Posted by: zhak39 | October 20, 2009

To Richard Burr, With Love, Thanks for the Catharsis

All right, guys.  I’m ready for the slings and arrows.  I have said that in my opinion, expressing our opinions to our representatives on any level means less than spit in the ocean (meaning it has no effective outcome).  That doesn’t mean that you won’t find me on the hamster wheel every now and then (meaning making great effort with no forward progress).

I received an e-letter from Senator Richard Burr today with a little update on his activities in Washington.  He opened with a note of concern about how health care reform may effect women.  Luckily, he made this one clear statement upfront.

As I have stated before, I agree that we need health care reform so that Americans, regardless of whether they are male or female, can access affordable coverage.

It’s a great relief to know that my senator is going to represent North Carolinians regardless of gender.

So I read the e-letter half-wondering what his IT staff is doing since they are clearly not filtering their databases.  When I got to the bottom, what do you know, there were some phone numbers.  In fact,  Richard Burr lives near here and he has a local office.  So I called.  I didn’t expect to talk to him but the receptionist was very nice.  At first. And I was very nice.  Although I’m sure she wanted to wash her hands after I finished.

“What was this news-letter you received?  Where did you get this phone number?” she asked.

Because I doubt that she was going to personally (or at all) deliver my message I decided to get on-line and e-mail it too.  (That’s how I got on the newsletter mailing list in the first place.)  Ahem.

I just read your e-letter about health care reform and women’s health.  It said “Rather than creating a new government-run plan”;  I hope you meant “In addition to creating a new-government run plan.”

You brought up a number of points that are not primary to reform of the nucleus of our profit driven health care payment system.  Of course insurance companies should not be able to cherry pick according to fluid rules and formulas.  This is close to the mark.

In the same e-letter you talk about malpractice issues and ob-gyns.  This is less a women’s health issue than it is a doctor- insurance issue that effects pregnant women during the window of active reproductive cycles. It could be addressed more simply by decriminalizing lay midwifery. The majority of women’s health issues (heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis) are not related to a full uterus.  Again, this is not the primary issue you need to be working on.

The payment for health care services is dominated by a system that demands more and more and delivers less and less.  This is where reform is needed.

I hope that you can help focus an effort to create effective and reasonable legislation that serves the people that you are serving.

With kindness,

A productive tax-paying volunteering charity-donating interfaith-supportive patriotic egalitarian vocal American mother/daughter/sister

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Responses

  1. Here is a copy of the newsletter omitting two paragraphs not related to health care payment reform. Sen. Burr’s contact information is at the end in case you want to talk to any of the nice ladies answering his phones.

    Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing to determine how health care reform could impact women across North Carolina and the nation. As I have stated before, I agree that we need health care reform so that Americans, regardless of whether they are male or female, can access affordable coverage. That is why I joined my colleague Senator Tom Coburn earlier this year to introduce a reform bill called the Patients’ Choice Act.

    Rather than creating a new government-run plan, our bill aims to rein in costs by emphasizing prevention and wellness, rather than only treating people when they are sick. Our bill also addresses affordability by ending the “cherry picking” that allows insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Better yet, our bill doesn’t increase the deficit or increase taxes.

    The health care reform bill the Senate Finance Committee passed this week fails to address malpractice reform and any discussion about affordable health care for women must include medical malpractice reform. The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis just last week that shows that medical liability reform could save taxpayers roughly $54 billion over the next 10 years. Equally as important, comprehensive medical liability reform would reduce total national health care spending by about 0.5 percent – or about $11 billion in 2009 alone.

    For example, if we care about making sure women have access to OB/GYNs, we cannot ignore the fact that high malpractice insurance is driving doctors out of this specialty and, even worse, closing practices. This issue seems to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to access to affordable health care for women. Additionally, we need to make the insurance marketplace more competitive by allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines. This would ensure that women would be able to pick a coverage option that fits their specific needs, even if those needs aren’t met by plans offered in their home states. We cannot effectively reform health care without addressing medical malpractice reform.

    No one disagrees that reform is necessary, but I will continue to oppose legislation that has been rushed through for the sake of passing something at the expense of quality reform, and I will push for reform that actually reduces cost in addition to expanding health care coverage. We need to get this right so that our children and grandchildren do not have to spend their lifetimes correcting our mistakes and paying off the debt we left them.

    Sincerely,

    U.S. Senator Richard Burr

    Asheville
    Federal Building
    151 Patton Avenue, Suite 204
    Asheville, NC 28801
    Phone: (828) 350-2437
    Fax: (828) 350-2439

    Rocky Mount
    100 Coast Line Street, Room 210
    Rocky Mount, NC 27804
    Phone: (252) 977-9522
    Fax: (252) 977-7902

    Washington, DC
    217 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Phone: (202) 224-3154
    Fax: (202) 228-2981

    Winston-Salem
    2000 West First Street
    Suite 508
    Winston-Salem, NC 27104
    Phone: (800) 685-8916
    Phone: (336) 631-5125
    Fax: (336) 725-4493

    Gastonia
    City Hall
    181 South Street, Room 222
    Gastonia, NC 28052
    Phone: (704) 833-0854
    Fax: (704) 833-1467

    Wilmington
    201 North Front Street
    Suite 809
    Wilmington, NC 28401
    Phone: (888) 848-1833
    Phone: (910) 251-1058
    Fax: (910) 251-7975

  2. “Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”

    —President George W. Bush, Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

    My very favorite Bush-ism. I remember hearing it “real time.”

    (I do, afterall, hang in the midwest occasionally).

    Here’s the problem with the quote, and the problem with the statement left by the above blog-responder.

    It’s anecdotal, I’ll admit upfront.

    I have a doctor friend. Okay, he doesn’t call himself a doctor. That’s because graduates from medical schools for the past, say, 20 years don’t. They call themselves “physicians.”

    So 6 years ago now, this “health care reform” issue was as alive as it is now. I asked my “physician” friend. I said, “Rick, everything I read leads me to believe that lawsuits against doctors are causing the increase in malpractice rates, and the increase in malpractice rates is leading to the increased cost of health care.

    “And yet,” I continued. “I read the statistics from the county clerk’s records and, they suggest that in the last 5 years, there has only been one verdict favorable to the patient (for a quarter million dollars — and not mine, by the way), a dozen ‘zero’ verdicts from juries in malpractice cases and a lot that were ‘dismissed without prejudice,’ which means they settled.

    “What do you make of that?”

    Physician Rick replied, “[Bill], our rates have nothing to do with malpractice suits. You lawyers are just a convenient target. The fact of the matter is, we’ve paid our premiums, and our premiums have always been inflated. But what happened was, the insurance companies invested poorly, and their ‘sure thing’ investments tanked. You know from personal experience — every mutual fund was heavily into Microsoft and, what happened to Microsoft in ’99? Tanked.

    “Our conservative, risk-averse carriers [messed] up. Big time. They actually fired some of their own. For better or for worse, they won’t admit that. So, since everybody hates you guys, they blame their poor investment ideas on you. But it’s not you. They’re just passing the buck.

    “You guys,” he said, “are irrelevant.”

    Now, being a good plaintiff’s lawyer, I sort of wanted to disagree that I was irrelevant. But I thought about it.

    He knows where his money goes better than I do.

    So let’s fast forward.

    What is the counter to — “I don’t want some bureaurcrat telling me what doctor I can see?”

    think it through. For the past decade or more, insurance advocates led you by the nose. Let’s keep it that way. Fine.

    Let some God fearing, wonderfully obedient, rule-abiding, missionary position-only rule follower, whose income was slashed because his or her employer invested in Enron, tell you that your request for extremely rare, etiologically-negulous disease coverage is denied, based on the fact you’ll die soon and even though you don’t have any medically recognized, pre-existing condition, it doesn’t matter because you’ll be dead before you can appeal its initial denial.

    Afterall, it’s so offensive to have some large bureaucracy like “the government” assign some know-nothing paid for prostitute tell you what you can and cannot do with your hard-earned cash when it’s so much easier to have a nameless, faceless whore from the company with the feel-good early morning commercials tell you you’re a crook who lied on his application form — about what it doesn’t matter so long as the appeal process takes longer than your life-expectancy.

    It’s so much easier to have some nameless, faceless insurance beancounting bureaucrat you never see, working for a company you don’t conceptualize as taking money out of your pocket (even though the reality is, you’d earn more money from your employer if your employer wasn’t paying that company) take money out of your pocket and advocate your death.

    What’s that saying, Zhak? “Ignorance is bliss?”

    I sleep now, so much better, knowing, first, that I’m covered by my wife’s insurance, since she works for a large company.

    And second because, well, at least that black guy, illegal alien who I will refuse to accept, even to my own peril, won’t help me — if I have anything to say about it.

  3. Wow, Bill. Thank you for sharing the conversation you had with the physician. Your humor aside, this gives me something to thing about.

    I appreciate you!


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