Letter: Time to guarantee health care for all
Soon after we opened the Bennington Free Clinic, a 45-year-old woman with severe low back pain came for evaluation. She could barely get onto the exam table because of her pain and needed to be assisted by me and our nurse. She told of how the pain had started about 6 months prior and had gotten progressively worse. She also revealed that she had noticed a lump in her breast about 2 years ago and thought that it had been growing. She worked full time but did not have any health insurance and thought that she was unable to afford a visit to the doctor or the emergency room. We referred her the next day to Dr Grabowski. who saw her pro bono and got her started with diagnostic testing and referrals for treatment. As you may have guessed, she turned out to have breast cancer that had metastasized to her spine and to several other places. She was treated with chemotherapy and radiation and briefly improved, but relapsed and died about 1 year later.
This woman lived in Bennington and was therefore a neighbor and perhaps a friend. She worked hard all of her life. She was loved by her family. By the time she came to the clinic, her disease was incurable. Things might have been different had she gone to the doctor when she first found that lump, but she was uninsured and couldn't afford to go.
Right now, even with Obamacare, there are nearly 30 million Americans who are uninsured. It is estimated that 35,000 to 40,000 Americans die each year because they are uninsured and don't seek medical care until they have advanced disease. This happens in our country even though we spend nearly twice as much per capita as do other countries. Everyone will need health care at some point in their life. What we must have is universal health care; everyone would be covered from birth to grave.
Improved Medicare For All seems to be the best direction to take. There are already two bills in Congress that are waiting to be passed (HR676 in the House and Bernie Sanders' S1804 in the Senate). These bills would guarantee full coverage for all Americans. They would eliminate copays and deductibles. They would remove corporate middlemen from the equation. They would streamline billing and administration, reducing the cost of care. They would allow patients to see the doctor of their choice. They would allow negotiation with drug companies to lower the cost of pharmaceuticals.
G. Richard Dundas, MD,
The writer is the medical director of the Bennington Free Clinic.
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