Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Praying for days with no copays

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I've been to the doctor more times this year than I'd like to count. It's like a throwback to the old days, when as a child I racked up a record seven strep throat infections, four bronchitis bouts and two walking pneumonia diagnoses in one year.

This time, they think I've got asthma. Only time and tests and numerous rule-outs will tell. And in the meantime, I can't leave the house without albuterol or Symbicort.

I do consider myself lucky, however, not just because this is a very manageable disease, but mainly because every time I go to the doctor, it doesn't cost me too much. Ten bucks a visit - even for specialists. It's a sweet deal courtesy of my full-time employer.

But as I'm sure we all know, not everyone is so lucky. A few weeks ago, I stood in line behind an old man at my cardiologist's reception desk and patiently waited for him as he tried to wheel and deal the receptionist into reducing his copay of $30. He looked like he was a regular, so I could understand why he'd try to do the impossible. Thirty bucks times an average of one visit per week equals $1,560 per year in doctor copays alone. Yikes.

The cost of healthcare is thankfully at the forefront of issues being covered by our presidential candidates, but I'm not sure I agree with either stance.

Both McCain and Obama want to make it easier for Americans to obtain health insurance, but from who? The same insurance companies that drive up costs for individuals and businesses on an annual basis? Doesn't seem to make sense to me.

Get your commy comments out now, because regardless of what you think I'm going to say it: as far as I'm concerned, converting to a single-payer healthcare system is the only true healthcare reform.

Group a single-payer system with heavy emphasis on prevention instead of treatment, and incentives for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol instead of incentives for denying insurance claims, and that candidate will have my vote.

Yes, health insurance companies have a right to exist in our capitalist society. But as long as my healthcare is in the hands of a company that exists to make a profit before making sick people healthier, we'll keep having the same problems with our health system.

Chances are, that old man at the cardiologist will never live to see a day when he wouldn't have to pay a copay just to see the doctor.

I, on the other hand, hope I do.

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