I was going to, and still might, write an essay comparing Michael Jackson and Barack Obama, and their relative positions in American society. I was going to, and still might, write about Sarah Palin, and the spectacle of conservatives going after one another in their support/contempt for her. But today I am inspired to write about health insurance/care. Paul Krugman wrote a hopeful essay on health insurance today. Apparently a Senate committee has a workable plan, better than previous efforts. It is better in part because it covers more people, and I guess ends up costing less per capita and doesn’t leave big, expensive holes.
Krugman spends a sentence or two mentioning how a typical hospital bill includes a premium (if you will) for all the other people who can’t or don’t pay their bills. And before you mutter “deadbeats” consider that visiting the emergency room and then staying over night in the hospital would have cost me, without insurance, a third of my annual salary. For a room with a roommate, who overnight had a breathing device put on that had an alarm, apparently designed to go off when the person changes position. The device was put on around midnight, maybe later. The alarm went off every ten to fifteen minutes there after for maybe two and a half hours. The nursing staff only came in when I called, asking about the alarm. Then after the couple of hours and change, the alarm starting going off continuously. The staff came (when I called again) and took the breathing device off. Then I was only treated to my roommate crying out in his sleep.
Now, I understand I was being monitored for a possible heart condition, even though my doctor determined I had had a severe but somewhat random attack of vertigo. That kind of monitoring and being near life saving equipment doesn’t come cheap. Yet my stay in the hospital was not restful, rather the opposite, I arrived (at the ER) debilitated (I was nauseated by the vertigo) and anxious and stayed that way the entire time I was in the hospital. The staff understood and sort of apologized, saying I would have gotten a private room if I had stayed another night. The staff knew I wasn’t getting great, or even pretty good, care.
So if everyone is covered, either by an employer plan or a public plan, hospitals maybe won’t have to charge everyone extra to cover those who otherwise wouldn’t pay. And hospitals wouldn’t feel squeezed and have to keep staff at a bare minimum. So if an alarm goes off, maybe a staff person could show up (within a few minutes), instead of the alarm being ignored. There is a chance that health care for the middle class and the poor might improve, probably not to the level the rich get, but it might be better. Have better outcomes and yet be more pleasant. Staff that can do the job they were hired for. And also cheaper (per patient and per capita) care.
Except the Republicans, acting in our interest, want to block that. Things are fine right now, we have the best health care in the world.