This past weekend, a health care event took place at the Wise County Fairgrounds, Wise, VA. Some people waited two days to receive free health care because either they didn’t have insurance, couldn’t afford insurance or didn’t have enough insurance.
It’s criminal that all Americans can’t have health insurance. A woman was denied breast cancer surgery because she was treated for acne in the past.
And it’s terrible. Basically, anyone who had to fill out a medical underwriting application to get health insurance (this is basically the individual market, not the group market that people are in if they get insurance through their employers) is at risk of finding out that that insurance doesn’t actually exist precisely when he or she needs it most. The insurers claim that rescission is very rare; at the Congressional hearing, two of three industry representatives said it happens to less than 0.5% of policies per year. But that is a deeply misleading number. That means that if you are in the individual market for twenty years, you have a 10% chance of your policy being rescinded; 30 years, and it goes up to 14%. There is a big difference between health insurance and a 90% chance of having health insurance. And remember, insurers only try to rescind policies if you turn out to need them; so the percentage of people who lose their policies when they need them is even higher. (The denominator should exclude all those people who never need expensive medical care, at least not before 65 when they go onto the single-payer system.)
Who wants to be one of the 0.5% that has their health insurance policy rescissed? The members of the Senate Finance Committee need not worry about their loved ones being refused surgery for breast cancer because they have great health care benefits paid for by us, the tax payers and by the very woman who was refused surgery for her breast cancer because of a history of acne.
Back to the original story about the free health care offered at the Wise County Fairgrounds. NPR reported on this event. You can read the complete story here or listen to the story here.
It was a Third World scene with an American setting. Hundreds of tired and desperate people crowded around an aid worker with a bullhorn, straining to hear the instructions and worried they might be left out.
Some had arrived at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Va., two days before. They slept in cars, tents and the beds of pickup trucks, hoping to be among the first in line when the gate opened Friday before dawn. They drove in from 16 states, anxious to relieve pain, diagnose aches and see and hear better.
“I came here because of health care — being able to get things that we can’t afford to have ordinarily,” explained 52-year-old Otis Reece of Gate City, Va., as he waited in a wheelchair beside his red F-150 pickup. “Being on a fixed income, this is a fantastic situation to have things done we ordinarily would put off.”
The most amazing part of this story was the cost of providing health, eye and dental care to 2,700 people was less than $1 million dollars.
RAM organizers say they spent about $250,000 providing care worth about $1.5 million. In 10 years in southwest Virginia, they say, they’ve treated more than 25,000 people. They have eight more expeditions planned this year, from Virginia to California.
Granted, the work was performed by volunteers. Even if you take the cost of the salaries for 1,800 volunteers, it would still be less than $1.5 million. The reason? Services would not be charge per item of care. Instead, the cost would be the quality of care and not the quantity of care. The insurance industry uses a numeric code for every procedure and every item which means the more codes that a physician can check off, the more money the physician makes. If the physician gets paid a salary instead, then the physician won’t be tempted to see 4 patients at the same time. Providing salary based care instead of item based care is why the Cleveland Clinic is able to provide quality, affordable health care.
Health care reform seems like forever in the making and if the health care reform bill that comes out of Congress does not include a Public Option, then there will be no change at all and we will continue with the poor quality of health care that insurance companies provide while their executives fly around the country in private jets with gold plated flatware.
Call your Congress person, today and everyday and demand that they support a public option.