Will ’08 be the year for universal health-care?

Patients’ rights
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  January 23, 2008
Someone ought to tell John McCain — and others who are intoxicated by nationalism — that the United States does not have the best health-care system in the world.
 
France does.
 
America is ranked 37th by the World Health Organization, just below Costa Rica, and just above Slovenia
  
However mediocre the status quo may be, quality health-care is what Americans of all ages need — and deserve — to help them when they are ill or injured. That so many people lack access to care is a national disgrace. The topic is endlessly debated by Washington, but never addressed.
 
That has to stop.
 
The barrier to effective treatment created by the absence of insurance is compounded by the attitudes and behavior of providers. Even patients with insurance and the means to pay for health-care languish untreated too often, because they don’t know how to advocate for what they deserve.
 
Recently, a relatively minor knee injury kept me limping, eventually throwing out my back. For eight weeks, I had to battle with pain, and with every level of receptionist, nurse, physician’s assistant, and physician who seemed to be there just to keep me from getting better.
 
As a bold person who was a health administrator for 10 years, I did what had to be done to get what I needed to get better.
 
But huge challenges are posed by the voicemail answering systems and other impersonal hallmarks of our age. The same is true of staffs more concerned about co-pays than patient care. Office workers eager to protect the physician and their assumed privilege in working for him or her are oblivious to patients’ rights.
 
It is useless to have patients sign a form acknowledging the facility’s compliance with federally mandated privacy regulations if the facility’s “sign-in” sheet, for example, tells those signing in whom else is there for “confidential” health-care.
 
To get treatment in America, you need to know about anatomy, medicine, and how to cajole the doctor into ordering what you need. You must master the art of making such suggestions as, “Do you think an MRI might show you anything?” 
 
Conversely, you have to protect yourself from human error borne of indifference or just plain inattention. You need to say things like, “Isn’t that one of the drugs I’m allergic to?”
 
You have to be willing to challenge the unquestioned power society confers on physicians.
 
During the time I was limping with pain, coordinating my own care, and collecting my medical records (to which one is legally entitled), uninformed staff were trying to keep them from me. I kept asking friends and family, what do less assertive people do?
 
“They suffer.”
 
Unfortunately, that’s true.
 
This should be the year when all that changes.

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  Topics: This Just In , Politics, Domestic Policy, Political Policy,  More more >
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