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Healthcare Reform, the Fight for the American Dream: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann Part 11

October 17, 2009

Friday night, Keith Olbermann replayed his hour-long “Special Comment” rant, Healthcare Reform: The Fight Against Death.  For detailed commentary on his rambling and sometimes exceedingly strange commentary, look here, here and here.

Keith says his commentary was prompted by his father’s recent illness and ironically, very good experience with the health care system.   Keith gave an excruciatingly detailed account of his father’s ordeal after falling out of bed and being too stubborn to call for help.  This was supposed, I guess, to show us… what?  I guess it was just to batter us emotionally, tenderizing our brains for the later assault.

Keith has no criticism of his father’s ultimate care, or how it was handled, but like the many Americans who answered pollsters’ inquiries during good economic times that their situation was good but they were worried about everyone else’s, Keith seems convinced that his father’s care was somehow rare, and came about because Keith is so very, very important—and rich.

Well, I’m not that important, nor am I richer than Croesus like Keith.  But that same day, I experienced the current state of privately insured health care in America, and have come away grateful and amazed– not enraged.

Here in Michigan, we all know of Canadians who come across the border for treatment.  In Canada, the average wait for an MRI is 3 months, and in some provinces, reports of 10 week waits for chemotherapy are common.

This August, my son’s doctor ordered an MRI to “rule out” ulnar collateral ligament damage on a nagging sore arm.  Travis is signed with a top baseball program in our state, Jackson Community College; and while the arm did not hurt in everyday life, and he could still play second base, pitching had become impossible.

3 DAYS later, he was able to get his MRI, about a 10 minute drive from our house.  His surgeon, Dr. John Samani, who is affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, is about 45 minutes away in Oakland County.  The list his office gave us of available MRI facilities in and around Oakland County was roughly the same number as in all of Ontario—but there were still about a dozen choices that were closer to our Flint-area home.

(That’s right, Michael Moore, even here in depressed Genesee County, after GM’s flight.  How many MRI machines are there in Cuba?)

In less time than it takes to get an MRI in Canada, and about the same time as it can take to get chemotherapy started in Saskatchewan, what is commonly known as Tommy John Surgery had been completed on my son.

Not to discount the value of his baseball dreams, but cancer, it ain’t.  But that’s only half the story.

Our surgeon brought in “another pair of hands,” another surgeon good enough to be consulted by Major League ballplayers to back him up.  The procedure calls for rebuilding the elbow ligament by “harvesting” some ligament material from the wrist.  While both of those doctors were capable of doing that, there was a wrist and hand specialist they admired who was available, so they brought her in for that part of the surgery.

I have a hard time believing that any government program would allow for 3 surgeons, even if it is justified for safety and the pursuit of perfection in treatment.  It’s hard to imagine a bureaucrat not telling Dr. Samani that he is (and he is) perfectly capable of going solo on this one, and that would have to be good enough.

But that’s the difference between American doctors and government bureaucrats.  Bureaucrats figure and play the odds, American doctors strive to beat the odds.

And very often they do. That’s why if you live to be 60 in the United States, the odds that you will live to be 70 are higher than any country with public health care.  And if you live to be 70 in the United States, the odds are vastly higher that you will be an octogenarian than anywhere else in the world.

But wait, there’s more to this story.  We won’t even bother comparing the hospitals in the United States compared to what the NHS in the UK provides—when you can get in them.  Rather than going to a hospital full of sick people, the surgery was done in an ultra-modern outpatient surgery facility, where the threat of infection is almost nil.  The Unasource facility in Troy, Michigan, is something only private enterprise would build.

So yes, we spend more on health care than Canada.  And yes it’s more of our GDP than in Great Britain or France.  But it is in the United States where we “fight against death,” Keith, though there are some who think the elderly should learn to accept it like they are forced to in socialist health systems:

There is no doubt that there are things that should be done to lower the costs of insurance in the United States.  But it is insanity to screw around with the finest health care in the history of mankind until we:

  • allow increased competition across state lines,
  • allow for more flexibility in benefits,
  • quit loading down policies with “benefits” like paying social workers to give marriage counseling,
  • get rid of the incentives for doing things like getting “prescription Motrin” when it will save a hundred bucks for your insurance company if you get it at Sam’s Club for 10 bucks,

Come back to me with government solutions after these obvious and easy common sense reforms have been tried– especially when the examples of where it will lead are all around us.  Anyone who wants to emulate Canada should have his head examined—if he has time to wait for the next available CT scanner, that is.

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  1. poptoy permalink
    October 18, 2009 5:46 am

    Olbermann is from the jawbone of an ASS.

  2. Jack Hampton permalink
    October 18, 2009 6:06 am

    Sorry you have the wrong end in mind.
    Mr. Forsmark
    I have been telling everyone that will listen the very things you just wrote about. I have a close relative through marriage that is from England and it is a nightmare the stories he has told. Another fine comentary.

  3. Julie Trevor permalink
    October 18, 2009 6:23 am

    I picked up on something you said early on – that Oberman thought the care his father received was somehow rare and that level because of his celebrity (my paraphrase).

    He’s in part, correct. While the care in America is outstanding and everyone has access to it; not everyone has equal access. Celebrities, dignitaries, local lawmakers, etc all enjoy a spot at the front of the line.

    Now switch gears to why the Leftist are so like sheep when it comes to domestic policy especially. The bulk of their agenda doesn’t affect them that much (esp taxes); Obamacare will.

    When they find themselves sitting for hours/days/weeks/or months to access care that pre-Obamacare they received in a timely manner; I’d like to witness their aha experience as they see the perils of their actions. But I doubt that will be the case.

    As all the celebrites, dignitaries, local lawmakers etc get their care first the Leftist sheep will say it’s all the Republicans fault either because they ruined and watered down Obamacare or the token GOPer that votes for Obamacare will be solely responsible for its ills.

  4. fiftyfifty permalink
    October 18, 2009 6:31 am

    Washington take the easy and turns it hard and you take it. Money can’t buy you life ask Teddy ho you can’t. I think Keith boy is looking for a ride on the Obama train. Like life after Olbermann.

  5. David Forsmark permalink
    October 18, 2009 6:54 am

    Good point, Julie. You read me closer than I read me!

    This time, however, my point was that thanks to Blue Cross and a dedicated doctor, my son could not have gotten better treatment if I were Midas– or Keith Olbermann.

    • Julie Trevor permalink
      October 18, 2009 7:06 am

      thanks David,

      Hopefuly you, I & everyone get continued access to great care; Obamacare be damned!

  6. Catherine permalink
    October 18, 2009 8:48 am

    “I know he’s okay because I’ve gotten him the best care in the world.”

    The above quote is from Olberman’s psycho rant about healthcare. He was talking about the care his father received after he fell out of bed. I wonder if the same could be said if his elderly father lived in Canada or the U.K.?

    Funny thing about that incident. If Olberman’s father is so incapacitated, (takes his father 20 minutes to get to the bathroom) why didn’t he and his sister have someone checking on him a couple of times a day? He was lying on the floor for waht I assume is about 24 hours. Why was ther no visiting nurse that came in daily? When my parents were alive not a day went by when me or one of my siblings didn’t visit to ensure they were safe. I finally gave up my apartment to move in wiith them during the last three years. For all of his ranting it seems that this family is too busy to care for their ailing elderly father. Very sad.

  7. October 18, 2009 10:17 am

    Hi Julie. I have to disagree with some of what you wrote, although I agree with most of it. I am not under the impression that celebrities and politicians receive better care than the rest of us. Certainly, politicians get much better deals on their healthcare, but I don’t think that they have better access to it. Celebrities seem to have better access to Elvis doctors who will prescribe them anything and everything than do the rest of us, but they also seem to be more likely have some flak who will seek them out.

    I suffer from a little understood, painful, but non-serious condition which requires occasional surgery, particularly because I don’t respond to traditional medication as well as most. I have been to three specialists for it. I stopped going to the first after my first surgery because he seemed to have given up on me. Granted, my condition lies outside of his area of specialty. The second specialist was probably the best in his field, no exaggeration, but he retired. It took a few weeks to get an appointment with the third specialist, but he’s an obgyn with many patients who have much greater time constraints than I have to deal with, what with pregnancies and all, plus, again, my condition is not serious, so waiting a few weeks is perfectly reasonable. Still, I was floored when I went to see him for the first time on a Friday and he told me that he could operate the next Tuesday. After the surgery he showed me all the pictures he took with the laparoscope so that I could understand exactly what he did and what was going on.

    The surgery didn’t cure me, but that’s an ongoing issue, and it has gotten much, much better under his care, with the addition of medication, something I would not have thought possible a year ago. I’m just a broke kid who had student health insurance at the time of the surgery, and while I had to pay for a lot of the services out of pocket, I have to pay for a lot of things out of pocket, most of them very much worth it. A few thousand dollars was a very small price to pay for the amazing treatment I received.

    I honestly believe that if I were the queen of the world I would not have received better treatment than I have over the course of the last year. A few thousand dollars wouldn’t be worth as much to me, but the treatment I received absolutely would. I’m just some broke schmo, but I’m an American, and therefore very lucky to have access to the kind of treatment I received.

    My point is that I don’t think that those who are more important than myself have better access to healthcare. That’s the beauty of the free market system. I have enough faith in the medical profession to believe that they mostly see patients on an as-needed basis. Obama so far off when he claimed that doctors operate to make a profit. I would not have had to wait to see the doctor at all if that were the case, since laparoscopic surgery is more profitable than most of the stuff that obgyns do, but pregnant women face time constraints that I did not, so naturally, they went ahead of me.

    Now, here’s where I agree with you 100%: if these leftist wannabe do-gooders had any idea as to the kind of damage they seek to cause through their ‘reforms,’ they would be ashamed to promote it. It requires a ridiculous amount of denial and faith to think that moving health care to the public sector will improve anything for anyone. The free market is very much an equal opportunity institution, which is why schmoes like me have access to the world’s best medical care, even if we’re living on student loans. (That, and I live in Indianapolis, which has more doctors and medical facilities per capita than any other city in the world — that helps.)

    Do you know what happens to women with my condition in Canada? They live with it, which is something I can’t imagine even considering. I have visited many online forums to discuss this condition, which is endo, and Canadians women invariably say that they wait several months for an ultrasound, something for which I had to wait a whole day, and only because I had to go to a different facility than the student health center, which was where I started. You have to get an ultrasound to rule out a bunch of stuff, but endo won’t show up on one, so if nothings seems amiss on an ultrasound you usually get diagnosed with endo. Doctors don’t tell women in Canada any of this. They go several months not knowing what is wrong with them, then they have to wait several more months for surgery if they’re lucky, and if that doesn’t work (which it rarely does in the long term), they live with it. I think they get painkillers cheaper, so they do have that going for them. Basically, Canadian women with endo live the rest of their reproductive lives in pain and usually end up robbed of their fertility, until they get hysterectomies, which is a last resort in the States, and only used for very extreme cases.

    And I get something that celebrities and politicians probably don’t. The medicine I take, which has been an absolute godsend (in addition to my two last doctors), is free! I get free clinic samples. Because I’m just some American schmo.

    Basically, I disagree with your point that celebrities and politicians have better access to healthcare because I honestly don’t see how schmoes like me could have it any better. Sure, we could have it cheaper if there we passed tort reform or if we could purchase insurance across state lines (which sounds better in theory than I believe would work in practice, since different states have different laws and that would likely move us toward more federalism), but I don’t think it could be better. I have it every bit as good as Olbermann’s father.

    • David Forsmark permalink
      October 18, 2009 11:46 am

      What a great post! Probably better written than the column it is in response to! Thank you for sharing it with us.

      Hey, Swindle, it’s going to hard to top this as the response of the day…

      • October 18, 2009 6:09 pm

        I agree. Just a moment…

  8. Julie Trevor permalink
    October 18, 2009 11:46 am

    jdamn said:

    “Basically, I disagree with your point that celebrities and politicians have better access to healthcare because I honestly don’t see how schmoes like me could have it any better.”

    My point wasn’t to refute the quality of care you or others receive. However if you and Hillary Clinton arrive in the ER with chest pain who do you think will be seen first?

    If there is one private room and one semi private room available on the post op unit and you/Hillary are in need of a bed, who do you think is going to get the private room?

    If you are in pain, ring your call bell at the same time Hillary does…who do you think your nurse is going to respond to first?

    While this may seem simplistic and benign; it is a reality that celebs etc do have better “access” to care.

    After 30+ years of healthcare experience it bothers me some.

  9. David Forsmark permalink
    October 18, 2009 12:10 pm

    Well,Julie, I’d say her health care (and my son’s) were better than the Prime Minister of Canada’s… !

    However, your scenario, a variation of the ethical quandary exercise, Lifeboat, is one of those intellectual closed system, limited choice arguments that pretty much never occurs in real life. I can concede your point, but then so what? What are the odds?

    • Julie Trevor permalink
      October 18, 2009 1:05 pm

      Well, like I said… it bothers me some; not a lot, but some.
      What bothers me more is knowing that the very people who are “transforming” our healthcare system and access to it have no intention of subjecting themselves to it.

      • David Forsmark permalink
        October 18, 2009 2:08 pm

        That’s a better point.

  10. FelixPrismus permalink
    October 18, 2009 12:49 pm

    Good post, great comic

  11. Jenn permalink
    October 18, 2009 1:49 pm

    Yeah, it was always my dream as a child to grow up, get married, and have government provided health insurance.

  12. Joy permalink
    October 18, 2009 8:41 pm

    I have to chime in, too, re tremendous, first-rate ACCESS, to (usually) first-rate healthcare. I am a widow, living on a VERY limited income, but, thankfully on Medicare (pay that $98/month from Soc. Sec. as cost of premium – so not a full ride, of course), and with Part D for subsidized medications. All of this, naturally, is a godsend for me. I also live in an area (Palm Springs, CA) where healthcare for seniors, obviously, is big business, so there is plenty of everything here. As for the inevitable co-pays for which I am, totally & without complaining, responsible, I set up my own payment schedule – X dollars/month ’til paid in full. Sometimes that takes longer than others, but, to date, and with only a few written exceptions, I have never had a “dunning” phone call. I take my obligations seriously, but the monthly “pie” can only be split into a limited number & size of slices.

    • jbtrevor permalink
      October 19, 2009 3:37 am

      Thanks for you input. I’d be interesting in hearing your opinion of the following:

      Obama says Obamacare will be funded in part by billions of savings in Medicare payments to providers. Do you see where providers are over paid now? If so where, if not what will happen if they are asked to do more for less?


  13. Rhodi permalink
    October 18, 2009 10:07 pm

    I agree with all of you so far…and I appreciate this little article, the end points specifically. The thing that has bothered me the most is that Obamacare is all about adding to the bulk of problems that we currently have, not reforming it. Why can’t they work on cleaning up all the problems first, prove themselves and if they really get get the mess managed, then add to it. It’s like buying a larger house when you can’t afford money for groceries; it’s downright foolish.

    Unfortunately, my family is one that cannot afford insurance, even though we have the option. Why? Because my husband works for the COUNTY and they require that everyone be covered, no matter what preconditions they have. So…case in point, insurance for our family would cost 33% of our income–plus a large deductible should something actually happen. The only thing we can afford is a Christian co-op which covers major problems. We just pay out of pocket for the rest. So for our family, health insurance is a luxury–but in this great nation, we still have other options. And paying cash usually gets lower prices if the need arises.

    Given Obamacare, would we even have a choice? Not likely.

    • jbtrevor permalink
      October 19, 2009 3:42 am

      Rhodi said:
      “The thing that has bothered me the most is that Obamacare is all about adding to the bulk of problems that we currently have, not reforming it.”


  14. Rhodi permalink
    October 18, 2009 10:09 pm

    Eh! Sorry–forgot a question mark.


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