Health care is a business: Know your rights
The article, "Health Care Reform" (Collinwood Observer, November 19), raised a lot of questions. While it is true that our current health care system is a "for-profit industry," an overhaul of the system will not change the fact that it is all about making money. The big questions about health care reform still are: How will you pay for your medical care? Will you be able to afford coverage? Will you be required to purchase health insurance, even if you cannot afford it? Will you be forced to pay fines, if you do not have health care? Will being required to purchase health insurance set in motion more foreclosures, job loss and recession? Will anyone have a choice in all these decisions, or will these decisions be made for us?
Since this is a community newspaper, read by our elected officials, would it be possible if some of these questions could be answered in future editions of "The Collinwood Observer?"
The fact that the government might become "the single payer to all of the health care providers," would put the insurers out of business, and for this reason, I believe insurers will strongly oppose this issue. Patients, on the other hand, are concerned that a "single payer" system would give the government too much control! But it is a fact that the government HAS tremendous control, because they presently oversee many different agencies in the health care field, including:
-The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
-The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
-The Institute of Medicine (IOM)
-The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
-The Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
The government knows more about what is happening in America's hospitals than the patients! In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a groundbreaking report, titled "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health Care System." The report revealed that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors, including: misdiagnosis, prescription errors, incorrectly read lab reports, unnecessary surgery, anesthesia related injury, and hospital-acquired infections. Many times these errors are not reported to the patient, and are not written in their medical records, so patients have no way of knowing what really happened!
In response to the IOM report, former president Bill Clinton established the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force (QuIC), to evaluate the report's recommendations to reduce errors by 50% in the subsequent five years, and to identify and create public awareness of these medical errors.
Because of these all-too-real statistics, getting good health care is more important than the issue of health insurance. Because once this issue is resolved, and you go to the hospital, a myriad of other issues arise, concerning your actual doctor visit, exams and treatments. Going to the doctor is not cut and dried: (Have tests done, receive a diagnosis, get cured.)
It does not work this way.
How will you know if you are getting good get medical care? How will you know if your doctor makes a mistake? Will you be allowed to participate in your health care decisions? Will you be informed of your rights?
As a patient, you DO have rights. You have the right to know your diagnosis, and treatment options, and side effects of any prescriptions. You also have a right to refuse any treatments, and to examine your medical records and to get copies of them.
The Patients Bill of Rights and Responsibilities was enacted in March 1998. A copy of the report can be obtained at: http://www.hcqualitycommission.gov/cborr
This report was sent to former President Bill Clinton in 1997, by the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthy Care Industry.
Some other rights that patients have include:
-The right to informed disclosure (the right to be told information in an understandable manner, so you can make informed decisions)
-The right to choose providers
-The right to participate in treatment options
-The right to complaints and appeals
As a medical consumer, you should understand all aspects of your medical treatment. A very good website that explains lab tests and medical conditions in easy to understand language is: www.labtestsonline.org
All patients should be aware that the medical industry is a business, just like any other business. Only this time the product that is being purchased is your health and possibly your life.