Friday, April 21, 2006

A Study in Contrasts

The auto industry's efforts to rein in employee health costs is drawing an expensive reaction, as union workers and their spouses hurry to Michigan doctors for knee replacements and other elective procedures before they lose their comprehensive medical benefits.

Contrast this to another group whose benefits are provided under a single payor system.

The family of a 57-year-old Meath Park woman says it will take at least three months before their mother gets to see a Saskatchewan oncologist who can tell her if her cancer is treatable or fatal.

One group has virtually free and unlimited access to health care.

Hip, knee and shoulder replacements at the Henry Ford Health System were "up 20 percent in the second half of last year and remain strong," said Robert Riney, chief operating officer of the system, the largest hospital group in the Detroit area.

The other has free but LIMITED access to health care.

Emily Morley has already waited a month to see an oncologist since receiving her biopsy results that identified her secondary cancer, but were inconclusive in determining the primary source. Until that primary source is identified, her treatment cannot begin.

And even though the cancer is now in Morley's lungs, liver, pancreas and spine, the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic has advised her it will still take at least three months to see an oncologist.

One group is almost pillaging the coffers for elective procedures that will improve the quality of life but not extend it.

"In the last six months, we've noticed a significant increase in people seeking elective surgical procedures in anticipation that they might be losing their health benefits," Mr. Riney said. He would not say how much his health system was billing the auto industry because of the last-minute rush to have elective procedures performed.

While the other is simply hoping to stay alive.

"As of this point, she doesn't even know if this is terminal or not," her son Chris Andersen told reporters at the legislature Wednesday.

And folks say OUR health care system is broken.
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