Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scare Tactic Prescription?

A so-called "troubling" new healthcare study allegedly shows that uninsured patients are more likely to die in the emergency room than their insured counterparts. For one, I call the study into question for the simple fact that Dr. Atul Gawande, a senior author of the study, is both a reform-minded critic of the current system and a pro-universal healthcare advocate who has worked as a policy advisor to a host of Democrats, including Al Gore and the Clinton Administration. That its publication comes as Congress debates a sweeping healthcare reform bill geared toward the uninsured is convenient, giving even greater weight to a political agenda presented as objective research. Even more, the study's conclusions cannot even correlate patient care to a specific mitigating circumstance such as medical insurance; as the researchers concede, it is conceivable that patient outcome had just as much to do with the treatment received, or lack thereof, regardless of any of other factors.

As far as equitable treatment in the emergency room, I myself was an uninsured car accident victim 2½ years ago. Needless to say, despite my own reservations concerning the medical field, I received some of the best treatment from the staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They treated me as any other, never once asking if I had insurance. In fact, a few days passed before that discussion even took place, and even then I continued receiving exceptional care until discharged a week and a half later. Whatever the case, I highly doubt it had anything to do with my insurance situation.

Maybe I just got lucky, but I prefer to think that those in medicine are moved more by their Hippocratic Oath to provide treatment to a patient than by any other motivation. Unlike the politicians - who also take an oath - trying to force-feed constituents the supposed cure for our ills, through such measures as ostensibly partisan studies aimed at scaring millions of uninsured Americans. 

©2009 Steve Sagarra

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