Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Socialized Medicine

Okay, so, I am a staunch supporter of socialized health care. I think the state should help support people's health needs.

However, when people are afraid of "socialized medicine," I think what they're terrified of is this:
"Brent’s 81-year-old wife, Dolores, was admitted to the hospital in Trail, in southeastern B.C. near the border with Washington, in August 2009 after suffering a heart attack.

After she recovered, her husband told hospital staff he wanted to take her back to their home in nearby Montrose.

Instead, the hospital moved her into its long-term care wing, saying she was too frail to leave.

“She would ask me every day, ‘When can I get out of here?’” Brent said. “They stated that I wouldn’t be allowed to take her home.”

In the long-term care wing, Dolores Brent’s health deteriorated. She suffered a stroke, and dementia set in."


What ensued was protracted battle between health authorities and George Brent over the care of his wife. Brent, who still wanted to take Delores to their home, complained of the care she received in the long-term care wing of the hospital claiming that he and his daughter, “often found Dolores parched, cold, tied to her wheelchair or even sitting in her own waste.”

Eventually, feeling his complaints weren’t being addressed, Brent resorted to refusing to pay the medical bills that the hospital sent him. That’s when the province stepped in.

If you have ever felt angry at someone for being against "socialized medicine," read the whole thing.

This article does not mean you need to change your opinion about publicly supported health care. But you do have to spend some time realizing that there are some legitimate fears about government involvement in health care.

The more you build in controls to health care to prevent this sort of shit from happening, the more solid you can be in your support of it. We need to look this article right in the eye.


Scott H. Payne said...

Thanks for the link. I'm also a staunch supporter of publicly funded health care. But agree that when we take our eyes off of potentially harmful events like this, we cease to be effective advocates. Advocating for government involvement in things like health care means being first to the gate in terms of addressing instances where that involvement goes off the rails.

99 said...

I am also a staunch supporter of socialized health care and publicly funded health care. I read the full article and it's tragic and awful and things like that shouldn't happen. But I don't think any advocate of socialized health care is under the impression that things like that don't happen or are arguing that, in a fully socialized system, things like that *won't* happen. One thing that's missing from that article is any sense of scope; is this an isolated case? Are there hundreds? Thousands? Are there cases where the patient's lot is improved by these kind of measures? Without that context, it's a sad, tragic and awful story that is being used to attack a whole system. On the other hand, in our non-socialized system, stories like that are also happening, in even worse ways. Officials for the insurance companies make decisions like this every day and put families through the same wringer here. What I distrust about this kind of argument is that the assumption is that since bad things happen on both sides, they're both equal. They're not. There are larger goods that come from socialized health care systems, as evidenced by higher satisfaction, better measures of health and longer life expectancies. Health care advocates do need to read these stories and understand them, but I don't think we need to wonder about how to address them. Sending innocent men to jail doesn't obviate the need for a trial-by-jury system. It just means you need to watch the system.

CultureFuture said...

99Seats; a few points:

1) You're right that figuring out extent is important, but not so important. What's striking about the story is not so much what happened, but the lack of recourse that seems to be available to the man. Even if these injustice is rare, the fact that the man didn't seem to have anywhere to go or anything to do is the real problem.

2) Absolutely right that this isn't so connected to socialized medicine. However, when it comes to the single-payer system, the lack of alternatives is a genuine concern. Presumably, an insurance agency that got a reputation for having a high rate of abuse would have difficulty in comparison with one with a low rate of abuse... unless (as is the case in America) it's very difficult to switch, very difficult to find local options, etc.

3) I think what this article speaks to is not just being on our toes, but designing a better system of protecting patients not only from doctors (where malpractice suits are not turning out to be the best solution) but also from insurers. When I was in the emergency room last, I was visited by someone who was called a "Patient Advocate." Now, I have no idea what this man's job was -- he just said "If you have anything you need or any problems, let me know."

What would be interesting is if there was a system of Patient Advocates who were not hired by the hospital or the insurance agency, but were an extension of the Health and Human Services, whose job would be to address patient concerns and issues, and ensure that their rights are being observed. By decoupling them from the hospital and the insurance agency, they can hold those people to account.

Also, this was part of the desire behind the Patient's Bill of Rights of 2000/2001 which ground to a halt. The Patient Advocate would be there to enforce those Bill of Rights.