Healing The Health-Care System

How should Christ’s mandate that we care for “the least of these” guide our national debate on health-care reform?

If the ambitious Clinton health-care plan becomes law, credit should probably go to the massive failure of our current haphazard patchwork of private and public “insurance.” Actually, the Clinton plan joins several Republican proposals, all conceived under the same lament: the system is indeed broken.

Consider this case for health-care reform:

Mr. Swanson (not his real name) is a 55-year-old man who recently lost his job at a small, engine-building company. He has severe high blood pressure and diabetes requiring four different medications. He makes an appointment to see me because he lost his insurance with his job and cannot afford to see his doctor or fill his prescriptions. I am a primary-care physician at a county hospital. My examination shows us what happens when a patient cannot afford medication. Mr. Swanson’s blood sugar level is twice normal, his blood pressure is dangerously elevated, and he has had exertional chest pain for several weeks. He tells me his medications were costing him $120 a month.

I put him back on his medicines, add aspirin and nitroglycerin to keep his arteries open, and send him to our cardiologist to begin evaluation for heart disease. The cardiac catheterization reveals life-threatening blockages in both the left and right coronary arteries, so Mr. Swanson has an angioplasty, a procedure that uses a balloon to widen the arteries from the inside. Mr. Swanson’s blood pressure and diabetes come under control. He begins occupational therapy and looks for another job. His hospital bill is over $10,000, which he cannot pay.

Could it happen to you?

If you think ...

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