Friday, January 01, 2010

Sure, maybe for YOU, Mr. Limbaugh...

On Wednesday, conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital near his hotel in Hawaii (where he has been staying for the holidays) with chest pains and a suspected heart attack. Today he was released, and announced that the US health care system works "just fine" and that he as a celebrity had received the same treatment as any other American who called 911 and got rushed into the emergency room.

I am sure that I will not be the only pundit-wannabe to point out the flaws in Mr. Limbaugh's arguments. Where to begin... First of all, perhaps he has a point in saying that he received the same treatment that anyone else would have gotten. I can't poke TOO many holes in that, because I don't know. It's very dependent on the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, and the state of the person who was calling for medical care. It's not unrealistic to think that a doctor might pay a bit more attention to Rush Limbaugh than to another Joe Schmoe...but it's not necessarily the case.

The main problem (in my estimation) is not in the treatment provided, but in how to pay for it. Admittedly, when the US system does work, it often works well. The US has some of the best trained doctors and nurses, superb medical technology and research facilities, access to the latest drugs. This does not necessarily yield results across the board, but it often makes for better outcomes. But at what cost?

Clearly Mr. Limbaugh is out of touch with the segment of the American population that lies outside the companies where employers provide health insurance; outside the bounds of Medicare or Medicaid or the military/veterans medical system; into the places where a parent has to choose between paying for family insurance at exorbitant prices and putting food on the table. For those interested in the numbers, that segment of the population hovers somewhere around 45 million Americans, a not unsubstantial amount.

Mr. Limbaugh's statement also roundly ignores those in the United States who go into debt or bankruptcy just paying their medical costs. These costs-- from the ambulance to the hospital, to ER fees, to administrative fees, to medicines-- must be paid out-of-pocket, which often forces horrible choices and can ruin a family.

In every other developed industrial democratic country in the world, this is not only considered simply unacceptable, it's considered unthinkable. People should not be forced to choose between their health and food, their health and education, their health and their job. And they should not be forced into bankruptcy to pay for their health care.

I wish Rush Limbaugh no particular harm, and I am glad he has had a positive experience with the US health care system. I too have had good experiences with the system, two of them major surgeries in 2009. But to take your individual experience with one particular hospital in the system-- especially when you ARE a celebrity and presumably either have or can pay for health insurance-- and apply it to a blanket statement declaring that the whole system works "just fine" for everybody, is foolish and appallingly small-minded. Look around. The whole US health care system cannot be (and in the minds of most sensible people, is not) accurately represented by the treatment given to one celebrity radio host in a luxurious area of Hawaii. Especially because he probably doesn't have to worry about paying for his care.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Bravo Carolyn C.! This is a truly fantastic post!