Monday, July 27, 2009

Why We Need Healthcare Reform

As the debate over Obama's healthcare reform rages on, I had two "must reform healthcare" experiences today. Went to a new doctor: didn't have a choice, the doctor I had been seeing for 5 years stopped taking insurance. Too much bureaucracy and unnecessary headaches with insurance companies, she said -- and she's right.

At the new doctor, there were so many forms to fill it took me 20 expedited minutes. Then I had to wait another 25 minutes, before the doctor saw me...for 5 minutes. A half baked exam that would warrant a complaint to the medical board in France, and made me feel like yet another piece of anonymous meat on the doctor's busy schedule. She will probably charge the insurance company $300-400, which may be justified by her overheads on L.A.'s Westside, plus having to employ 2 front desk assistants to handle the paperwork.

While waiting, one of her assistants told me her primary care physician stopped taking HMO patients, and she has been struggling to find a replacement for her chronic illness, which hasn't been attended to for over a year. Her only timely alternative is to fork out the money herself, but the first visit with a new doctor would cost $350 cash minimum and she can't afford it. The next likely step for her? ER. Paid by the community -- libertarian reform-bashers included. And she works in a doctor's office!

These anecdotes may seem trivial, but they are indicative of the preposterous state of American healthcare, which is more about management than care itself, with too many intermediaries bringing no value, acting instead as parasites of a dysfunctional system they help promote. There are a lot of powerful, vested interests at stake, and Obama's proposal will likely result in an unsatisfactory compromise, but at least there is a debate about a situation that cannot persist -- and is shameful for a "civilized" nation like America.
UPDATE: Confirmed - the "doctor" charged my insurance $452.

photo LA Frog

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