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Fear Mongers Won’t Stop Health Care Reform

Posted Mar 12 2009 3:18pm

They’re at it again. The fear mongers who have few positive ideas to contribute to the debate are rounding up a posse to take shots at the health care reform train. The internet is the latest weapon in their arsenal.

In addition to the blogs that seem to multiply like gerbils, a friend forwarded an email from an unknown source. It was based on a blog post by Betsy McCaughey that appeared on McCaughey is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a non-partisan policy research organization supposedly dedicated to innovative research and analysis.

McCaughey’s post criticizes the section of the stimulus bill that establishes a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. This council will pinpoint treatments that are most effective.

McCaughey claims the council’s work will lead to limitations on treatments for serious illnesses and shift funding toward younger patients. Her post fails to mention the $1 billion set aside for prevention and wellness programs, which should reduce the need for expensive treatments by preventing disease. The bill channels an additional $8.2 billion into research to find cures.

The Council has not been granted authority to establish guidelines for private or public plan payments or coverage. It will establish a database where professionals can easily access the latest information. McCaughey seems unaware that proven treatments often take several decades to reach the consumers who desperately need them.

Now the email I received is spreading claims that Democrats want to ration health care for the elderly and that those efforts need to be stopped. Doesn’t the author realize we’re already rationing care for everyone under the current system? The list of doctors who won’t take new Medicare patients in my area seems to grow daily, and out-of-pocket expenses are rising for everyone, including Medicare recipients. How many people do you know personally who can afford the care they need, with or without insurance?

Every health care consumer in this country, whether satisfied with the system or not, should watch the film Critical Condition, which aired on PBS last year. It highlights the struggles of four people whose lives were totally disrupted when they couldn’t afford the care they needed.

The story I will never forget followed a man who opted to have his foot amputated so he could return to work before he lost his benefits. He thought the treatment his doctor preferred would take too long. When his recovery period was longer than expected, he lost his job anyway, and the insurance company retroactively denied his claim for a prosthesis. He was forced to have his ill-fitting temporary prosthesis repaired after it broke because he couldn’t find work. He received severance pay and found a new job after a year, but was concerned that his new employer’s insurance would not cover a pre-existing condition.

Most of the people I know have experienced some nightmare in the system or know someone who has. Health professionals, insurers, advocates, business leaders, and patients agree that change is inevitable.

The fear mongers won’t succeed this time. The question is no longer if but when and how.

Jacqueline L. Jones is author of the upcoming book, Unmasking Chronic Illness. She also has written Unmasking a Diagnosis: How to get Help for a Confusing Chronic Illness Without Filing for Bankruptcy.

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