can be avoided if we make the tough choices that are required to do so. Stopping the initiative is unhealthier in the long run than finding solutions.
These observations and recommendations arent intended to provide THE answers to the current debate, but are intended to contribute to it. I encourage you to write your own ideas to the newspaper and to your congressional representatives.~BirdLand written by Don Weathington

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