Two health care professionals, a doctor from the Mayo Clinic and a nurse from Allina Health Care System, joined the effort in pushing for a national health care reform in a telephone news conference held by the DFL Wednesday.
Dr. Mark Liebow, an internist at Mayo, and Glenda Cartney, a registered nurse, both told “in the trenches’’ stories to support the claim that the current system is broken.
Cartney made perhaps the most startling charge, suggesting that the changes she’s seen in 40 years show that, despite huge improvements in technology, our health care system has deteriorated.
“In 40 plus years, I’ve seen many changes,’’ she said. “As I look back, nothing compares to what I see at bedsides today. People don’t have insurance, they can’t afford medication.’’
Four of 10 patients in the ward she is working, she said, were hospitalized “because they couldn’t afford their medications. These are young people, 40 and 50 years old. It saddens me.’’
With medications, she said, those people would have had no need to be hospitalized.
“It drives costs up,’’ she said. Worse, she added, the overall health of those patients has deteriorated. “Years ago, the people we treated weren’t as sick. Patients put off procedures because they can’t afford them. . . .That wasn’t as much an issue [40 years ago].’’
Liebow had similar concerns about people waiting too long to get treatment.
If health care is deteriorating, why is there so much resistance to reform?
“Think about the big areas [of reform],’’ Liebow said. “One, it takes money to insure the poor and uninsured people. That means money has to be squeezed out of the system or taxes have to be raised. Raising taxes is never popular. Squeezing money from the system? Every dollar of waste is someone else’s income. Two, Insurance companies are happy with the status quo. Three, changing delivery systems won’t be easy because we don’t know what changes will work. There’s a lot of resistance to change.’’
State Democratic Parties across the country are doing various things to help support health care reform proposed by President Obama. But Wednesday’s news conference was not the result of any phone calls from the White House or the DNC, according to DFL officials.
The DFL’s associate chair, Donna Cassutt, was moved to set up the news conference based on new stats being released by the Census Bureau and Health and Human Services that show the size of the health care issues, even in Minnesota, which gets high marks nationally for the state of its health care. Those stats show that in Minnesota, 440,000 people are uninsured and that there are large disparities in health insurance based on what region of the state you live in. For example, Cassutt said, in Washington County, fewer than 5 percent lack health coverage. But in the city of Minneapolis, 1 in 6 (17 percent) are without coverage.