It remains a very fine line between what we say something is, and what it really ends up being. This past weekend, driving from DC to NY, as we have grown accustomed to doing on a regular basis (How Regular, Dave? Well, let's just say the E-Z pass Toll lights spell out "HOLA" to the beige Caddie as we roar thru...) Iris got a call on her cell fone. It was the Victoria Mews folks, where Rose (her mom, aka Nana) lives, as regular readers will of course know already, to inform us that she'd had a spell of dis-orientation, and that they'd had her taken by ambulance to St. Clare's Hospital (thankfully only a 9 minute drive away.) I don't know how many calls like this we have had the past year, but it has to be dozens by now. Never to say "you won't believe how many games of Bingo she won!", or "Wow, did she eat her way through the Sunday buffet!". No, it's usually something more difficult: a fall, a stumble. Something for which you really wish they didn't have to make that call. But of course they do, and every time the phone rings, it's as if you are expecting Michael Moore to be on the other end, asking if we would do an interview for SICKO II. We haven't had a chance to see SICKO yet, but I suspect that our experience over the past couple of years is a pretty good lead up to what his thesis seems to be: that Health care in the U.S. is, in reality, far behind the other '1st world' countries. It is very difficult to make, as Michael Moore tends to do, the kind of generalizations he specializes in, and win the argument. But he is definately on to something.
The headline in todays Morris County daily paper, tells of how some families, insured by HMOs (remember when HMOs were going to be the Saviour of the health care system?) are now having to pay nearly four thousand bucks a month for coverage. How many families even MAKE four thousand bucks a month, let alone want to spend their entire income on health coverage. The costs keep skyrocketing, and the benefits seem to shrink. Millions of people are employed in the 'health care' industry (and it IS an industry), so at least they have good jobs. [About five years ago I read a great essay by Doug Casey - CaseyResearch.com - who defined a 'good job' as one for which a person is paid far more than they are worth for that position. Think about it.) But the bottom line, and the one which seems to keep escaping proper notice is that the rules and regulations, ever expanding in their scope and stupitude, seem to affect the real care that is given. HIPAA, the vaunted Privacy act has done virtually nothing to make anyone better sooner. Yet, if you are family, you now have to jump through hoops to even have access to medical information that any right-minded family person should have without question. Now when we call St. Clare's, God forbid we dont have the four number secret code to tell the Nursing station who we are, and they we are 'legal' to get basic information about Nana. The main way I see this ridiculous law enforced is at the pharmacy counter, where they keep telling you that you have to stand behind the Green line so you're not TOO close to the customer in front of you. Horrors, you might actually see that they are getting Rx drugs. Meanwhile, all the little helpful conversations you used to have with people in the 'health care industry' are suspect since you may or may NOT be legal to have them with. It's just one more insulting level of legal Bullshit which is overlaid on our daily lives.
And who benefits? Not sure I can answer that one. But a bunch of Congress people, the same ones who passed the Medicare drug bill which forbade the government from bidding for less than Retail pricing, the same ones who now pontificate about how great the system is, seemed to have been led down that path by a lot of folks who are not unfamiliar with Post=it notes bearing the logo of a drug company.
Michael Moore is usually about 2/3 full of crap, but his choice of story subjects is amazingly right on. All you need to remember about him is his first film, "Roger and Me", and his chasing of the boobs who ran GM. Those are the kind of overpiad multi-million dollar a year people who ran that company into the ground, who refused to have any vision of the future (did someone say Hybrid, did someone say 40 mpg?), and whose intransigence created the sick puppy auto industry we have today. In 1988, on a campaign with Jesse Jackson, I saw one of the great one-liners of modern politics. Jesse, who I wasn't crazy about personally (would it have been that tough on the 5 seat Lear jet to actually say Hello, and shake my hand?) did have a bead on things which was singular. In front of a big crowd, he asked 'How many people here own an F-15 fighter plane?' No hands went up. "How many people here own a VCR?" Hundreds of hands go up. "Well," he said," that's the problem. What people are buyin', we're not makin'." True enough.
In the Health Care Industry -- yeah, the one that won't let me bring medicine to the hospital to give Nana in a small plastic bag - I have to bring the whole bottle of 500 pills - we have all kinds of similar issues. We don't really want to buy what they're selling, but they are having such a good time selling it, they don't really have time to worry about what we, the consumers want to buy. It makes me wonder, sometimes, what happens to Drug Rep sales people when they get sick and are told the same stupid things which we have been told the last few days. The rules for this, the rules for that. Does it make sense if you are on the other side of the argument? Not sure. The thing is, at St. Clare's you find some of the neatest, kindest, caringest nursing staff around: They actually care how the patient is doing. But they are so constrained by the laws and rules, it makes the early departure of Common Sense far too likely. We wish it weren't so. There is plenty of Common Sense left out there if we just allow it to thrive. We're just sayin... David