How the Republican Party is losing me

I tend to lean to the right. For as long as I understood what it meant to be conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, I called myself a conservative Republican. In college, I wrote a newspaper column for 3 1/2 years brashly titled "No Left Turns."

In last year’s primary, I voted for Ron Paul for a couple of reasons. One, a lot of things he said made sense. Two, at least he sincerely believed in the things he said that didn’t make sense. And three, he’s a doctor. When Ron Paul predictably didn’t get the nomination, I voted against John McCain and for a Democrat, Barack Obama. The main reason was health care.I come from a long line of Republicans. My great great great grandfather, Dr. Edward Andrew Farquhar, helped the Republican Party get organized in the state of Ohio prior to the Civil War. My great grandfather, Ralph Farquhar, worked for the powerful Ohio Republican Marcus Alonzo Hanna. And my dad was three things: outspoken, Republican, and a doctor. Sometimes the order varied.

In 1992, Dad was very much against Hillary Clinton’s health care plan, but he was very much in favor of some kind of health care reform. The system desperately needed it, even then. Rarely did a week go by without Dad getting an angry letter from one of his patients. The story was always the same. Patient comes to Dad seeking treatment. Dad treats patient. Patient gets better. Dad bills insurance company. Insurance company denies claim. Patient can’t afford to pay.

The only variance was the patient’s understanding of what happened. Sometimes the patient was mad at Dad. Sometimes the patient wanted Dad’s help. All too frequently, what happened was Dad just didn’t get paid. The insurance provider–be it Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance–wasn’t going to budge. The patient legitimately couldn’t pay the bill. Dad could press, but if the patient paid, the patient would go hungry. If Dad didn’t bill, Dad wouldn’t go hungry. Dad had a soul, so Dad would do what people who have souls do and just tear up the bill.

Someone had to give a crap about these people. Unfortunately sometimes Dad was the only one.

Dad told me once that if I decided to become a doctor, he would lock me away for seven years. Being a doctor is a family tradition. Dad thought there were better things for me to do than spend my life messing with computers, but being a doctor wasn’t one of them. He wanted me to have a better life than he had.

Dad died of a heart attack in 1994, aged 51. Had the health care system allowed him to practice medicine and stayed out of his way, I’m sure he would have lived longer. Maybe he would have been still been alive when my grandmother and father in law needed him.

Fast-forward to 2006. My wife was pregnant, but having a hard time of it. Extreme nausea was keeping her almost bedridden some days. Her doctor found one and only one anti-nausea drug that would work, a treatment normally given to cancer patients. Our insurance was willing to pay for it once. When her 30-day supply was exhausted, the doctor tried every treatment that the insurance company was willing to pay for, but none of them worked. She fell into a vicious cycle of dehydration and nausea. One built on the other, and she ended up hospitalized.

The drug cost about $80 a week to just buy outright. I bought a week’s supply to keep her out of the hospital for a week while I figured out what to do next. The doctor knew I was unhappy. I asked him if it would do any good to get a lawyer and sue the insurance company. I was serious and he knew it. He said he wished someone would do that, but if it was me, the only thing I’d accomplish would be getting some face time on CNN and meanwhile we still wouldn’t have the medicine we needed.

This is the free market compassion that Rush Limbaugh spouts about. I’ve yet to figure out what’s compassionate about cutting off a woman’s medicine so she has to go into the hospital. The insurance company will pay for part of her hospitalization, but not the medicine that keeps her out of the hospital. Oh, and while she’s in the hospital, she can’t work.

Writing some letters succeeded in getting her the medicine she needed. And my employer, to its credit, changed insurance plans the next year, to something that takes better care of people.

Unfortunately, this year I found myself working for a very large company that operated as its own insurer in order to keep the profits to itself. And that company quickly decided that my wife was using too much insulin and my son was using too many vaccines. Their doctors disagreed, but they’re only doctors. What do they know about profits?

One day, after getting yet another denial claim in the mail, I ran into a former coworker in a parking lot. He asked how things were going. I told him, then asked if my old company had any job openings. A month later, I was working for my old company again, with the only health coverage I’ve ever seen that actually covers what I need it to cover. When they offered me the job, I had to think for a whole two seconds before accepting.

Most people can’t do what I did. On paper, pretty much every health insurance plan I’ve ever had pretty much looked the same. But like I said, there’s only been one that ever covered much of anything.

And pretty much any old insurance plan works for me, because I rarely use it. As long as I visit a chiropractor every six or seven weeks or so, I have no health issues. I could save a lot of money by declining coverage entirely and just paying the chiropractor out of pocket.

But my wife has to go to the doctor more often. So does my son. Me paying into the system and getting next to nothing out of it covers for them, who pay into the system and take back out a much higher percentage of what they paid in.

The only companies who aren’t jealous of health insurance companies’ profits are the oil companies. Since 2000, their profits are up more than 400 percent. But year after year, more and more people find it harder to get health coverage.

The system has a good racket going, frankly. Food companies sell poisonous food to the unwitting (or apathetic) masses. The masses get sick and have to go to the doctor more. Doctors give them pills for their problems, but the problems get worse because they keep eating poisonous food. Eventually they develop diabetes or cancer, at which point the insurance company can cut off coverage.

Everyone makes lots of money in the meantime. Except for the consumer-turned-patient, who pays out more and more every year, then eventually ends up with a chronic and painful disease.

I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy. Not at all. The free market just found something that works really well for the people in power. It’s a beautiful system–for those who benefit.

Unfortunately that same system hurts people. I live with two people it hurts. And the system killed my dad.

Sometimes the market needs a referee. That referee is called regulation. And since the Republican Party isn’t willing to regulate, I voted for a Democrat that I knew would press the issue.

Actually what I expected was for Obama and the Democrats to push some kind of socialized medicine, and Republicans to counter with something like the German system, which is all private but highly regulated. You don’t hear much about the German system, mostly because it works pretty well.

That’s what I favor.

Some people may wonder why I care, since I have good coverage now. But if you think the plan I have will last forever, you’re smoking crack. Eventually the plan will get too expensive. Or the company could get bought out, or it could lose the contract I’m on. There are any number of things that could put me right back where I was a couple of months ago.

I’d much rather fix the system. I might need it someday, but not only that, I actually have a soul, and I’m tired of seeing other people suffering.

If that makes me a moderate rather than a conservative, so be it. If it means I’m no longer a Republican, well, some things are more important than labels and party affiliations.

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2 thoughts on “How the Republican Party is losing me

  • October 19, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    The insulin dosage being "excessive" seems to be a common trend. Some diabetics get by with 5u a meal. Others, like me (after 25 years), require 60u a meal. I have a horrible time getting the insurance company to provide me with 8 vials of insulin a month — and even then it’s often a problem to pay for it, as my copay is $20.00 a bottle, not per prescription.

    I was also recently denied some of my mental medication. Dave can vouch that when I was younger I was a bit (heh, a lot) off kilter; these drugs fix that. To save $450.00 they made me completely ineffective at work for a month, and I almost lost my job. Pay for it myself? I’m already paying $680.00 a month for pharmacy copays, not to mention $8,000.00 in out of pocket costs before the insurance kicks in.

    My step father is on Medicare but my Mom works at Wal-Mart and can’t afford all the deductibles on her medicines. So instead my step father goes to the hospital with high blood sugars because he can’t afford the copays on his insulin. His doctor at least sees him for free.

    I have a ton of medical problems, and I know a ton of folks with medical problems. The health care reform and the fight around it have completely destroyed my faith in my family (to think for themselves and not follow their party line), my faith in my government, and my faith in myself to handle stressful issues that I feel passionately about. No one is taking a stand in our Congress and doing what’s right, and all the bickering about costs, government control, socialism, or any other topic which derails it all — all of that bickering is doing nothing to improve the American life. The war cry of socialism is thrown around as if it was a deadly disease. The root of socialism is social, as in society, or community.

    I favor a single payer system because the concept of insurance simply does not work when combined with a for profit entity. (Or even a "non profit" like Blue Cross who want to pay their executives hundreds of millions of dollars.) Without that, there must be a public option with records that we can audit and see for ourselves — what exactly is making costs rise, if anything.

    With that said and done… when I contemplate the state of our nation, I want to sit down and cry. The almighty dollar rules our lives, and that is the saddest thing that could happen. As a friend of mine said, "Got mine, f you" is the slogan of the United States today.

    Thanks Dave, for providing an outlet for my anger and for proving that some folks do want to ignore any existing lines of control.

    All I can hope for is that common sense wins and that a decent bill gets spit out of that cesspool known as Congress. Then again, there was actually opposition to the amendment keeping due process intact for defense contractors who try to restrict their employees from taking rape cases to court…

  • October 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Dave,

    Yes, the system is broken. In fact, the interesting thing is the existence of insurance that covers more than catastrophic problems and unintended consequences of government interference in the market both contributed greatly to the problems we have now.

    Reform is needed. True, start over reform that puts the responsibility back with the consumer but also requires complete transparency of all stakeholders. Imagine if doctors, hospitals, insurers had to compete in the open with everyone knowing the true price for everything and the outcomes for a procedure that a hospital and/or the doctor achieves and the removal of the red tape and administrative overhead of today. Insurance (and this includes government run programs) and the price insulation and distortion it has caused for the consumer is a large part of the problem (and crazy high prices for some are a direct result of both private insurance and government programs).

    Back in the 1930s, before significant health insurance, the average working family could pay the bill for an operation (it may have been expensive and taken them a few months to pay off an appendectomy but it was not a potential bankrupting even like is experience by those with poor or no insurance like is the case today).

    Singapore has a successful system that puts the consumer in the driver’s seat and promotes real competition (thus lowering prices) while having the catastrophic coverage needed to prevent disaster and also subsidies for those truly unable to afford medical care.

    I am in the final year of completing my MPH (Masters n Public Health) and what I have learned about the complexities of the system is definitely eye opening.

    Finally, I think the current administration and the current plans will, contrary to some opinion, greatly exacerbate the problem over the next several years as more red tape is added, doctors find less reason to stay in practice, government requirements prove too burdensome, supply diminishes, etc.

    – Bruce

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