Retired Physician : Our Health Care System an Outrage


‘The insurance industry, and the Republican Party, over the years have sold the public a bill of goods’
By S. R. Keister / The Rag Blog / September 30, 2008

I have been reading Vincent Bugliosi’s “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder”. Mr. Bugliosi is very, very angry, a justifiable anger, perhaps akin to Zola’s anger when he penned “‘J’Accuse.” Perhaps in today’s world there should be increased justifiable anger. Perhaps if the nation would become aroused we, the citizens of The United States, could accomplish something with well directed, intelligently utilized anger. Perhaps we could awaken the dumbed down citizen who spends his/her time before a TV set, believing every word, to stand up for their own interests instead of believing in the propaganda that they are inundated with.

I am very, very angry. I am angry that I am an old retired physician with a malignancy. But I am especially angry at the state of health care in this country, a system of which I was proud when I started practice in the 1950s, but which, by the perfidy of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries has become one of the least desirable in the free world. Our health care currently ranks 25th in the world according to The Commonwealth Fund. I cringe when I see notices on public bulletin boards announcing a fund raiser at a fire hall for a child who needs money for a kidney transplant. Only in the United States!

I am angry when I hear seemingly intelligent folks say, “I wouldn’t want ‘socialized medicine’,” yet they accept Medicare or government retirement health care and are too stupid to realize that they are receiving “socialized medicine.” The insurance industry, and the Republican Party, over the years have sold the public a bill of goods. Most every Western European nation, Australia, and Canada have government subsidized health care, with 100% of the population covered. I have personally had contact with the system in the U.K. and have had friends treated, both in and out of hospital, in France, Italy, and Norway and they attest to excellent care. Interestingly, in most instances, as guests in the countries, the costs were minimal if any.

The capitalist profits of doom ask the uninformed citizen; “Do you want to wait long weeks for medical care?” and “Do you want ‘the government’ dictating your health care? Of course this is balderdash worthy of P.T.Barnum. In most other industrialized western nations, one waits no longer for medical care than one does in the United States. Here or there certain procedures or appointments require a wait. A total knee replacement may get done sooner here, but emergency care is more immediately accessible abroad.

Europe has more physicians per 100,000 population than does the USA. They have more hospital beds and more CT Scanners, and their medical education is free, or nearly free, to students that academically qualify. In no nation with universal health care does the “government” determine choice, save in exceptional instances. One is totally free to choose one’s physician, dentist, or pharmacy. The insurance industries’ propaganda sources can always dig up, or manufacture, exceptions which are foisted on the credulous public as the normal experience.

Another facet of the health care mess in this country is how the public has been purposefully confused as re: “non-profit” institutions. The average American in some way has confused “non-profit” with “charitable institutions”. Of course, most charitable institutions are non profit. BUT ‘non-profit’ insurers, most hospitals, many retirement homes, are non-profit only in the sense that they are profit making institutions without stock holders. They have tax concessions, can pay their executives extreme salaries, and list their ‘profits’ as ‘surplus’. Again, it makes me very angry to see the American public completely duped by the big business enterprises in the United States. I am angry at the way our elderly are scammed in ‘retirement homes’, ‘assisted care facilities’, utilizing their savings to make unseemly profits for the corporations managing same. Only in the USA ! Why then, if we take such good care of our elderly, does the United States have shorter life spans than much of the industrialized world? Perhaps the same reasons that we have one of the highest infant mortality rates, and child poverty rates, of any nation in the Western World. I feel that I have reason to be angry.

I am angry, as well, at the fact that a majority of American physicians sit lethargically by and do nothing to change the situation. Perhaps it is that fact, thanks to the HMOs demanding that they care for more patients than in many instances is humanly possible, and the need to spend hours filling out insurance forms, that time for social action is limited. Perhaps, sadly, a few feel that income will be threatened by a change in the system. In any event, I have throughout my career noted that most doctors vote against their own best interests. Sort of a lemming effect. For instance, when Medicare was first introduced, most physicians opposed the plan, but in the long run most found it to be a boon. Perhaps, and I say this, in part, with tongue in cheek, they are too busy answering questions from patients who have noted a new drug on TV.

The USA and New Zealand are the only nations that advertise prescription drugs on TV, no doubt grossly increasing the prescription costs at the drug stores. Our politicians accept this, no-doubt because the vast majority are prostitutes to the drug and insurance industries. This creates a special anger within me. The public must realize that the current government not only wants to privatize Social Security, but is attempting to turn over Medicare, by default, to the private insurance industry via “Medicare Advantage Plans”. Another con game not understood by the elderly subscribers, who are sold the bill of goods that this is for their benefit, but in the long run is really for the insurance industry, its executives, and stock-holders. The Medicare “Prescription Plan D” was purely a gift of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies disguised as a program to benefit the elderly. A less corrupt congress could have written a plan with better coverage, at much less cost to the tax-payer and the patient.

As summer phases into autumn one will be exposed to further libelous garbage produced by the insurance companies. Remember three things:

1.) The insurance industry is there for the profits of its owners and stockholders, just like any other business.

2.) Polls show a preponderance of the public for single payer, universal health care, ergo any politician that does not support his/her constituents is either (a) Totally disinterested in the voters needs and desires, or (b) is taking baksheesh from the insurance industry

3.). In anyone’s group of acquaintances one will find a chronic complainer. Such folks are meat for the insurance industry, as with a little financial inducement they will be happy to make commercials demeaning good health care, lies and exaggerations are no problem. So if you hear how bad Canadian care is consider that you are doubtlessly being scammed by a chronic unhappy, fault finding, dissident who will do the job of destroying the truth better than professional actors, who may be utilized as well. Remember the actors on TV who libeled Hillary Clinton’s program in 1993 and she was espousing something far removed from single payer care.

I have had a bit of personal contact with foreign health care. Some 18-20 years ago my late wife and I were in Edinboro, Scotland. She became ill. Nearby was The Royal Infirmary. We headed for the emergency department (in Europe most nations do not have ERs as we know them but have two departments, one for the unassigned person who becomes ill and one for ambulance cases and such). We were directed to the former where a nice lady behind a desk asked us our names, where we were staying, and took a quick look at our passports. She directed us to an office where a young doctor spent an hour with us, prescribed, wished us a nice visit. When we departed I stopped at the desk to pay and was told that as guests in the UK that we were covered by National Health and there was no charge. Similarly, I know a young adult lady who was visiting in the Rhone delta area of France, her hostess cut a nasty gash on her hand, the family doctor was called, he came to the house with a portable suture kit and sewed up the lacerated hand. The charges were covered by the National Health Plan. She did not have to sit for two hours in an ER, fill out endless papers, sign many insurance, and other, forms, and be hurried through the procedure.

I find that putting this on paper helps my anger. What the psychiatrists call “ventilation therapy”. But, with your forbearance, what do we do?

1.) Join in a joint effort on the Federal level to have Congress pass HR 676. a bill for single payer, universal health care. There is information regarding this from Physicians for a National Health Program. This group of 15,000-plus idealistic, humane doctors has been at this for 20 years and has recently been joined by the 125,000 member American College of Physicians,

2.) Check with your Congressional and Senatorial candidates and vote for the one that will support HR 676. If they refuse they do not give a damn about you.

For Pennsylvania citizens there is another alternative, a universal health care plan for The Commonwealth. Health Care for All Pa. Again if you want decent health care check whether your state senate or Legislative candidate supports this.

Unfortunately neither presidential candidate overtly supports universal, single payer health care. I would hope that Sen. Obama, once in office, will listen, especially if he has a progressive House and Senate. I would expect no action from Sen. McCain as he has announced that he wants to privatize Social Security and has long been a friend of the big corporations and insurance industry. He also seems a bit vague as re: geography, the Middle East, and international affairs. In the meantime please when possible make yourselves known to Sen.Obama.

Thank you for your forbearance and please let us unite in an effort to prevail. I note that the insurance industry is about to start a propaganda program of gigantic proportions to persuade the public that the United States has the ‘best health care in the world’.

The Rag Blog

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One Response to Retired Physician : Our Health Care System an Outrage

  1. Anonymous says:

    I assume this is the same Dr. Keister who has previously contributed to Mother Jones? In any case, he’s not just an old angry physician (one of the indevitable “complainers” to whom he refers) – Dr. Keister directs readers to organizations working for actual reform of the US health care system. Readers: please follow the links Dr. Keister provides. Editors: please continue to follow this issue.

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