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Front Page » August 13, 2002 » Opinion » Pointing fingers have too many points
Published 4,488 days ago

Pointing fingers have too many points


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

There are a lot of problems in the world that exist because of groups of people working together to cause them. While it is true one individual can create chaos in our complexly entwined world, the real problems are usually created by groups of people, often pointing fingers at each other saying the other is at fault.

The other day I got into a discussion with my son-in-law about the cost of health care. He works for the University of Utah Hospital and I brought up the fact that I felt health care was pricing itself out of business. Sure, it is a necessary thing, and people generally cannot do without it, but at some point it seems the system will entirely collapse because no one except the very wealthy will be able to afford good care. I told him some kind of national health care program has to happen or the common person would be unable to get good care.

He called me a communist I corrected him and told him I was a socialist, more exactly a closet socialist.

But the discussion all brought up a point, especially when he said to me, "Look at what a mess Canada is."

Well, I have many friends who are Canadian citizens from my years of working in the consulting business. And they think we are the mess. Why do they think that. Well just look around and you can find examples everywhere.

For instance, a friend of mine was recently informed by her insurance company, a machine she got for a health care problem from a local provider here in Price was not covered because this local company was not one of their "preferred providers."

First of all, the company she got it from is the only one in the area that provides that type of equipment and secondly, she had inquired about the insurance coverage before getting it and was told that the supplier was a provider.

Now she faces paying for half of the $300 device instead of the normal co-pay of $20. They told her she should have gone to a provider on the Wasatch Front. To do that she would have had to take a day off of work, drive there and then go back a number of times to get the machine adjusted until it functioned correctly with her needs. In hindsight, it was probably overall cheaper to get the non-supplier provided machine, based on all she would have had to do to get one from an "authorized provider."

Jay Leno makes jokes on his show almost every night about health maintenance organizations (HMO's) and their affect on health care in the U.S. As funny as these jokes are, it is no laughing matter.

If you ask people in various segments of the health care industry about the extreme costs, they all point at each other. The hospitals blame the rise in the cost of technology, particularly hardware. Health care companies blame doctors and the cost of specialists and nursing staffs. Health and liability insurance companies blame lawyers and juries that award huge sums of money to plaintiffs. Drug companies tell us that the cost of their products are what they are because of the extensive research that goes on to provide those remedies.

I had one friend tell me not long ago that his brother-in-law, who works for a large pharmaceutical company in New York as a researcher, worked for five years with a dozen other people on a drug to fight some type of disease. In the end the drug didn't work. Millions upon millions of dollars were spent to develop a product that never made it to market. He told me that is the reason some of the pills people take cost $10 or $20 a piece; companies have to pay for the failures, which are the rule rather than the exception, by overcharging for their successes.

That is nothing new. All companies build charges for research and development into their products. It's the blame and justification game. But what really makes me laugh (or maybe cry) is that many of these companies claim they aren't making enough money. If no one is making any money, where is it all going?

In all of this probably the least well off are doctors and nurses, the very people we count on for our personal care. Sure physicians generally make a lot more money than the average guy, but they deserve it. First of all they have to put up with medical school and then face years of residency where they are treated like second class citizens. Once they get their own practice many of them work horrific hours and face life and death situations daily. They have everyone after them from lawyers who want to sue their pants off to insurance companies that want their first born for a monthly liability insurance premium.

Adequate health care is not a right guaranteed by the constitution. Yet without adequate and affordable health care for the masses, our country would not be a strong and viable nation. If suddenly, people stopped buying health care because of expense, most of the conglomerates that own and run hospitals, technology companies and pharmaceutical firms would go out of business, not to mention the myriad of insurance companies that would collapse. Recent events in corporate business at the highest level should make us all examine more closely the ties and the operations of these huge companies. Yet when asked questions about the growing costs they all point their fingers at other segments of the industry.

It's time congress got off their collective bi-partisan politicos and did something about the crisis our country is facing when it comes to the cost of health care.


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August 13, 2002
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