Change is in the air, but Americans are still flocking to free health clinics and flying overseas to avail themselves of needed health care.
When President Obama signed the Patient’s Affordable Health Care Act into law last march, it ushered in a new era in the U.S. health care system.
Critics on the right said it went too far; critics on the left were dismayed that it didn’t go far enough. Indeed, my own joy was subdued at best. It wasn’t the bill I wanted, either, but it was a serious start at long last.
While some provisions of the bill will come into play before the end of this year, the full roll-out will take until 2018. In the meantime, people are still facing a lack of access to needed medical care and the threat of medical bankruptcy.
CBS News recently covered a free medical clinic held in Los Angeles. (April 27-May 3, Los Angeles Sports Arena) The clinic, open 12 hours a day for seven days, is staffed by 300 medical volunteers and is expected to help 1,200 patients per day. The patients are among the jobless, the working poor, and the middle class.
The clinic is run by Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps and is just one of a series of clinics to take place around the country this year. You can see the complete 2010 schedule of free clinics HERE.
Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical, says that he began the organization in 1985 to get American doctors to volunteer and bring modern medicine to the third world, but now 64 percent of everything they do is in the U.S.
Watch the CBS Video about the LA Clinic:
Meanwhile, CNN aired a report on Americans who are bargain shopping for surgery and having to travel abroad to get the medical care they need.
Godfrey Davies of Indianapolis was in need of surgery to remove nasal polyps. Uninsured, he did some surgeon shopping and found that the procedure would cost $33,000 – $34,000. At 100 percent out-of-pocket, the surgery he needed was completely out of reach. Mr. Davies went shopping overseas, finally scheduling his surgery in Wales, U.K. At a total price of $3,600, including airfare, he was finally able to get the much-needed operation.
According to the report, such outrageous price differences are not unusual across the board. As for Mr. Davies, he got the care he needed with very good results.
Watch CNN’s report:
On the good news front, Reuters reported that United Health will immediately stop the despicable practice of rescission (terminating coverage for policyholders after they become ill) even before that portion of the law kicks in on September 23, except in cases of fraud. Assurant Inc. and Aetna Inc. have indicated they would do the same but have given no date. WellPoint Inc. plans to end the practice on May 1.
Also ahead of deadline, several insurers have already begun extending coverage to people under age 26 on a parent’s policy.
This Thursday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is quoted in an Associated Press report as saying this about the health care bill:
“The plan is not without flaws. But it is the law. And it is time for California to move ahead with it. Thoughtfully. And responsibly. The bottom line is this: If national health care reform is going to succeed, it is up to the states to make it happen. How can you be a Republican governor but in support of health care reform? The answer is that this is not a partisan issue. It doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or Democrat. Rich or poor. Young or old. We all need quality health care.”
Navigating the patchwork of health care is still a challenge, one that will be with us for a long time. As Americans continue to struggle through a broken health care system, perhaps more of our leaders will do as Gov. Schwarzenegger has done, and make an effort to work toward real solutions, putting people before politics.
We’ve got some rough years ahead, but change is in the air.