*As a doctor, one of the first questions I ask people when they come into my medical practice is do they have insurance? But the first question, should be “What’s wrong with you? And how can we make it better.”
The problem is in America having healthcare insurance determines the kind of treatment you get and it’s the first thing a doctor worries about when he sees a patient. This should not be the case. When a patient comes into see a doctor, the main thing that he should be concerned with is getting the patient better.
But this cannot be done as long as both the doctor and the patient are worried about insurance coverage and medical costs. Because even if you are covered, you can still face bills. In addition, even if patients do have insurance, you still have to jump through the many obstacles put up by insurance companies, who seem to be more interested in not paying doctors than providing service.
There has to be a better way to treat patients and I think the answer is seen in the Canadian and British models. In this model, citizens are taxed and the money goes into a pool to pay for a national healthcare system. In Britain, patients not satisfied with the national healthcare system can also opt for private insurance. When patients come into see the doctor, both parties are more concerned with the patient getting better than worrying about cost and insurance coverage. Also, patients in this model tend to come into the doctor more regularly for checkups, and that way major illnesses are caught before they get too serious. In America, patients, concerned with costs, often don’t go to see the doctor until it’s too late. Then they are faced with the cost of a major medical procedure.
Recently Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that poor people could go and get health services at Emergency Rooms. But this is exactly the problem I was talking about. By the time the patient goes to the emergency room, the health problem may have got too severe for the doctors to do anything about it. Also, emergency rooms are full of patients who have minor medical problems that do not require emergency treatment, so there are often long waits.
During the battle over Health Care Reform, we were subject to propaganda about British people and Canadians being unhappy with their healthcare systems. All I can say is don’t believe the hype. You don’t see many Canadians streaming across the border to get American healthcare. (In fact it’s vice versa, with Americans going to Canada to get treatment.) The only ones who do so are the people that require specialist treatment. And the Brits are so proud of their healthcare system, they made it a part of the opening ceremony of the Olympic games.
Critics of the British and Canadian systems claim patients have long waits to see doctors, but in America you can face a long wait to see your doctor while you wait for the insurance company to give approval. No system is flawless, but I think the Brits and Canadians are onto something.
I would hope that the Healthcare Reform Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, would do a lot to remediate many of the problems of the American health care system, so we can get back to doctors being in charge of their patient’s health and not insurance companies.
Dr. Christopher Otiko is a podiatrist based in Southern California. He is also the author of the mystery/thriller “Santa,” which is available as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and as a print book at Lulu.