Archive for July 14th, 2007

“Sicko” Hits a Nerve

July 14th, 2007

This e-mail arrived this morning from a friend:

“Well, I have been back to the doctor and the surgeon. They can’t put in a stent because my arteries are too small. They want to do compression wraps for seven weeks which should cause new arteries to grow. Well, the co-pay for each treatment is $40 which adds up to $200 a week. The simple answer is that we don’t have the money. I figured out that next year, when I can start collecting social security, a whole $300 a month, I can save up $1400 and have it done then. Of course, it will probably cost more then. I just wanted to keep you updated and thank you for your prayers.”

In my position as President of both a medical center and research institute, it is obvious to me that filmmaker Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, has, in many ways, nailed it. It deals with this country’s health issues. We live in an incredibly prosperous country, but it is a one that has never had a health policy. Many of us in this profession believe that it is unconscionable that we have an estimated 45 million uninsured individuals in our country, and that number does not even include the underinsured.

Sickoposter_406_2We are also placed in the uncomfortable position of observing on a daily basis the absurdity of squandering 30 percent of our health care dollars on the last thirty days of life when, in many cases, palliative care is available as the intelligent alternative.

As a profession, we are also sensitive to the fact that the segment of the population that is most negatively impacted by this existing system is a group that does not have political clout; single mothers and their children. More than 8 million children had no health insurance in 2005, according to the latest federal report on the well being of U.S. children. Children who were uninsured were nearly 16 times as likely as those with private insurance to have no ongoing source of care.

Of course, Moore neglects to mention the failures of the Canadian system, or the challenges of paying for a single payer system. He also doesn’t spend much time talking about the single-digit percentage of our nearly $2 TRILLION in health care expenditures that are dedicated to preventative medicine, but, nevertheless, his reality is largely the truth.

So, as the challenge continues, we in health care administration are busy re-arranging the deck chairs while our Federal officials continue to mark time and the uninsured wait hour after hour to be seen and treated in our over crowded emergency rooms, the part of our system that is strained to the breaking point. These people are OUR people, and they need to be treated as human beings, not as cost centers.