«

»

REAL Health Care Reform

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I keep reading on all the blogs that the debate is about how to get everybody (including those who simply cannot afford it) to buy in to the health insurance scam. But that’s not health care and it’s not health care reform. It’s just a way for insurance companies to make a lot more money denying medical care to people who need it.

So if you’re like me and see clearly that none of this is going to “reform” our health care system or extend health care delivery or fix any of the serious problems we’ve got within the health care system itself, bear with me while I cite some of the details.

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of my son’s death. It always hits hard, due to the considerable amount of trauma involved in having your son bleed to death while hovering in a Life Flight helicopter refused permission to land for a pre-approved transfer.

It was a situation of such gross medical malpractice involving blatant lies, clear violation of regulatory and criminal law that it took seven years, 6 regulatory and criminal complaints, more than $150,000 we didn’t have, and a whole lot of do-it-yourself investigation and lawyering to get a modicum of justice. 2 of 5 doctors are no longer allowed to practice medicine, an  ex-Medical Examiner has a criminal record for producing a completely fraudulent autopsy report (on an autopsy never performed), and laws governing emergency services and transfers were strengthened considerably. And when I say a “modicum” of justice I mean just that. It cost us money, we didn’t make any. Though several lawyers padded their pockets nicely. See, that’s how insurance scams work. It’s ALWAYS the lawyers who make money.

I keep hearing the right say it’s all about medical malpractice premiums, because people like me sue doctors for their criminal and negligent acts. Bullshit. Medical malpractice and delivery ‘errors’ kill more than 195,000 Americans every year. Only one in eight injured patients ever files suit. Just 26% of those ‘win’. There are caps on non-economic damages, and NO punitives no mater how egregious the negligence or error.

That might make you as not-fond of doctors and hospitals as I am, but consider these statistics. A West Virginia investigation by the Sunday Gazette-Mail revealed that just 40 doctors accounted for 1/4 of the claims in that state between 1993 and 2001. In Kentucky, records show that only 16% of doctors were responsible for 100% of the malpractice claims there. What are states doing to weed out the bad apples? Not a whole lot, it seems. Nationwide, fewer than 30% of doctors who were disciplined for “substandard care, incompetence or negligence” or misprescribing or overprescribing drugs have to stop practicing medicine, even temporarily.

The insurers aren’t above fault either for escalating costs of malpractice insurance. When they claim there’s a “litigation crisis” that cuts into their profits, they are – as usual – being less than honest. They make their money on investments, not on premiums. The St. Paul Insurance Company announced in 2002 that it was getting out of the business, claiming that growing verdicts in malpractice claims were responsible. But the truth was that its economic straits were caused by lousy investments, including a loss of $108 million when Enron went down in flames.

The insurer for all of the doctors named in our suit, Physician’s Mutual Assurance (based in Baton Rouge), was thrown into receivership shortly after our son died because a couple of the corporate bigwigs skipped the country with more than $10 million in negotiable bearer bonds, putting the company seriously bottom-up on outstanding claims – 2 years before we filed suit! So the receivers were named, an ex-Louisiana governor and his son, who proceeded to loot another $10-15 million before getting caught and put in prison. So the company was in federal government receivership when we filed suit. The policy was to ignore, delay and deny rather than attempt to settle. We went through 4 lawyers, 4 judges and 7 years of insisting adamantly on our right to trial before we finally got it. 3 doctors settled on their own pre-trial, one settled after a week in the dock, the other one got a slap on the wrist by the jury and his license taken away by the state.

There are many suggestions out there on how we can address the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Basically, the equivalent of 390 jumbo jets full of people dying every year due to medical malpractice/medical error.

One would hope that one’s own doctor isn’t one of the few bad apples that kill or maim so very many, but because state regulatory agencies are highly uncoordinated and obsessively secretive, you are not allowed to know how many claims your doctor has racked up or how many times s/he’s been disciplined or suspended.

It of course helps to be informed as much as possible. When my father-in-law had a heart attack the day of my son’s funeral, we consulted our several medical books, Merck Manual and even went to the hospital library to keep track of every tiny little thing they were or weren’t doing for him. Having lost one, we weren’t about to lose another so quickly. When he was discharged a couple of weeks later the doctor had only left a prescription for HALF the dual-drug regimen required. The nurse fought with us about it, but we finally prevailed and made her call him while we were standing right there. Yup. It was a boo-boo. That would have cost him his life in a day or two had we trusted the doctor or the hospital to get things right!

So. Just wanted to say my piece about the “Tort Reform,” “Litigation Crisis” and related malpractice whining doctors, hospitals and insurers use to cover their incompetent asses and extort ever more money from regular people for nothing very useful. No matter what they do or don’t do about “Health Care Reform” in this Congress or any other, I am never going to trust doctors or hospitals any farther than I can throw ’em, and you can bet your bippy I’ll keep close tabs on every little thing they do or prescribe if I or my loved ones have no choice but to submit ourselves to their meat grinder.

It’s all plain shit, period. Health insurance is NOT health care, and health care is the third most deadly thing in America right now. If we want reform, we need to go whole hog and reform the whole unholy mess. The futures trade in human suffering is just low-hanging fruit. Yeah, put ’em out of business with universal care. Take profit out of general practice entirely by putting the doctors on salary. And require hospitals to institute oversight of EVERYTHING, with real power to ban doctors and nurse practitioners and even staff nurses who fuck up a lot. Don’t wait for the Board of Medicine, don’t keep the statistics secret, let people know how good or bad their practitioners are, and encourage people to learn all they can about every procedure and every drug they’re prescribed.

Oh… and make medical malpractice complaints easier and less expensive to pursue, not harder-to-impossible. Even if most of it goes to arbitration for reasonable settlement, that’s much better than we’ve got now!

37 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Joy B.

    …we have a system that is so seriously broken on so many levels that it might never get ‘fixed’ and may have to be re-built from scratch. I’m hoping that in my grandchildren’s lifetimes people will look back on all this and shudder at how positively barbaric the whole approach was!

  2. wilberforce

    I get so mad about that mess up there.

  3. Lasthorseman

    May I also add that while HIPPA tells you your medical records are private the electronic digital age tells me otherwise.

    Here is the chart.

    http://www.patientprivacyright

    Remember to refuse your Unicorn flu shot this October.

  4. tahoebasha3

    100% correct about everything you’ve stated.  I can also well imagine how difficult it must be to recount the pain of the loss of your son and the painful steps you took thereafter to attempt to achieve some justice.

    My work background was about 98% in the legal business.  At a point, I was involved with insurance defense work, including medical mal-practice suits.  Some of the cases were so negligent, they were not even defensible.  But, of course, the insurance companies with their mega bucks would fight the suit(s) to the bitter end.  

    As you say, the whole is completely f..ked up!!!!

    Capitalism promotes greed and greed has no conscience!  

  5. dmc

    I’ve really thought that the health care debate has really missed the debate by focusing so much on insurance. Just because you are insured does not mean that you will receive (quality) health care, but it does mean that you will be paying to line the pockets of insurance company executives.

    My thought has been why not focus instead on providing great health care for those who do not have health insurance through a first-rate public health care system of hospitals, clinics, etc?

  6. wilberforce

    or something before I go to an MD, except in cases of a broken limb or something like that.  

  7. Joy B.

    …that much of what’s wrong with our system is that allopathic medicine has become largely drug-oriented, though it’s kept quite a bit of its only other option – cut-and-paste – intact as well. Because it’s for profit, the doctors WILL find something wrong with you, even if it’s just at your required annual physical. For which they will get a kick-back from a drug supplier, plus more money from the insurer for all the nifty expensive tests they’ll then order.

    Most people will take the drugs without asking a single question, and get every single test without ever knowing if they’re needed. Just because the doctor said so. When the side-effects of the drugs kick in, they’ll be back for drugs to counter the side-effects of the first drugs, and take more tests “to make sure” the side-effects aren’t some other problem. Eventually they’ll be sick enough to cut on, and that’s always a big money-maker. Once had a specialist give my hubby a clean bill of health and orders to “stay off your knee” for a week or two after twisting it in a tag football game. Then his UAW insurance paid quickly and the doctor (who drove a Lamborgini) called back to say he’d reconsidered, hubby now needed all the cartilage in his knee surgically removed. Something guaranteed to cripple him for life! Hubby hung up, loudly.

  8. wilberforce

    http://parenting.blogs.nytimes

  9. tahoebasha3

    Dear Friend,

    If you’re like most Americans, there’s nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.

    Given the status quo, that’s understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees – and sometimes isn’t there at all if you become seriously ill.

    It’s time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:

    –No discrimination for pre-existing conditions

    –No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays

    –No cost-sharing for preventive care

    –No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill

    –No gender discrimination

    –No annual or lifetime caps on coverage

    –Extended coverage for young adults

    –Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid

    Learn more about these consumer protections at Whitehouse.gov.

    Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.

    It’s time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.

    Thank you,

    Barack Obama

    O.K., so you see it’s just great — all you have to do is make sure your payments are on time for renewal, etc.  Geez, what if you just lost your job?  What if you simply can’t pay?  You’re screwed, that’s what?  (And just think, any employer would be off the hook for providing any kind of group coverage, to boot!)  So, this is just great, so long as nothing happens to prevent you from paying for your insurance!!!!!!  Ah, American ingenuity!!!!  

  10. dharmasyd

    …yours and numberless others.  It seems we, as a nation, have simply forgotten how to respect life.

    Thanks for this diary.

Comments have been disabled.