To Understand Obama, McCain Health Plans watch T.V.

by Lesley Politi on October 2, 2008

To understand Obama, McCain health plans, watch TV

7:00 AM, September 29, 2008

A new documentary on the PBS show P.O.V., “Critical Condition,” will take a personal look at America’s healthcare crisis on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. PDT. With real-life stories of four people who lost their jobs, their health insurance, their homes, their savings — even, in two cases, their lives — Roger Weisberg’s documentary lays out the human cost of America’s expensive and often inaccessible system of health insurance and healthcare.

Though the film likely will get you wringing your hands with woe at the tragedies that befall people who find themselves uninsured, a follow-up discussion — at 10:30 p.m. PDT Tuesday — might give you some clues about which candidate you think has the most workable way out of the healthcare mess.

Susan Dentzer, editor of the journal Health Affairs and a former correspondent for PBS’ “The News Hour,” will host a panel discussion after the film. Neera Tanden, domestic policy adviser for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign, will be there to explain Obama’s healthcare proposal. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, senior policy adviser to Sen. John McCain’s plan, will present McCain’s plan.

Also on the panel: Uwe Reinhardt, health economist at Princeton University; and Stuart Butler, vice president of domestic and economic policy at the Heritage Foundation.

If you listen to the discussion after watching the documentary, it might help you decide which candidate might better help people like Joe Stornaiuolo, Karen Dove, Hector Cardenas, and Carlos Benitez — all of whom appear in the film.

Stornaiuolo, a doorman for 15 years, lost his job when he lost a finger. And with his job went his health insurance. He also had chronic liver disease, and could no longer afford the medications or the care he needed. He thought getting Social Security disability would rescue him, but he fell through a loophole. He and his wife made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the federal program for the poor. And to qualify for Medicare, the program for the elderly and disabled, there was a two-year waiting requirement. He didn’t live to qualify. He died last Christmas, leaving his widow with $60,000 in unpaid medical bills.

Cardenas, a diabetic patient, lost his foot to the disease, and then lost his job as a warehouse manager. He fell into a Catch-22 cycle: he needs a prosthesis to find a job so he can have health insurance, but cannot afford the prosthesis that he needs in order to find a job.

Dove had to leave her job as an apartment manager because of deteriorating health. When she felt stomach pains, she had trouble finding a doctor who will see her without insurance, and by the time she did, a year had gone by, and her ovarian cancer was at Stage III. Her chemotherapy and surgery put her family deeply in debt. Dove died in March 2008.

Benitez had a severe back deformity that caused him severe pain for 15 years, and cost him 7 inches in height. As a chef, he had no health insurance. He went to Mexico, looking for less costly care, but even that was more than he could afford. Then, a rare thing happened. He ran into Dr. Patrick Dowling, chief of the Department of Family Medicine at UCLA, at a health fair. Dowling arranged for free care — surgery and follow-up care worth $300,000. But, he says in the film, “We can’t do endless surgery on uninsured patients; it begs a national solution.”

There are 45 million more stories of uninsured people in the U.S., some no doubt as dramatic, some not. And there are an additional 25 million people who are underinsured, according to research reported by the Commonwealth Fund, which is helping to sponsor the panel discussion. In other words, they have health insurance, but it does not adequately cover their medical needs.

– Susan Brink

article from: LA Times.com

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