Monday, October 16, 2006

Stand up, Look around, There's a Healthcare Crisis

This week ABC News and USA Today are focusing on America's Healthcare Woes. It is good that they are bringing these problems to the fore. I also hope that they emphasize that we DO already have the solution: Representative John Conyers (D-Mich) bill which would extend Medicare to all Americans.

Fast Facts on the U.S. Health Care Crisis

From ABC News:

Oct. 13, 2006 — Lack of universal health care is
often cited as one America's leading domestic concerns, yet states and the
federal government have failed to enact long-lasting, viable solutions for
reform and the United States remains the only industrialized country that does
not guarantee health coverage to all its citizens.
Here are a few statistics
that put the crisis in sharp relief:
FACT: One-third of adults (31 percent)
and more than half of all children (54 percent) do not have a primary care
doctor (National Medical Expenditure Panel Survey)
FACT: 46.6 million
Americans, (15.9 percent of Americans — about twice the population of Texas)
were uninsured in 2005. (U.S. Census - August 2006)
FACT: More than
two-thirds of uninsured adults in the United States, worked in 2005. In other
words, 39.8 million workers, who had no health care — more than the population
of Canada.
FACT: Federal spending for health care totaled more than $600
billion in 2005, or roughly one quarter of the federal budget. (U.S. Office of
Management and Budget)
FACT: The total medical expenditures for full- and
part-year uninsured in 2004 came to nearly $124 billion — more than the combined
appropriations in 2004 for Iraq and the anti-terror programs.
FACT: Of 23
industrialized countries, the United States had the highest infant mortality
rates. U.S. rates were similar to those of Poland and Hungary. (OECD,
Commonwealth Fund Scorecard, 2006)
FACT: The United States ranked among the
bottom of industrialized countries on healthy life expectancy at age 60 —
meaning Americans spend more years lived in poor health resulting from chronic
illness or disability. (OECD, Commonwealth Fund: Results from a Scorecard, 2006)
FACT: Barely half — about 49 percent — of adults receive recommended
preventive care and screening tests according to guidelines for their age and
sex. (Commonwealth Fund Scorecard 2006)
FACT: Close to 100,000 Americans die
annually from medical errors — more than double the number of Americans who die
annually in car crashes (Institute of Medicine).

Nurses have been saying this for years.

All this could be fixed with Universal Health Care like the kind proposed by California State Senator Shiela Kuehl (who's bill was passed by the Legislature, but vetoed by Schwarzenegger, much to his shame) and the kind embodied in a bill proposed by Congressional Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) which would extend Medicare to all Americans.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Healthcare for All

According to an Los Angeles Times article today (Spouses Should Team up on Health Coverage,1,7075565.column?coll=la-headlines-business) there are more options for health insurance plan coverage than ever before. But there's also an increasing number of companies who are penalizing workers who double up on coverage. "In the old days, if you both worked, spouses would be covered under both plans and you'd get 100% coverage. But in the last two years we've seen employers looking at whether the spouse has coverage under another plan. If they do, the company will charge more."

And that 'more' ends up being over $2,000 a year.

November is open enrollment at my hospital. I can choose from a smorgasbord of HMOs, PPOs, HSAs and other gibberish. I, as an educated nurse, need a consultant to help me choose the plan that will best cover me for the best price.

I chose an HMO that I have been satisfied with for the most part, but I have had problems. If I want to see my primary physician, I have to book about a month in advance. If I don't call early enough on the day I'm ill, I can't get in to see anyone. And when I needed to see a specialist, it was a 6 week wait.

I don't consider myself to be underinsured nor do I have serious medical problems. But clearly the medical system is not working well for me.

Then consider individuals who have some kind of chronic problem that debilitates them to such a degree that they can't work. No job, no insurance. No insurance, little healthcare. No healthcare, greater debilitation. Yet it is possible that with early intervention and proper care those individuals could regain health and vigor and once again become working members of society.

The way we set up healthcare coverage for these individuals is completely and woefully inadequate.

There is no magic rule that says that health insurance must be tied to your job. Employers don't have to be in the business of feeding insurance companies clients.

The better idea for all of us is to have a single-payer system with a single standard of care. Everybody is covered and everybody gets the same kind of care. Just like the system that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed away a few weeks ago. Just like the system that Congressman John Conyers of Michigan is proposing in Washington, DC, that essentially extends the benefits of Medicare to all.

Instead of losing billions of dollars into the various insurance companies that use up to 30% of the healthcare dollar in administrative costs, we'd be in the streamlined administration of Medicare that uses only 2-3%. That would free up plenty of money to ensure that every doctor and every hospital would be paid for every patient treated. No patient would have to chose between getting medical care and having a place to live or food to eat. Now that sounds to me like a 21st century way of doing things in the richest country in the world.

Medicare for All is not Socialized Medicine, or commie-pinko stuff. It's the socially responsible way to help businesses and citizens be healthy and stay healthy.

Nurse Conscience

So many things include and effect healthcare. This blog is dedicated to nurses and the ideas and solutions we have that can solve the problems we face as a society surrounding health, health care, and the well-being of all. Situated on the frontlines of patient care, nurses are uniquely qualified to talk about the successes and failures of our medical system. Further, the women and men in nursing have the skills, knowledge, and expertise required to craft solutions to the inequities, imbalances, and shortcomings that exist within the healthcare paradigm.

We nurses are the experts. We are the ones that can find the solutions we need. We are the ones we've been waiting for. So let's get our nursing caps on and get thinking.