Health & Fitness
Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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As this is written, I'm in Rochester Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic helping at the Gift of Life transplant care centre. The Mayo which is world renowned, has 55,000 employees in 3 locations, 34,000 here. It is non-profit and is the largest connected hospital complex in the world.
It has patients from all over the globe including Canada. The care is excellent. The doctors work on salary and people come for treatment of the most severe and rare forms of disease.
Cancer and the need for care strikes a lot of people and of course in Canada too where patients are well served by the medical community. Canada is fortunate and should guard against weakening the system. Here's an example of the private insurance based problem
In the United States the big fear is insurance, which is a horrible word that strikes into the core of people. Some pay over $20,000 per year for it. One patient here who is elderly and has two insurance policies and a drug care plan. He sill pays $17,000 year for drugs alone.
Insurance burdens companies, families and accounts for half the bankruptcies in the US. It ruins lives. The costs per capita of health care in the US are over twice what they are in Canada. They were exactly the same as late as 1972. Now the outcomes are tipped in Canada's direction too regardless of money invested. Why? Because so many patients have no health care and when treated, the costs rise due to lack of steady normal health care.
There is a person here with no debt, worked all his life, paid for homes, cars and hobbies and never incurred any credit card interest. Where others threw away money on expensive homes ever larger, he paid for his first and has paid off two more, building the last one himself.
The US brags about places like Mayo, but this place is the exception and not the rule. It is not that you get bad care in other places, it's the cost no matter where you go. The uninsured clog the emergency wards and add cost to the tax payer and insurance buyer.
Some that are here have excellent insurance. So other than these dreadful diseases and insurance costs, what else is wrong?
There is this nasty thing called lifetime and yearly limits in the US. When you run out, you have to go broke. So what to do? Rare forms of cancer involving the liver require a gambling game, where you have to be very sick, but not too sick to make a transplant impossible.
You have a sum called a MELD score for some forms of cancer and disease. If you are at 22 you need to get to 29 and be cancer free at the time of a transplant at least at Mayo. Some rare forms of cancer of the bile ducts are only treated here. Therefore, you get aggressive treatment. If you are rich like Steve Jobs, you register at a number of places satisfying their criteria and keep your Lear Jet handy.
It's a race for these normal people. The cost of racing in this obstacle course will be in the millions of dollars. If they reach lifetime limits, they will be in debt forever as will immediate family taking on the debt. For people who have always paid for things, it saddens them and causes stress.
So what to do about these limits and spouses and children? One man here has has gone through a legal process to give up all his assets, so in the event of crossing the lifetime limit, he does not bankrupt his wife and two children too, just himself and no others.
President Obama's health care law that is just getting into gear makes lifetime limits illegal as it does for pre-existing conditions. Sadly, if Mr. Romney gets elected, he has vowed to repeal the entire law as his first act, even though it was modeled after his own Massachusetts based program, when he was Governor. How do you figure that logic? How can that be a good policy for people? Amazingly, Mr. Romney is appealing to many and they are at best in need of a brain transplant. It's all in the realm of individual freedom or so we are told
The strange part of this debate in the US is that they lie about the Canadian system and get away with it.
President Obama is acutely aware of severe illness as his mother on her death bed with breast cancer had to negotiate and debate all the time with her insurance company. He remembers that. How could he forget?
On the other hand Romney does not remember ganging up on a fellow student and cutting off his long hair. The victim and the other would be bullies remember, however. The bullies are ashamed of it. After all it was a top prep school and it's not acceptable then or now. I remember playing sports against that exclusive prep school and beating them time after time..... ha!
Romney never had to deal with crucial money matters, just other people's money in his Bain venture capital business. Instead of taking credit for Massachusetts, he is running from it to garner votes from Tea Party people.
His backers in the US Congress have vested insurance benefits after five years, so they don't run into these problems of million dollar health issues.
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Monday, August 06, 2012