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Time to refocus on what’s important

Sometimes it’s easy to get confused and upset after spending 10 minutes listening to the mainstream media. It seems that every day there’s a new outrage. Whether it is a football player who wanted to pray before a game and was not allowed to or a grandmother who’s being kicked out of her house in some sort of illegal foreclosure scam, or any of 100 of other different outrages, the media wants to keep us in this fevered pitch so we will tune in tomorrow. When our blood is boiling, we don’t think straight. We lose our priorities as we jump from one infuriating scenario to the next.

In theory, the Christmas season (including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa) is supposed to reconnect us with the things that are important – family, friends and our pursuit of happiness. Without jobs, without a living wage, it is hard to enjoy our family and friends because we simply cannot pursue happiness. This is what is important. The above short video from 2008 is a funny but poignant reminder about all the things that we are fighting for. We are fighting to end unnecessary wars which do nothing to increase our security. We are fighting so that everyone has the same rights in the eyes of the law. We are fighting so the law looks at corporations as stacks of paper instead of regarding them as people. We are fighting so that we can drink our water without poisoning our families and swim in the local streams without spontaneous combustion. We are simply fighting for a better and sustainable future.

By |2012-01-02T08:45:20-04:00January 2nd, 2012|Party Politics|1 Comment

Serious Healthcare reform – part 1; Where to start?

I’m still waiting for the debate to start. When are we, as Americans, going to get this debate started? Dem From CT has tried. He has posted some thoughtful information and questions on healthcare. Yet he has not drawn the type of overwhelming responses that would suggest that progressives are engaged.

Well, let me try to get this puppy started. Over the next several weeks, I will post a series of articles that will examine healthcare as completely as I can.

As a trauma surgeon, I bring a unique perspective to this discussion. I see all types of patients. Rich, poor, young and old. Everyone can be a victim of trauma.

So, is healthcare a right? I know that this starts arguments but it is time to have those discussions. This question is important because depending on your answer, it will change our approach. Let’s look at both sides of this argument.

Yes, healthcare is a right. When Thomas Jefferson wrote “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it was as if he was including Health. It is as clear as the nose on Jefferson’s face. If healthcare is a right then all Americans should be given adequate healthcare. This healthcare should be guaranteed by the state.

On the other hand, there is no way that Thomas Jefferson or any of the founding fathers thought about healthcare because doctors in the 1700s really didn’t do much. It is hard to put words into the mouths of our forefathers. So maybe healthcare isn’t a right. Maybe it is a privilege like driving a car.

I have no idea how our economy is going to grow if a significant portion of our workforce is worried about their health or have their finances tied up in health care. As we get older and work longer there are going to be more health issues in the workforce. Diabetes, hypertension and obesity are terribly expensive.

We’ve all seen the numbers and they are staggering. $2.1 trillion! This is a total pricetag of healthcare in the United States. We spend approximately 16% of our Gross Domestic Product on healthcare. Germany spends 10.9%. France, a country that many conservatives paint as a welfare state, shelled out only 10.5% of their Gross Domestic Product.

So, we’re spending a lot of money. A ton of money. I would argue with critics who say that healthcare in the United States is terrible. I think this is a complete distortion of the facts. Instead, healthcare in the United States is very spotty. Some people get excellent care. Some people are overtreated and others are undertreated. Now, we can point fingers at who’s to blame for those who are overtreated and those who are undertreated. We do know one thing for sure and that is 47 million Americans go without health insurance. It is almost a sure bet that many of these Americans are undertreated.

Let’s look at a very common scenario. As I tell this story, think about overtreatment and undertreatment and about the delivery of healthcare. Again, is healthcare a right or is it a privilege?

A 25-year-old male works as a stock boy at Wal-Mart. He’s never been to the hospital. He does not take any medications and he is healthy. He carries no insurance. While in the warehouse, he turns around quickly and hits his head on a metal pole. He is a little dazed but is not knocked out. He develops a bruise on his forehead. He asked his supervisor if he can go to the doctor. The patient presents to the emergency room complaining of a headache. The ER physician takes a thorough history and physical and only finds a bruise on the patient’s forehead. The ER physician orders a CT scan of his head. This scan is negative for any traumatic injuries. The patient is sent home with instructions to return to work as soon as he is able.

So? What do you think? 30 years ago, a patient with such an injury would not go to the emergency room. 20 years ago, the standard of care would be to examine the patient and if the patient does not have any specific signs of a head injury like nausea or vomiting, blurred vision or decrease in mental status then the patient would be sent home on aspirin or Tylenol. 10 years ago, because of the availability of CT scans and the wealth of information that physicians can get from CT scans almost all head injuries get scanned.

So what are your thoughts? Is healthcare a right? We have a golden opportunity to fix this system so that it works for every American. Let the great healthcare debate begin.

By |2009-03-15T21:37:41-04:00March 15th, 2009|Congress, Healthcare, Obama administration|Comments Off on Serious Healthcare reform – part 1; Where to start?

What's going on – News Roundup

Friday Morning News Round up
  • We seem to be pumping some more money into that endless hole called AIG. AIG (got raked over the coals on Capital Hill)started getting into big trouble when they started guaranteeing something called Credit Default Swaps. These Credit Default Swaps were basically unregulated betting. Paul Krugman asks the critical question — what are we, the American taxpayers, getting for our money? We are taking all of the risk with these CDS’ and getting none of the benefit. I think the answer is so far — nothing.
  • The Dow Jones industrial averages continue to fall. I do not think that we can get a handle on the stock market or the financial sector until we really stabilize the banks. Until the US government can declare the banks truly solvent (I think several are not) we will continue to see volatility and downward trend the stock market.
  • Finally, Barack Obama is serious about health care reform. True health care reform is going to be extremely difficult. As Thom Hartmann mentioned on his radio show yesterday, how you approach health care is directly related to what you believe health care is a right or a privilege. Although I’m a surgeon, I must note that I am wrestling with this question for over two years. It is true that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I do not think it is a stretch to believe that this should include healthcare. Therefore, if healthcare is truly a right then this right should be guaranteed by the government like all our other rights. (Rep. Wamp doesn’t agree.)
  • AIG hires a PR firm to make us like them more.

Rachel Maddow has a great segment on this. Watch the video:

By |2009-03-06T02:18:19-04:00March 6th, 2009|Economy, Healthcare, Obama administration|Comments Off on What's going on – News Roundup
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