Fix the right problem

It’s going to be a wild few weeks in Washington, as Congress begins to debate President Obama’s first budget. I can’t even begin to predict how it will turn out. And while I do have my opinion, I won’t share it with you – I try to  avoid discussing politics here. Every now and again it is necessary, but for the most part this blog concentrates on Heart Defects.

But today we have to talk politics, just a little bit. Part of the budget involves rethinking our health care system. Admittedly, cost are getting out of control, private insurance makes you grit your teeth, and Medicare is a pain. You think an encounter with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can ruin your day? The IRS are rank amateurs when compared to to Medicare!

But before we start to run around and make things worse by trying to fix it, let’s look at what we have:  Somewhere in America a cell phone rings. Its owner, an Emergency Department nurse for a major hospital, is being called to duty. A child was born with a Congenital Heart Defect in a rural hospital just an hour ago;  the patient is stable and is being brought in for evaluation followed by  surgery. She takes one final sip of her coffee, tosses the cup, and heads back to Emergency.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Vietnam, just over 1000 children have recieved lifesaving operations to combat their heart defects. The program is ending, and it has been such an accomplishment that the State President and the city’s Party Committee Chairman both attend.

And the Children’s Heart Fund of Ethiopia finally has an operational hospital… 22 years after being officially recognized. As of February 17, they had already performed fifteen surgical procedures and ten catherizations.

My God… can you imagine living with a Heart Defect – or any chronic illness – in one of the countries of the world that doesn’t have the resources to provide the level of medical care that Americans are used to? Or in a country like Zimbabwe, where Cholera is rampant, inflation is eleven million percent (11,200,000% as of August 2008) and the President seems to be plumb fool crazy?

Trust me, America has one of the best Health Care systems in the world. The debate shouldn’t be about trying to make it better… just about paying for it. True, every system can be improved, but when you try to do too much – try to fix health care and the payment system, and tie the two fixes together – that’s when the problems occur. So let’s do one segment at the time.

We need for every American to have a doctor – someone they can see for “little things”. Coughs, sprains, a broken finger, the flu… the day to day things that you might need to see your doctor for. These doctors can also pass us on to a specialist if that is what we need. To accomplish this, we naturally need more primary care doctors. We ain’t got them right now, so there’s a good starting point: Figure out how to get more people into Primary Care medicine.

And we need to figure out how to pay for this medical care. Going to the doctor is not cheap, as we all know. It doesn’t matter if you have private insurance or Medicare/Medicaid (or neither), we need to figure a way to make medical care affordable – without drowning ourselves in the paperwork. We also need to make sure the medical staff is fairly compensated. “The workman is worthy of his hire,” the scriptures say, and certainly a trained physican, nurses, and medical staff are much more than “workmen.”

And we need to figure out how to do this without bankrupting individuals or our government.

We’ve got quite a challenge ahead of us.

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