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All must share blame in health care problems

Sunday, July 8, 2012

To the Editor:

Recently I read an article in The Brazil Times that stated that the uninsured are most likely to not pay their doctor bills. The uninsured come from a wide variety of professions and income levels -- to imply they are the most likely to be socially irresponsible in this area irks me, especially when it comes from a high-minded person furthering their social agenda.

A lot of attention has been given to the uninsured lately as politicians prepare their campaigns for presidency. They operate under the assumption that providing insurance for people who don't have it will help them and the nation's health at large. Ideally, if all had insurance, people would participate in preventive care, doctors would give wise advice, people would integrate it into their daily lives, diagnoses would detect problems and fix them. We all know reality paints a much different picture. Doctors get slammed for misdiagnosing all the time, people misuse and abuse the health care system, don't follow advice and sure, overwhelmed and overcharged, some don't pay their bills. Everyone, not just the uninsured, can share in the blame when it comes to irresponsibility regarding the problems of the health care system.

The insured must take their share of the blame for the nation's health care woes. Do the millions of people who have insurance, yet are personally irresponsible with their health get to share in the blame? What about the insured hypochondriacs -- are they to blame? Insured people who know they need to stop eating excess junk food and cola and get more exercise, but don't -- do they cause health care costs to rise? Factor in sue-happy insured people and the irresponsibility skyrockets.

Are any doctors socially irresponsible? I've witnessed situations where a doctor has misdiagnosed a condition and hurriedly wrote out a prescription that made the condition worse, or rushed someone out, telling them to keep taking a medicine that was making them have serious side effects. Do doctors get to share in the blame -- those who don't get it right the first, second even third time or don't take the time to care? How responsible is blindly accepting what practicing physicians tell us time and time again when they have a proven record of getting it wrong? I can only guess how that inflates health care costs.

I recently went to the doctor -- paid in advance, mind you -- and endured a lecture from the nurse and the doctor about how I needed to get insurance. This rang hollow, since the nurse had to first verify that I'd paid in advance before being seen when it is standard procedure to pay in advance when you check in. Did they really care about my health? It was, first and foremost, business as usual. The inner circle is their bread and butter; why wouldn't they look down their noses at one who wasn't buying into their program? That doctor who sees me once a year is not there for the other 364 days of the year when I am making my own responsible health choices, so who are they to preach about social responsibility? Do they know I've always paid my doctor bill out of my own pocket? Do they associate not having insurance with my good health, or admit that I might be responsible for my own good health? No, they just cram the insurance rhetoric down my throat. The fact that health care is a business first controlled by special interest groups and insurance companies who protect their profit margin reveal perhaps the greatest social irresponsibility.

We all can be part of the problem, and even if we all have insurance it won't guarantee better health. Everyone taking personal responsibility not only for their own health, but for their professional ethics, seriously pursuing and acting upon the wisest choices, will be the most valuable insurance to invest in, the only program that will definitely make the nation healthier.

Shelly Kline,

Brazil