Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Reform, Abortion, Insurance, and Discrimination

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, in part, that...

"Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."

Health care is a basic human right, so the access to and quality of health care should be equal for all people regardless of gender, age, religion, pre-existing condition, or income. Anything less denies people their basic human right to health care. Health care reform is largely about providing a basic level of health care for the tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens of this country and making sure that insurance companies don't discriminate against people regardless of their gender, race, income, religion, or pre-existing condition. Insurance companies are interested only in reducing their costs and increasing their profits rather than looking out for the best interests, medical care and human rights of the human beings they insure.

Insurance companies discriminate against women by charging them higher insurance rates than men, and then do whatever they can to actually reduce their medical coverage or not cover anything at all. For example, insurance companies will cover men for Viagra, but not women for birth control. Insurance companies also use domestic violence, rape and c-section as pre-existing conditions in order to deny women health care coverage. All of these tools are used by insurance companies to increase their profits, reduce their costs, and discriminate against women.

Recently, two medical panels were told to put cost reduction as a priority in their studies. One was looking at mammograms, and the other at pap smears. If these were truly scientific panels, why was cost given any thought or priority in the analysis of the data? The recent mammogram panel also did not contain a single oncologist or radiologist, yet it interpreted oncology and radiological findings. So we have economics, as opposed to science in a "scientific" panel. Why convene a second panel on mammograms at all, when they used the very same data as did the first panel? Predictably, the recent panels decided to reduce the availability of mammogram and pap smear tests to women by changing the age and frequency of their recommendations on testing. Amazingly, these very same recommendations are used by insurance companies to determine coverage of mammograms and pap smears. I find the impeccable timing and findings for reduced testing of these recent 'scientific panels' suspect, since their recommendations deny women medical coverage and guarantee higher profits for insurance companies.

Health care reform and the legality of a particular health care procedure are two very separate issues. Health care reform should and will include those health care procedures that are currently legal in the United States. Health care reform is not the place for debating the legality of any procedure. If individual people or groups aren't happy with what is or is not currently legal (I'm not saying their beliefs are right or wrong, just that they are putting their efforts into the wrong place), then they should be spending their time and energy going through proper channels to change those laws, rather than derail health care reform for procedures already established as legal. Those people and groups who are using the debate on health care reform as a platform for pushing their own legal and religious agendas have disregarded and put in jeopardy the health and very lives of those people who so desperately need this reform to pass.

Why do we have such high costs in health care, refusal of coverage, and reduction in insurance payments for services? The problem stems from for-profit insurance and health care. The CEO's of top insurance companies earn approximately 250 to over 500 times the salary of the average American worker. In addition, we now have two-tier health care where there is one facility with two doors. One door for cash customers (patients), the other for those with insurance. Check out the difference in care between the boutique medicine of the rich and the revolving door medicine of the insured in the link below.*

In one study of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the outcomes and their very existence were influenced by their insurance status. Women who had Taft-Hartley and Medicaire insurance had the best outcomes. Women who had commercial insurance (gtoup insurance), such as found in unions and corporations, had the second-best outcomes. Women who had Medicaid insurance had outcomes that came in third place in results. The women who were uninsured had the worst outcome - death. Insurance companies run by the government had the best outcomes, because they covered earlier screening and covered more treatments along the entire course of treatment. Quality health care is a human right for all people, not just an entitlement of the increasingly insular rich. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow exponentially, as does the quality and availability of their health care.

*Follow this link to see the difference in care:

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what kind of health care reform will come out of this session, but I strongly suspect it won't be much. There is, however a silver lining behind this very dark cloud. I am reminded of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Don't be embarrassed if you've never heard of it, there really isn't a hell of a lot to remember about it; a mere pittance, really - a scrap of leftovers tossed out to "American Negros" (in the parlance of the age) in order to appease them. But it made the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - the one we remember - all-the-more easier seven years later.

    We'll live to fight another day.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY


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