Let the Conservative Freakout Begin
by Peter Shelton
Mar 26, 2010 | 1588 views | 8 8 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After the health insurance reform bill passed the House on Sunday, I called our in-family doc (daughter Cloe is a radiologist in Albuquerque) to get her take on the changes.

We’d seen Cloe and Adam and baby Alexander in Farmington just a couple of days before when Cloe was moonlighting at the hospital there and Grandma and Grandpa drove down for an overnight overlap at the Hampton Inn and Suites.

The motel halls were stuffed with sleep-immune high school baseball, softball and tennis teams there for a big tournament weekend. But we didn’t care. We hadn’t been together since Christmas. Alex at 18 months was a wry, self-aware little man compared to the last time we’d seen him. Cloe was suddenly great with child. Her second, a girl, is due in May. And Adam, dear Adam, the non-traditional stay-at-home dad, needed to be taken skiing (at Hesperus, just across the Colorado line) by his father-in-law.

On the phone Monday, Cloe admitted to being unaware of the dramatic Sunday night vote. She had just returned home from a routine, seven-month checkup. Violet, as she is being called in utero, has extremely long legs, as revealed by the ultra-sound images. “Maybe she’ll be a volleyball player,” Cloe mused. Cloe, together with her sister, was a star volleyballer at Ouray HS in the 90s.

In the background I could hear Alex shrieking, ala Where the Wild Things Are, as he careened his Tonka truck down the hall and out into the living room. Maybe, Cloe speculated, the new law will call for fewer CT scans, and MRIs, and x-rays in the future as a way to reduce health-care costs. Certainly they are over-ordered now as doctors try to assuage their patients’ desire for certainty, protect themselves from malpractice, line their own pockets, and justify their $10 million machines.

The tenor of Alex’s cries changed, and Cloe asked, “What’s the matter, Mr. Z? Is your diaper pinching you?” For her part, Cloe has not been able to resist, with either of her pregnancies, the temptation to walk into her own radiology department at University of New Mexico Hospital and demand a fresh set of pictures of her growing baby. The fridge is covered with them.

“Maybe radiologists make too much money as it is,” she said, more question than statement of fact. “So, some cuts [in Medicare reimbursements for imaging, a likely component of reform] may be OK. Then again, all specialists – surgeons, radiologists, cardiologists – have more school, more training, more expertise, more debt.” Cloe is in her fourth year of residency. She and Adam barely get by on her salary and the moonlighting. She hasn’t been able to even think about starting to repay her medical school loans. That won’t happen for another two years at least. And they’ll likely have to borrow more money to get through a fellowship year she’s been offered in Boston.

“No, no, Sweetie,” Cloe cooed. “Not to put that envelope into Daddy’s water glass.” And then to me, “He’s really into putting stuff into things – his truck, his bath, a water glass.” Cloe has long decried the costly system of doctor training in this country, a system which regularly mints new doctors burdened by hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. They have to earn big bucks to get out of hock. This isn’t addressed, as far as either of us knows, by the new legislation, although it is a piece of escalating health-care costs.

The other part, which Cloe isn’t sure will change under the new rules, is the disastrous state of Americans’ health in general. Preventable stuff: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure. “Maybe,” she said hopefully, “with more people covered by insurance, more people will get regular care, and the problems won’t so often reach crisis stage. Maybe.”

The screams of joy in the background I recognized as the ones that burst uncontrollably from Alex when his father whips him upside down by the legs and mashes his face into Alex’s belly.

Cloe has always had a strong sense of social justice, so she is pleased that President Obama and the Democrats have done something, imperfect as it is, toward that end. Perhaps it comes from her Berkeley-era, peace- and civil rights-marching father. Or maybe it derived from her time in dirt-floor birthing rooms in Madagascar. Or from her year studying in France, where the single-payer system (that’s “socialist” to you, Rush) is so universally popular there is no cause to yell and scream about it.

She knows she will be OK in the long run, once she gets out of her debt hole. She doesn’t need to be rich. But the debt worries her now. I can see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice. If Cloe had her druthers, I’m quite certain, she would reform not just the inefficient, barely moral ways health care gets paid for in this country, but the way we take our brightest and most dedicated and make them pay (and pay) to become care givers.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 02, 2010
Very good words Peter. Reasonable and well thought out. Thanks.
March 31, 2010
To here is how it works-

Absolutely correct. As an example, here we have the banking industry, rescued from its own hand by our children's children, and they are back at making extremely risky loans to foreign nations while ignoring the human plight of many US citizens who are or have lost everything including their home.

The mantra during this bailout, by Republican and Democrats, was it was absolutely necessary to preserve our "economy".

Now we have a bill, the first in 30 years to re-distribute income (by way of health insurance benefits) and it is socialism?

If that is the case, more socialism, less banker bailouts; more socialism, less predator drone bombs over foreign countries, ...etc.

here's how it works:
March 31, 2010
If it's a government program to help large corporations (farm subsidies, bank subsidies for student loans, subsidies to the pharm. industry) they are necessary expenditures to boost the free market. When they are government programs to help students and the uninsured, it is rank socialism bordering on communism. Get it?
center field
March 29, 2010
So I can infer from your comments that your point is: profit and freedom are immoral....nice
So help me, I'm fat.
March 29, 2010
"The other part, which Cloe isn’t sure will change under the new rules, is the disastrous state of Americans’ health in general. Preventable stuff: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure. “Maybe,” she said hopefully, “with more people covered by insurance, more people will get regular care, and the problems won’t so often reach crisis stage. Maybe"

Oh, no self responsibility in the new nannie state? Just throw regular care money at it? And a resident MD said that? Nudge that, Peter.

peter shelton
March 28, 2010
I'm saying the basic (and immoral) inequities of our for-profit health insurance system have at last been nudged in a civilized direction. That's societal accountability.
center field
March 26, 2010
What are you getting at? ...So my two kids are in the background helping out with the dishes and making a lot of noise, self aware and self absorbed. Socialist medicine doesn’t work. They both had a productive day at school performing well ahead of their peers. Their burden of debt will be unprecedented in the history of our County. It is funny how they get along, one seven and one four; best friends one minute and enemies the next. They are both fiercely independent and capable. They are individuals that deserve the freedoms we were afforded until last Sunday. Now they are spraying water on the kitchen floor and claiming, “we are not making a mess." Single payer system is not socialist, unless they payer is the government. I will say this was a well executed power grab by democrats. They have succeeded in furthering their political reach in a most hypocritical way. My kids aren't done with the dishes yet, and I can’t wait to vote in November - even my seven-year old understand the concept of accountability.
Next time
March 26, 2010
their house is burning, be sure to hand carry buckets of water independently to avoid becoming a socialist.

Also be sure to:

.... home school the kids

.... wade through a river (avoid bridges)

.... and walk only along the sides of the roads