Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Stories: Richmond, VA

Susan, a nursing professor, has a few questions that need to be answered.

I am the head of a nursing department at a small university in Virginia. I had a student who graduated from my program and went on to get a graduate degree in midwifery. She went to do volunteer work in South America but had to return to the U.S. early once it was discovered that she had a chronic disease. She got treatment in the U.S., but then married a man from Manitoba and moved to Canada. I wanted to bring her back to my university to be a professor, but, due to waiting periods before coverage kicks in and other issues with health insurance, it turned out that she could not return to the U.S. due to the better care that she receives to treat her disease in Canada. This scenario illustrates one of many negative consequences of our poor health care system in the U.S.—how are we supposed to attract experts from around the world to work in the U.S. if the health care system we offer is so much worse than where they are coming from?

In addition to my full-time job as a nursing professor and administrator, I volunteer at a local free clinic. One of my patients was a student at a large state university who had had diabetes since she was young. She couldn’t get treatment through the university health system, because they refused to treat a chronic illness such as diabetes. College health plans are formed on the basis of their customers being young, healthy students, and basically only offer coverage for catastrophic situations. While skyrocketing health costs are one of the reasons that individuals declare bankruptcy in the U.S., the inability to financially afford college costs in addition to high health insurance premiums is a way that our health system affects the ability of people with chronic diseases to afford college.

Some opponents of health care reform claim that charities such as free clinics should be responsible for filling the gaps in our current health care system. However, I believe that free clinics are a sign that the health care system has failed, because they serve the working poor—not people who normally should be in need of charity. Free clinics are not available everywhere, the hours are limited and difficult for working people to attend, and there are long wait times. I even see people who work for companies that offer insurance—it’s just that there is a waiting period before their insurance coverage starts, so they are without health care even if they work for employers who offer it.

Richmond, Virginia

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The doctors in Canada are certainly dedicated, in my opinion, giving good health care for much less reward than doctors in the U.S. Americans dilike the waiting list for care in Canada. The Canadians like the choices of doctors and care they can get in the U.S., if they can pay for it. The pros and cons of both systems are still being discovered...