Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hospitals may choose who receives care in swine flu pandemic

An emergency flu plan reported this week, outlined what will happen in Florida -- if there is a flu pandemic.

The Orlando Sentinel's story doesn't hold any punches. Care will be rationed. It will be up to hospitals -- not family members -- to decide who gets treatment and who does not.

I almost missed this story. It never seemed to make the top headline. It wasn't a "most e-mailed" favorite. I had to Google it three different ways to find the original newspaper report. This story isn't really on the radar. I'm surprised, because the health care reform debate still rages.

I am still wondering why. This is pretty dire stuff.

The document, drawn up by a team from across Florida that included Orange
County Health Director Dr. Kevin Sherin, addresses one of the most delicate
issues in medicine: what to do if the number of severely ill people needing
ventilators and other treatment dramatically exceeds what is available.

The goal, the plan says, is to focus care on patients whose lives could be saved and who would be most likely to function better if they were given whatever resources
were available. It says those decisions are not to be made based on patients'
perceived social worth or social role, but the plan calls for different rules
for some populations.

The fact that a state health board is considering such measures, shows how serious the swine flu is. It also points to a weakness in our system -- we may not have enough medical equipment to help those in need.

While I don't hear a lot of chatter on the report right now, I'm sure people will be commenting later. I immediately thought about my late husband Jimmy. His breathing was compromised and he had to use a tracheotomy to help him breathe. If I read the news article right, he probably would have been on the list to be refused treatment. Thankfully, we never were put in that situation.

During this swine flu season, I worry about the families who may face a situation like this "plan" outlined in Florida. I pray it won't come to this rationing of care, but without the proper equipment -- it sounds like it could be a reality.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Healthcare reform equals good economy

As a layman, I know health care reform is good for one's health. If people are able to visit the doctor knowing they are covered financially, they are more likely to seek care.

Now, President Obama said it's good for the economy. He made the statements in his Saturday radio and Internet address. The Washington Times as a report here.

I'm no economist, so I don't understand all he intricacies of this. I do know that health care coverage often is a key factor in how people make decisions. How many people say, "I work for the insurance." How many more people say, "I provide the insurance coverage for our family."

People often take jobs based solely on the insurance coverage. People often avoid going to the doctor, because they know one medical visit without coverage can doom them with a life of pre-existing conditions noted on health insurance applications.

As unemployment skyrockets, people are looking at ways to go into business for themselves. A huge roadblock is health insurance.

I've had to get a personal policy before. You have to fill out tons of paperwork and show the paper trail of coverage. (Note: When you leave a job, those certificates of coverage are very important). The cost isn't the best. The coverage is adequate. My personal experience is fairly benign, because I'm in good health. A person with on-going medical conditions are in a pickle.

The president says that health care reform could stimulate the economy, because people would be able to begin small business ventures. These businesses would create jobs and pay salaries and taxes. (Well, the recent report that a large percentage of Americans don't pay taxes is a separate story).

I understand the naysayers clearly. We have a huge unemployment rate. Millions of real people are out of work and can't seem to find work. How will health care reform help the economy?

I say it's a non-traditional route, needs to be done anyway and why not give it a try.

I know probably not the most sound reasoning, but you know I'm tired of hearing terrible stories. You know the ones where someone has insurance and they can't get service, because the company figures out a way to not pay for the service or change the copay. When people express outrage (or the media gets involved), suddenly the patient's treatment is covered or at minimum affordable. It all sounds fishy - like that scary R-word politicians are throwing around - rationing.

I want to see reform in my lifetime. There are millions of people who need access to medical care. So, for just a brief spell, I will dream of a world where health care reform equals a good economy.