Sunday, August 30, 2009

More Questions than Answers from the Dayton Daily News

Our local paper has a front-page story today on health care "reform," part of which recounts the sad tale of a family which faces some major medical bills as the result of some poor decisions. Ron and Mindibeth chose not to use an in-network provider when the latter's ear was severed in a Jet Ski incident. Instead of requesting an in-network plastic surgeon, they settled for one who was out-of-network, because, as Ron puts it "(t)he last thing on my mind was insurance.”
Isn't one of the very first questions one is asked upon admittance to a hospital (or pretty much any other provider) "who's your insurance carrier?" You're already looking at the card (for policy numbers, etc), and it's not as if "network provider" is a new term or concept.
As a result of this decision, "the couple said they had $267,000 in uninsured medical bills that year." It's not clear, by the way, how much of that total was for the surgeon's services and other expenses related to the accident; for all we know, the family just kept on choosing to use out-of-network providers for other services, as well.
How, exactly, is that a breakdown in "the system?" Or is personal responsibility completely irrelevant now?
As the result of another poor decision, their daughter, Amanda, "racked up $1.7 million in bills for medical care." For whatever reason, she chose not to be insured, and unfortunately developed cancer. Obviously, this made it impossible for her to obtain insurance through "normal" means, although the article also fails to mention whether she was eligible for, or even tried to find, alternate means (such as a HIPAA plan or any of the myriad government-sponsored programs).
Again, how is this an indictment of our health care financing system? Shouldn't she have purchased insurance before a problem developed? Health insurance for a young woman in reasonably good health is not terribly expensive, and if she was old enough to join the Air Force (as the story mentions), then she was old enough to take on that relatively modest expense.
That's the problem, really, with so many of these heart-string-pullers: they paint a very sad picture, neglecting to point out that there were (and are) many ways to avoid this kind of outcome, but which require a modicum of personal responsibility. Perhaps there were other reasons why the young lady didn't have insurance, but the article fails to mention them; and, of course, the reporter couldn't be bothered to ask "why didn't she have insurance in the first place?" because that wouldn't fit the meme.
But it's valid nonetheless.
Perhaps the saddest part is that Ron still doesn't get it; he says he's "disappointed in the systems that have put us there.”
No, Ron, you put you there.
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