Government Health Care: We Are All Patients.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a summit regarding government healthcare and the impact on patients and doctors in Washington, DC. This event was put together by Dr. Val Jones of the Better Health network, and played host to some of the best of the medical blogosphere - including Kevin MD, Dr. Alan Dappen, Dr. Wes, Dr. Rich, Dr. Rob, Kim from Emergiblog, Mother Jones RN, Dr. Jim Herndon, Edwin Leap, Valerie Tinley, and Evan Falchuk.
Me (Kerri), Mother Jones, Kim from Emergiblog, and Valerie Tinely
It was a lively discussion about government healthcare and how many of the people in the room were against it - including Congressman Ryan, who provided the keynote for this session. Evan Falchuk, Mother Jones, and I were busy Twittering the session. (For a full transcript, click here.) But I'm not a doctor. Or a nurse. There are no initials after my name. I'm a patient.
However, being a "patient blogger" doesn't make me the only patient in the room. Every doctor and nurse on that panel has been a patient at one time or another. It's something we all are. This makes healthcare something we all need to care about. Hence, patients first.
The doctors on the panel were discussing how primary care physicians are a dying breed, with fewer and fewer new PCPs joining the medical workforce every year. Many doctors were also talking about how government healthcare could provoke a healthcare system of "rationing," where Americans don't receive the healthcare they need but instead the healthcare that is allocated to them. And how a government healthcare system could cost the American public a bundle for inadequate care.
Then there were comments about the current healthcare system, how it's running the economy into the ground and people are underinsured. I can attest to being a member of the working class, with insurance, yet spending plenty out of pocket for my medical needs. What good is coverage when it doesn't cover?
Kim made the comment that she called Blue Cross to "talk to someone," and asked, "What would make you outright deny an insurance policy?" Blue Cross responded, "Insulin-dependent diabetes." This comment came hot on the heels of a discussion about "good health habits" earning a lower insurance premium. But as an insulin-dependent diabetic, would I be penalized regardless? Even though I eat well, exercise regularly, and have a healthy BMI, could my need for insulin or my A1C level end up putting me in a different cost tier?
And I'm sitting there, a type 1 diabetic patient and a health blogger, completely unsure of what to think.
I can't claim to be up on every last minute detail of the proposed healthcare system. I mean, Congressman Ryan even admitted that no one has read the bill fully (which was an admission that blew my mind). But I do know that I've been denied for a private health insurance policy for years (and life insurance as well), and that even with insurance, I've had to fight for coverage for test strips, insulin pumps, CGMs, etc. I see my endocrinologist at least three times a year and my primary care physician at least every 180 days, in addition to any well-woman visits, dental appointments, and emergency situations. I sometimes think that a system of universal coverage would be such a blessing for people with chronic illness because we'd have insurance, but now I fear that we still wouldn't have the coverage we need.
"Is healthcare a right or a privilege?" One of the panelists asked during the session. The response on Twitter was diverse and educated, but I'm still not sure.
I'm confused. I've read a lot of lies, a lot of half-truths, and some of what may be the truth, but it's still tangled up in agendas. I'm hoping that you guys can help set the record straight for me, or at least stop it from spinning for few minutes. What is the truth about the proposed healthcare system? How will it affect those of us with chronic illness?
And what can I do, if anything, to change the outcome?