30 August 2009

In Sickness or in Health – Part 1 疾病或健康-上卷

Earlier this month, an army of 450 volunteer doctors and dentists from Remote Area Medical, a non-profit group created to bring modern medicine to third world countries, took over a football stadium in Los Angeles, California, to treat thousands of Americans who otherwise could not afford health care. At the same time, in town-hall meetings around the country, angry constituents shouted at their congressmen against President Obama’s initiative to bring health care to every American, calling his reform bill “socialist” and comparing the president to Adolf Hitler. Something doesn’t add up.





My first brush with the infamous American health care system came when I went to college in Philadelphia...


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Read the rest of this article in HONG KONG State of Mind, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong, on Amazon and at Blacksmith Books.




17 comments:

  1. Its the same case here, I've a group hope pplz will join fight for better govt medical support here but even after advertisement placed in fb, reaching 370,000 pplz there r only two joined, the group hav only around 20 members. In US, if u dont hav med. insurance, its the end of a life if one got seriously sick.

    Rita

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  2. Michael Moore 的 "Sicko" (美國清一Sick檔案), 說出美國現時醫療問題源於官商勾結, 而香港政府早前提出的「醫療融資」計劃正是打算學習美國的一套(官商勾結), 出賣我們香港人的行徑。

    Highly recommend 各位關心自己及香港醫療政策的人士, 一定要看 "Sicko"!

    Rita

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  3. Thanks, this is very informative.

    Kim

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  4. Very well written Jason, thanks....

    My dad is a doctor, he did his residency in Philly and when we moved back to the States (after being in El Salvador for years), he did not even attempt to practice medicine anymore...he said it had gotten too cumbersome with all the malpractice lawsuits and that he did not want to pay for insurance...even the doctors have to pay insurance...not just patients.

    I do think however, that it is not fair to compare the U.S. medical system with that of other industrialized countries and condemn it as a failure...it is not the best...but let's face it; the U.S. has a much less homogeneous population (economic/ethnic/racial background) than any other industrialized country in the world and if there is to be universal medical coverage for all of these groups, there needs to be a different approach than just passing bill from the top down...this approach needs to consider all the healthcare scenarios faced by the different population groups in the U.S....

    It surprises me how the smartest people tend to overlook this detail (my sister-in-law for example who has a doctorate in psychology asked once why the U.S. healthcare system cannot be like Sweden's healthcare system which is soo good and comprehensive!!!) I was surprised at her statement since it is pretty clear to me how SWEDEN is NOT the U.S. in terms of demographics.

    After I completed my bachelors, I translated/interned in a research project in Dallas with the Hispanic populations approach to healthcare...the research question probed on the reasons why Hispanics went to the E.R. for primary medical care...which ended up being really expensive for the state...anyway...in short; there were a lot of charity initiatives for primary healthcare, but the language barrier prevented the hispanics from knowing where to go so they went to the EMERGENCY room...which sounds pretty similar to the spanish EMERGENCIA...and they knew they would get medical care there. This is just an example of how one of the population groups in the U.S. has sought to meet their healthcare needs, and in order to provide efficient/effective solutions, it is necessary to consider these nuances...not just pass a bill.

    Anyway...I did not mean to write sooo long...but I do think that your blog gives people a lot of really well presented information, and it is a great thing when we can learn from each other...so I thought I would make my contribution...

    Thanks.

    By the way...Michael Moore presents a distorted view of reality, I would not recommend his "documentaries" as the primary source on which to rely for an "informed opinion" on any matter....the medical system in Cuba is really good...but it is NOT like he portrays it.

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  5. Isabel,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I take your point about diversity, although I feel that Canada and the UK are just as diverse. I believe it really just comes down to ideology and commitment. If America can provide universal coverage for education and social security, I don't see why health care should be any different. And health care is arguably more fundamental than the other two.

    Admittedly I am giving you a short answer to an otherwise very well-articulated argument. But I really do believe it is that simple: every country should have universal health care, and that includes the wealthiest nation in the world!

    As for Michael Moore's docudrama "Sicko," I was going to mention it in my article but left it out in the end for fear of appearing too biased.

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  6. "Wealthiest nation in the World"??? You mean US is wealthiest?

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  7. thanks! it certianly helped me to understand the issue so much more.

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  8. I would say health care and penal systems are the major flaws in the US system. In this context, Canadians should be very happy people.

    Kelvin

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  9. I would go further and say that the root of many problems in the US is in its political system, specifically how public policies are heavily influenced by lobbyists from different industries or interest groups (with money). Such corruption at the political party level is arguably more damaging than the personal corruption we see in many developing countries. As a result you have the broken healthcare system that does not take care of your people, a gun control policy that kills thousands everyday, and, if you believe in the conspiracy theories, a foreign affairs policy driven by greed but not justice.

    Alan

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  10. Hello Everyone,
    I am from the US and have lived there my whole life other than this 13 months in HK. One day I was cooking steak for my husband and I as usual over-oiled the pan. I flipped the meat over and a wave (literally it was huge) of hot bubbling oil went up and out of the pan onto my hand. Within seconds I saw several layers of skin fall to the ground. I was on the ground screaming and my husband rushed over. He said-- "It looks bad, we have to go to the emergency room!" I said "No, NO.. I have to wait til the medical clinic opens tomorrow." (Medical clinics are cheap places that you go for rudimentary care and are much lower priced. (The flip side of medical clinics are that they often charge unneeded "tests and x-rays" that the uneducated are told they need.)
    Flashing throuogh my mind during the oil incident was: 1) $500-1000 (USD) abulance ride 2) $1000 (USD) bill from ER doctor who will see me for tops 5-10 minutes and 3)$100-200 (USD) medication bill. As a graduate student I did not have any insurance and did not want to go into debt. That night my husband and I watched tv in the dark as I was in so much pain I couldn't sleep. When morning came, we waited outside the clinic and they bandaged my scarred hand. The scar is very faint now and people can barely see it but I still can. Everytime I look at my scar, I remember the terror that I felt over the possible epic medical bill.
    America needs some sort of socialized medicine but Republicans and Fox News are very powerful in stirring up crazy radicals.

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  11. Thanks, Jenny, for telling us your personal health care horror story, and with such graphic details! I think most people outside the U.S. have no idea how bad things are in the U.S. when it comes to health care. It is a national embarrassment.

    Jason

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  12. Very informative blog, thanks very much!

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  13. I like your pieces on Hong Kong and this one about Capitalist Healthcare. My family back in the States are all too common Americans, they are critical of the current lack of health care, but at the same time critical of Obama's attempt to create a health care system in the US.
    The thing is, there is no health care system in the USA. It is Laissez-faire health care, the "system" is the collusion of the HMOs, insurance corporations and the politicians they own.
    Unfortunately Obama, just as Hilary before him, has bitten off more than he can chew with this one. He would have better chances of amending the US Constitution to include the right to Health Care for all, and perhaps this is what needs to be done. He can also try to repeal the second amendment while he is at it.
    I don't foresee these issues being dealt with in my lifetime, but hopefully within my son's lifetime.

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  14. This article really hit home for me as an American. Four years ago, I fell really sick and was repeatedly sent to the emergency room at the mercy of our healthcare system. Without going into too much detail, the nightmare did not start until after I was released from the hospital. Your article touched upon every aspect of how decrepit our healthcare system is. Needless to say, my brush with the healthcare system not only cost me a significant amount of money, endless hours of bickering with all the vultures who wanted to bill me, but also made me lose confidence in our nation's ability to protect its own people from sickness. Any reform in our healthcare system will only make things better. Power to Obama!

    Jack

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  15. Hi, I just moved back to HK after having spent several years in Toronto and New York. I wanted to tell you that I appreciate your blog and will be bookmarking it! Your writing is at once critical as it is accessible, so thanks!

    Anyhow, when I was in Toronto, I was a happy (if unwitting!) participant in OHIP for several years, and don't think I ever ONCE saw a medical bill.

    But one day, when I was in college in New York, I was attacked by the most debilitating migraine of my adult life. My roommate found me on the floor. Anyway, I ended up in the ER, and two weeks later my campus mailbox was stuffed with bills from I think three separate billing companies—one representing the ER doctor, one representing Emergency Services?? (ambulance?), and the last representing the hospital itself. And every single thing on the bill was itemized, down to the ingredients in the IV drip (glucose! morphine! vitamins!). The ambulance ride cost maybe $400. I wasn't even conscious went I went into the ambulance. I was billed for a cat scan that I don't remember, because of the morphine they gave me.

    Thankfully my college made sure that everybody was insured after enrolment, and they worked with an insurance company to give actually some very affordable insurance (I think it was $600 for the whole year?). But the onus of forwarding all my bills to the insurance company was on me, and let's just say that the insurance company didn't do a very good job of handling my paperwork because soon I had collection agencies sending me threatening letters. Thankfully everything was resolved. But what happens to people who don't have the time or the resources to sort out all this bureaucratic backing-and-forthing?

    ANYWAY, I just wanted to say that it is not a pretty situation, but I think one of the keys to empowering people FOR THE TIME BEING—while health care in America... sorry to put it this way... "sucks"—is education.

    In my first year out of school, I couldn't even afford my (rather measly) deductible, but I did some research online and mustered the courage to make a phone call to my cardiologist's office. I said, "I'm sorry, but this represents a HUGE chunk of my pay check. Is there any way that you can reduce it?" and she cut the bill in half. Perhaps she could have waived it all together. Anyway, that's why Planned Parenthood is great, because they charge on a sliding scale.

    Sorry, I just started going on and on and on. But thanks again for blogging. :)

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  16. Thanks for sharing your health-"scare" story, Jessica. Please keep reading and leaving comments!

    Cheers,

    Jason

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