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Unhealthy At Any Speed

I doubt there are many people who need reminders about how much health care is costing us. If there are any such buried heads, they’ve no need to look far for the signs of an untenable system. Reuters [1], by way of HuffPo, reports that around 60% of US personal bankruptcies are due to medical costs. That number has increased by fifty percent in just six years. The real kicker: more than 75% of those people had health insurance but were still dragged under by medical bills. The study, conducted by Harvard Law, Harvard Medical School, and Ohio University, appears in full in the American Journal of Medicine.

‘Using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income,’ the researchers wrote.

‘Most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations.'”

I think ‘were’ is the operative word there: were middle-class. Now they’re screwed because that’s what happens to you when you get sick in America.

‘Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,’ Harvard’s Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for a single-payer health insurance program for the United States, said in a statement.

‘For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection,’ he added.”

I learned in the 2008 campaign that Harvard is elitist, and I shouldn’t be impressed by the credential, but, dammit, I still am. Some of the smartest people in the world end up there, and I’m swayed by their opinions. When a Harvard doctor can show that we’re being harmed, financially if not medically, by our health insurance system, I think we should listen.

For those who remain unimpressed by Ivy League pinheads, listen to some reggaler fokes. The New York Times [2] had a piece yesterday, reported from Rocky Mount on people who are unable to afford their medications, even with cheap generics and Medicaid benefits.

In downtrodden communities like Rocky Mount, where unemployment has doubled to 14 percent in a year, the recession has heightened the struggle. National surveys consistently find that as many as a third of respondents say they are not complying with prescriptions because of cost, up from about a fourth three years ago. …

Dr. Daniel C. Minior, who directs the emergency department at Nash General, said he was increasingly hearing from patients that they had lost jobs and could not afford medications. ‘The worrisome aspect is that it’s even occurring among younger and working-age people,’ Dr. Minior said. ‘That’s not something we saw before.'”

Well, they better figure sumthin out, over there to Rocky Mount, hadn’t they? Because the House is looking to slash the budget and Joe the Plumber is gonna make sure they do. (What the hell does an Ohio plumber care about NC taxes? I guess the mental patients who aren’t getting treated won’t make it to his neck of the woods, so he really doesn’t care.) Can we go on like this? For how long? When health care is a millstone around the necks of insured people, aren’t we just about to go under? We’re like the pharmacy customers in Rocky Mount.

Similarly, Robert E. Brown, 60, who has heart disease and emphysema, said he regularly told the pharmacists at Almand’s to reshelve his prescriptions after being quoted prices of $100 or more. ‘I just hand them back,’ he said. ‘I take the ones I can afford, and then trust in the Lord.'”

Should we really be entrusting our health to the Lord? I thought that’s why He created Harvard Medical School. Signs from that venerable institution point to the need for a national system, is anyone paying attention?