Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Congress Tells Obama, Stop Waffling on Public Option Health Care

Karen Hatter published an excellent article here this weekend about the many people she knows, including herself, who have suffered or even died for lack of prompt and adequate health care. Even though I am a lawyer, I am one of the people who has suffered greatly with depression and anxiety in the United States, greatly exacerbated by the lack of accessible health care and appropriate medication, as described below.

Now, with President Obama and some of his key spokespeople saying over the weekend that a “public option” was not essential to health care reform, risking leaving the public at the mercy of venal insurance companies, Democratic Party constituencies are pushing back, along with some of our representatives in the US Congress.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said the union will continue pressing House and Senate negotiators to keep a public plan. "The only way to force real competition on the insurance companies is a strong public plan option," he said. WaPost

The Washington Post is reporting that many Congresspeople will refuse to vote for a health care Bill that doesn’t include Public Option.

In the Senate, where negotiations are now focused, John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) said that a public option, as the plan has become known, is "a must." Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said that "without a public option, I don't see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said that the plan will be included in whatever bill is voted on in the House. "There is strong support in the House for a public option," she said, though she did not demand that the administration express support for the idea.

One Democrat predicted that without the provision, the bill could lose as many as 100 votes in the chamber. WaPost

Like Karen Hatter and the rest of Americans, I need regular health care. As a person who has chronic endogenous depression, I need to see a psychiatrist at least one every two months to get a fresh prescription for anti-depressant medication (nortryptaline) and an anti-anxiety medication (diazepam) that boosts the effect of the anti-depressant, the same way alcohol boosts the effects of drugs in the system.

Yesterday in Brazil, I made my bi-monthly trip looking for a doctor to prescribe the medication I need. The bad news is that I had to go to four different clinics before I found a doctor willing to write the description. The good news is that in all of these discussions I had with clinic staff, no one ever doubted my right under the Brazilian Constitutional to receive health services from the government for free, with no discussion of financial need, no co-pays, and no eligibility discussions.

At the third clinic I visited, the very helpful receptionist made sevaral calls, found a willing doctor, and sent me to that doctor’s office, where I received the needed prescription. The entire process took me three hours.

The further good news for me, that is shocking from a US-based perspective, is that the medical consultation, the prescription and all of the medications were provided to for free by Brazil’s public option health centers. I spent more money on a moto táxi than I did for a two-month prescription of the medications I needed.

Some people think it's "socialism" for people with medical illnesses to receive treatment without paying by cash or credit card, or working through a third party that skims 30% off the top of all health care provided. I don't care how they characterize the system that provides me with the medical care that is essential to my survival. Anyone who would argue against Americans receiving the medical attention and medicine we need is a person who needs to be ignored, no matter what spurious arguments they put forward.

I certainly wish I could see a psychiatrist this quickly in the United States, get a prescription this quickly, and get free medication this quickly. But, I know that I cannot. And since life and death medical care must come first, even before continued participation in the profession for which I was trained, I have decided to live in a country where my medical needs can be met within the institutions that are available to me. I discovered almost a decade ago that the United State is not that country. Ironically, in light of the relative wealth of the United States, the country where my needs are best met is the “Third World country” of Brazil.

Today and every day, I watch the “Public Option” negotiations in the US Congress with great interest to see if (some day) I and other Americans can receive in the United States of América the care and medication that I count on here, today, in Brazil.

In my opinion, the US Congress is now deciding whether the US will have a deficient sub-Third World health care system, guided only by the profit motive in a market designed to make doctors and medical care scarce and expensive, or whether the US will improve its medical care standards to that which is available now in the Third World.

I also read polls reporting that most people in Virginia are happy with their medical care (except the 15 % who have no access to health care at all). That's like saying that people who can swim are content at beaches and swimming pools that have no lifeguards. What about the people who can't swim, or those who can but still get into trouble in turbulent waters? That person might be you, regardless of what health "insurance" you believe you have today. I don't want and I don't think we need "health insurance"; I want and I think what many of us really want and need is health CARE, without the intermediaries.

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