Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Solid Gold Medicine

O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us. ~ Robbie Burns
The Guardian has a fascinating article about a Brit's adventure in the US medical system. Basically, the Republicans are right that American medicine is the best in the world. The problem is that it is also the most venal system on the face of the earth.

For 99% of people and cases American solid gold medicine is no better than your standard chrome-plated doctoring available in the rest of the industrial world. Except in the United States everything is a la carte and nothing is affordable. As a result, for most insured Americans health insurance is the biggest single expense in their lives. More expensive than owning a car, more expensive than owning a home. And for tens of millions of Americans, any kind of health care is financially impossible.

There are a few rare cases when the American system will save a life where British and French doctors would fail. There are far more examples where Americans are priced out of simple, chrome-plated procedures leading to extensive years of suffering and early deaths. And for tens of millions of Americans effective health care is financially impossible.
People die in America because people die in America. ~ Rick Santorum on the American health care system
Then, there are the insurance companies that do everything possible to deny medical procedures to people who have paid dearly for their insurance.

A Personal Story
A couple years ago my father had a severe case of food poisoning. You know the drill - projectile vomiting and projectile diarrhea. I took him to the emergency room. In most other countries my father would have gotten IV fluids, stool and blood tests would have been done to eliminate other possible causes and he would have gone home after a few hours.

In that American hospital he got all of that and more. They performed x-rays, sonograms, and more. They looked and looked until they found "an anomaly." They had no idea what the anomaly was but decided he had to be hospitalized for more tests. And they did more tests. And still more. He recovered from the food poisoning in a day but they kept him in the hospital for nearly a week because they wanted him conveniently close for all that testing. They even considered exploratory surgery as they tried to solve the mystery of the anomaly.

Finally, they released him (in part because we rebelled at the idea of cutting him open "on spec") with a working theory that the anomaly was probably scar tissue from a three decades old operation.

It took him longer to recover from the enforced confinement in a hospital than it did for the original food poisoning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And, the "insurers", who do not insure much at all really, routinely reject charges for services that their own policies say they cover, counting on the fact that sick people will not have the energy to navigate the process. The whole system is appalling. The data shows how bad it is. And the apologists continue to take their blood money to support its continuation.