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Letter: Drop the Crisis? Drop the Insanity!

Though only a quarter of a page long, Dr. James DiMaio’s letter to the editor, “Healthcare Debate: Drop the ‘Crisis’” in the November 11 issue was so unbelievably absurd and misguided that I felt compelled to respond. Though Dr. DiMaio is certainly entitled to his opinion and afforded the freedom to express it publicly in this paper, his views are indicative of a larger problem with the honesty of the health care debate, and as such I feel it necessary to critique part of his letter.

Dr. DiMaio initially makes the point that only 10 percent of Americans are currently without health insurance and since 90 percent of us do have it, that it is erroneous to call this is a health care “crisis.” A rate of just 10 percent does sound negligible until you remember, not only is it closer to 15 percent, but also that this figure represents nearly 50 million people who are without health insurance and therefore marginalized from what Dr. DiMaio hails to be “the best health care system on the planet.”

Yet, as a direct result of being unable to afford expensive health care plans, thousands of men, women, and children will die every year in this country from easily preventable or treatable illnesses. By simple logic, would not the “best” healthcare system be one that includes equal access and care for every single citizen, regardless of income? How did that unbelievably simple idea get lost in the ether?

Dr. DiMaio goes on to echo the same asinine rationalization of this flawed system in saying that those 50 million Americans without insurance still have access to the emergency room and will not be denied care in an emergency. Does anyone ever stop and take a second to realize what that means? Even a child should recognize that the emergency room should be intended for medical “emergencies” only and not as a hospital dumping ground for people who become a medical afterthought for lacking costly insurance. Not only is this backwards policy-excuse a burden to the taxpayer who pays for the uninsured, but people being treated for simple ailments in the ER that can and should be the responsibility of a family doctor are taking up limited space and valuable resources that are needed when real medical emergencies inevitably arise.

Dr. DiMaio’s idea as stated is to try and insure the other 10 percent and leave the 90 percent of Americans with insurance alone. That would be a great idea if the majority of people were actually happy with their health insurance. You have to ask yourself honestly, how many stories do you, or people close to you have, about being denied a medical necessity by a health insurance provider? Whether it is an additional medical test or new procedure, a prescription that is not covered, or a hospital stay beyond what the insurance company is willing to pay, most people with insurance are extremely unhappy with the quality of their coverage and this needs to be seriously addressed.

In addition, the health care crisis goes far beyond the palaver of premiums and pre-existing conditions. Rather, it should be recognized as a fundamental component of our current recession and burgeoning domestic frustration. According to a Harvard Law School study concerning the alarmingly high rates of recent home foreclosures, nearly “half of all respondents (49 percent) indicated that their foreclosure was caused in part by a medical problem, including illness or injuries (32 percent), unmanageable medical bills (23 percent), lost work due to a medical problem (27 percent), or caring for sick family members (14 percent).”

When hardworking Americans are becoming homeless simply for getting sick, it is disingenuous to call this anything but a “crisis.”

Dr. DiMaio laments over the 1,990 page health care reform bill claiming that “no one could possibly ever read” it. Yet, this is the length of two Harry Potter books and is a document attempting to reform a health care system for over 300 million people. To bemoan it as being too long and complicated is to not only devalue the important work of our elected representatives but additionally continue the failed bumper-sticker solutions characterized by the overly simplistic and unequivocally disastrous Bush administration.

Furthermore, Dr. DiMaio claims that reform will bring a “more intrusive health care system which would have a financial interest” in personal life decisions regarding a person’s health. Yet he apparently fails to realize that we already suffer from a system based on warped financial interests. Since healthcare in the U.S. is based on a for-profit business model, heath insurance companies are betrothed only to the interests of their shareholders — not the patients to whom they consistently deny insurance or provide bare-bones coverage. Health insurance companies earn enormous profits by denying or undercutting the very services with which they are tasked (and paid) to provide. That is why every other industrialized nation in the world, except for the United States, has a national health care system to the overwhelmingly positive support of the vast majority of their citizens.

Though I cannot begin to so much as scratch the surface of the multifaceted nuances of health care reform, the simple fact is our system desperately needs a massive overhaul. To deny otherwise is to remain mired in this perverse status quo, which puts profits before the health of our fellow citizens, weakens our strength and stability as a nation, and divides us as a people. This is more than a crisis- it is a disaster and a shameful embarrassment. And it is about time we got the facts straight.

Sean Callahan