Saturday, April 30, 2005

American Healthcare and The Los Angeles Times Op/Ed Page

The Los Angeles Times, my hometown newspaper, published an Op/Ed piece entitled A Society That Throws the Sick Away written by Barbara Ehrenreich. As one who works in the trenches in a large, big city public hospital, I recognize that our healthcare system has problems. Ms. Ehrenreich however, hates every imaginable aspect of it and proposes scrapping it completely. To summarize her rather simplistic position:

"Healthcare costs are sucking the blood out of the economy"
"Companies don't want to assume responsibility for their workers' medical bills and this being the global temple of free enterprise — neither does the government."
"Certainly the health system makes plenty of people rich — Big Pharma's overlords, or example, and CEOs like HealthSouth's Richard Scrushy (who received about $267 million in compensation from his company between 1996 and 2002) — but it makes a lot more people poor."
She offers no proof of any of these statements. That is unless you believe that one individual's larcenous excesses proves that rather than benefit most people, America's healthcare system does more to contribute to our poverty.

But at least "the solution is obvious":
"If we can't outsource our illnesses — and there is so far no technology for transferring one's cancer or atrial fibrillation to a starving African or Asian — we can at least outsource our healthcare."
And she cites examples to demonstrate that that is happening now:
"Patients are being globalized too, as hundreds of thousands of them from all parts of the world flock to Manila, Singapore, Bangalore and other centers of low-cost, high-quality care. Some hospitals in India lure the rich with airport-to-hospital bed-car service and post-surgical yoga holidays, and I can foresee cheap, Motel 6-style hospitals springing up in Tijuana for the American working class."
Now there's a foundation for a sound healthcare policy!

At first, I thought I was missing something with this article. On the other hand, its tone is so nasty and so bereft of constructive ideas that I'm worried the author is really serious. I'm presuming that she holds in high esteem the disease-free Canadian and British systems.

One last gem regarding a consequence of her "plan":
"As for the estimated 2 million to 3 million insurance company functionaries whose sole business it is to turn down your claims, these folks may be a bit harder to reemploy because they have no counterpart in any civilized, health-providing nation."
This from a woman who wrote an impassioned book, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America", about the toll that working in America takes upon its citizens.


Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Maybe you ought to submit this last post as an op-ed to the LA Times?

April 30, 2005 7:40 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

I'd don't think this is the sort of thing they're looking for!

April 30, 2005 9:56 AM  
Blogger Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

Why not?

I'm with Fred on this one; what have you got to lose?

First, you're a physician, so that buys some cred right off the bat.

Second, you're not a wingnut, so your verbiage won't be automatically dumped.

Third, you've already done 90% of the work; just needs some scrubbing (hah, a little medical humor) to put it in old media format.

What have you got to lose by submitting it?

April 30, 2005 1:25 PM  

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