A Friday Diversion: Sanjay Gupta, Paul Krugman and Universal Health Care

The recent mini-uproar about President-Elect Obama Surgeon General nominee Dr. Sanjay Gupta had me digging in the crates for a post that I had written for Blogcritics just over a year ago.  I don’t get the reason for the opposition to the possible appointment.   Is it because he’s handsome, young and telegenic?  Is it because Gupta’s s real doctor — a neurosurgen — who plays one on television  as the CNN chief medical correspondent? Why the hate?  If you, Paul Krugman — an economist and not a medical professional — feels he’s so unqualified (source), it will all be taken care of during the Congressional vetting process.

One of our old negro standard-bearers, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), has also consigned on with Krugman’s assessment of Gupta going so far as to issue a letter to his fellow members of  Congress expressing his solidarity with Krugman and his opposition to Gupta. (source).   (Mr. Conyers, perhaps you need to tend to other more pressing matters like trying to revive your state which has been on life support for as a long as I can remember.  In other words,  “Negro, sit down.”)

The Gupta nomination has placed the spotlight on “universal health care” — whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.   All this talk about universal health care reminds me of what comedian Chris Rock said some years ago during his HBO special, Bigger and Blacker:

You know what’s worse than taxes? What’s worse than tax is insurance.
You got to have some insurance. They shouldn’t even call it insurance.
They just should call it ”in case shit.” I give a company some money
in case shit happens.

Now, if shit don’t happen, shouldn’t l get my money back?

That’s right, man, you better have some medical insurance, or you gonna die.
That’s right, everybody.
You got to eat right and exercise. No, you don’t, you need some coverage.
Coverage will save your life.

That’s right, we all gonna die, but at least if you got some coverage…
you will die on a mattress. (source)

That was Chris Rock’s take.  Here’s mine. It’s a bit dated but still relevant:

“Universal Health Care Doesn’t Mean Universally Good Care”  (Blogcritics, December 20, 2007)

The Democratic presidential candidates think they have the cure for what ails America’s health care system. Each professes, if elected, to offer their version of true “universal” coverage.

Senator Hillary Clinton wants to make all Americans purchase health insurance from either the government, their employer or some other private entity and will demand that everyone do so. Oh really, Commandant Clinton? So you think we don’t have health care because we are acting like willful children spending our vast disposable income on things like housing, food and transportation? And if we don’t comply, she’s going to let us have it. How? She hasn’t figured out the appropriate punishment yet or won’t say for fear of reprisal.

Pretty John Edwards (sorry, I can’t resist — no, I don’t hate him because he’s beautiful) proposes essentially the same thing but outlines specific penalties including the garnishing of wages or “actions” by collection agencies. And Big Bad John is going to have members of Congress by the family jewels – threatening to take away their health insurance — if they don’t go along with his plan. Oh, I love it when he gets tough. NOT!

Of the three, Barack Obama’s plan is the most reasonable, “requiring only that parents obtain coverage for their children.” Who can argue against that? He thinks no one, not even Republicans in Congress will take issue with it. It’s essentially the expansion S-Chip program that President Bush has repeatedly vetoed.

Yes, Americans do need adequate health care coverage. But even if every citizen is “fully covered” the delivery of that care will still remain a problem. Medical mistakes abound. Recently, we have heard of the death of Donda West, mother of rapper Kanye West, from complications due to plastic surgery and actor Dennis Quad’s infant twins becoming ill  as the result of receiving a massive overdose of a blood thinner while in a Los Angeles hospital.

Since the candidates have not addressed health care delivery, do they believe that poor, and/or potentially life-threatening care is better than no care?

Even people, like my mother, who have excellent coverage, are fully aware of the disparities in health care and have taken what might seem to be extraordinary measures to get their needs met.

My mother, Miss Ruby to you, has gone so far as to travel from her one time home in Montgomery, Alabama to her now current home in Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit a dentist. Are there dentists in Montgomery? Of course, but none who met her discriminating, “unreasonable” standards.

You see, my mother insists that her physician speak to her personally after each visit to discuss the results of tests or examinations. She insists that he/she give her medication suited to the ailment that she is purported to have. And she doesn’t want the doctor to rape her insurance company by charging for unnecessary procedures that he/she knows it will reimburse since my mother has two providers — Blue Cross and Blue Shield as well as Medicare.

And don’t think of walking into her examination room wearing the same gloves you wore while examining the last patient expecting to put your hands on her body. Oh, hell no. If you do so, be prepared to get dressed down -– Southern lady style with of a heaping dose of New York bravado.

When an Alabama dentist decided he was going to pull some troublesome teeth, she said, “No way”. She may not have been born with all of her teeth; she damn sure was going to die with all of them and walked out of the office. A few months later, Miss Ruby traveled to Minneapolis where a dentist told her that she didn’t need to have them removed after all. My mother was told in so many words that dental care in Alabama was inferior.

I lived in Montgomery, Alabama for nearly six years and it wasn’t uncommon for well-to-do ladies that lunch and their husbands to travel to places like North Carolina and Houston for important medical procedures.

Most people aren’t like my mother and the ladies that lunch, who have excellent retirement benefits and/or the disposable income to travel.

In truth, no amount of “coverage” will make a doctor keep abreast of the most current procedures, give the proper dosage of a medication, or change his/her gloves before visiting the next patient.

Only if we can create and adhere to a standard under which a person in rural Alabama can receive the same good quality of care as a socialite living on New York City’s Upper West Side, will we have achieved “universal health care.”


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