Warehouse E

Slipping And Sliding

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National Health Insurance A Necessity For Americans

By James Donahue

During the four years we spent in our Michigan home my wife and I received only the minimum of medical care. That involved annual trips to a local physician so we could get prescriptions for the medicine we needed to keep my wife’s multiple sclerosis at bay, and my blood pressure down to acceptable levels.

There was no dental insurance so two broken and decaying teeth in my head went untreated. I endured the pain of dying nerves but could do little to curb the foul breath those dead teeth generated. Thus I found myself becoming anti-social by choice.

After coming to California, and because of some inheritance money, I was able to get those dead teeth and a third decaying wisdom tooth removed by an oral surgeon when we got to California. The price tag was high . . . something around $1,500. I considered that a good price since the last time I had dental work done in Michigan, I spent about $5,000 for root canals and some bridge work. And at that time I was still working and had dental insurance that picked up part of the total bill.

A trip to the doctor’s office during that four-year period cost us from $40 to $60, and sometimes over $100 if tests or X-rays were called for. The deductable cost of our medicine was $20 if we had the prescription filled by a local pharmacist, and $15 if we planned ahead and used a mail-order program provided by a former employer. We are lucky that I once worked for a company that still picks up most of the cost of our pharmacy needs. Without that assistance, the cost of the medicine we receive every month would be overwhelming.

The point to this is that dental and medical care in America is now priced beyond the reach of most workers, since few employers offer medical benefits for workers anymore. Those who have it have policies with yearly deductable payments that must first be met before the insurance kicks in. Those deductable payments are usually more than an average healthy person pays for doctor visits in a year’s time.

If you are out in society these days, especially among the working class, you may notice people with missing teeth serving your meals in fast-food restaurants, or performing other public service jobs. Many are working while they are obviously ill. They go to work sick because they won’t get paid if they take the day off.

Few go to the doctor now unless they are really sick. Even though we are older and retired, living on a fixed income and have medical insurance through the federal Medicare Program, it has been years since either my wife or I have had a full physical examination. Our doctor’s nurse checks our vital signs, then the doctor asks a few questions, sometimes listens to heart beats and air passageways, before writing the requested scripts.

In short, we tell the doctor what is wrong with us, and what we need to treat it.

Since my wife has worked in medicine all of her life, and we have both been quick to research medical problems and symptoms on line, this has worked relatively well for us. Not everyone can say they are this fortunate, however.

This is the sad state of medical treatment for Americans today. A recent report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services noted that 16.3 percent of the national gross domestic product is now the total of the value of all goods and services in the United States. And the projection was that the cost of health care is expected to double by 2017.

This means health care in America is available only for the rich, and for those who qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. And there still are a few, like our elected legislators, who get full health care benefits as part of their salaries. Most of the other jobs that paid good health benefits have moved overseas where employers get cheap labor and are not required to pay for health care.

Most other industrialized countries in the world offer socialized medical care to their citizens. Because of heavy lobbying by the American Medical Association, the United States remains the only industrialized country that does not.

It is time for this to change.