The Wasatch Behind: Cultural change, healthcare
"Things were a lot less complicated in the olden days," Uncle Spud said. "If we got sick we just called the doctor and he came to the house. If we didn't have the money to pay, we worked out a deal to give the Doc a couple a bucks or a dozen eggs a week until we were squared-up."
"What about medical insurance?" I asked.
"We didn't have modern medical insurance," Spud informed me. "Our health insurance was eating well, working hard, being careful, and not speaking obscenities in public places."
"So what changed?"
"The culture changed," he said. "And going to the doctor got real expensive. Doctors don't work from their houses and cars anymore. They all have clinics, secretaries, bookkeepers, x-ray machines and lawyers."
"A doctor can't practice medicine anymore without a whole law firm to back him up," Spud explained. "Doctors get sued all the time."
"Don't some of them deserve it?" I asked.
"Sure," he agreed, "but when a woman can sue her doctor over stretch-marks following a successful pregnancy, we're in big trouble. A whole lot of today's medical costs are due to unnecessary lawsuits."
"Modern diagnostic equipment, treatment and drugs are a lot more expensive, too," I assured him.
"True," he agreed. "That's why we need medical insurance today. A catastrophic illness can wipe a family out."
"So what do you think about the president's national health care plan?" I asked. "Wouldn't that be a good thing for an old geezer like you?"
"It might," he said. "Except I don't know what the new health care plan is."
"Neither does your president," I assured him. "Obama spoke about it on TV last week and no one could understand what he was talking about. He rambled, dodged, and talked around the questions that were asked. It sounded like a whole lot of razzle-dazzle to me. And he said we've got to pass heath care right away or the sky will fall. I think we heard that line before when he wanted the tarp bailout and the trillion-dollar stimulus package passed overnight without anyone reading the fine print. I don't know about you, but I get nervous when a salesman says I've got to sign right now."
"I don't understand why they don't just fix the health care system we already have," Spud said. "We have the best health care system in the world; why change it? We already have the government screwing up the auto industry, the insurance industry, the banking industry and the post office. I can only imagine what it'll be like to go to a hospital that's run like Amtrak."
"I agree," I told him. "It wouldn't take much to fix the medical system we have today. What we need most is tort reform. We've got to limit malpractice suits and get the lawyers under control."
"Big time lawyers are cash cows for politicians," Spud sneered. "Congress isn't going to regulate lawyers. Lawyers run the country."
"And another thing," I growled. "Obama said that a significant part of the money to fund the new health care system will come from eliminating fraud and waste in the current Medicare and Medicaid system. Think about that. Medicare alone is costing us 400 billion dollars a year and the Government Accounting Office reports that waste and fraud might account for as much as 40-percent of the Medicare budget. Who the hell is running that show? Do we dare give these people another huge program to manage, something even bigger to waste and squander our tax money on?
"I don't think we need a new federal health program; we need a congressional investigation of the old one. No, on second thought, we better not let congress investigate themselves, ever again. Let's contract with Scotland Yard or the KGB and have them investigate those programs and the people who run them. Our lawmakers deserve it."
"Do you think nationalized health care will pass?" Spud asked.
"I wouldn't be surprised," I said. "The Democrats want it real bad. Nationalized health care is like global warming cap and trade legislation. It's all about power, control, and the reshaping of the country."
"Will my medical records end up on some government clown's computer?" he asked.
"Yes," I assured him. "But that'll be the least of your worries when they start rationing health care and tell you that you're too old for surgery."