Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Not Everyone?

For a while I have considered posting on “the public option” in healthcare that I am most familiar with, the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease Program. The history of this disease-specific program is fascinating, and I think it provides a good example of what “the public option” could be (and why private insurance companies are scared).

See, you can get public coverage now if: Photoxpress_3007312

  1. You are employed by the government (like congress)
  2. You are or were in the military
  3. You are of “retirement age”
  4. You are disabled
  5. You are poor with dependent children or you are a dependent child
  6. You have kidney failure

That’s a whole lot of health care already run by the government. In my experience, it works pretty well with far fewer headaches than many of the private insurers generate.

I was toying with a post about this topic; however, someone has provided a far more compelling story than I could tell as a physician. Jennifer Nix in Salon tells us the history and realities of the Medicare ESRD program through a family saga:

My family's 36-year journey with end-stage renal disease -- the only long-term, chronic disease classification for which the U.S. government provides insurance coverage, regardless of age or income -- offers a telling case study into what once met Congress' standard of an unequivocal, moral imperative to provide public-financed health insurance. My family history mirrors exactly the period from 1973 to 2009, during which this entitlement program has allowed access to life-saving dialysis and kidney transplants, treatments previously denied to all but a very privileged few.

Read the full story: I love my socialist kidney.

We have identified a number of groups for whom we, as a society, feel a moral imperative to provide health coverage. Isn’t it time that a nation with our wealth and spirit extends that opportunity to all of our citizens?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.

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