It’s Time to Deliver

Yesterday there was a gathering at the Federal Building, downtown Providence at Kennedy Plaza. Again, I was struck by how many busy professional people were able to make the time to be there. I counted two doctors, two nurses, a social worker, a retired rescue captain– all there to petition our representatives in Congress to give us real health care reform.

One nurse who spoke gave me permission to post her testimony, so here are the words of Kelly Shinners, RN…

I’m here to talk about the crisis of care that exists today in the area of mental health treatment–specifically the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

Day after day I see patients discharged too soon, often without access to medications essential to the prevention of relapse. I hear people tell me that yes, they will relapse if they are discharged before they are ready. Too often these people are back a week later, with all their previous treatment wiped away. All too often I hear nothing more about a person like this until I read his or her obituary in the paper.

This kind of situation does not happen because a doctor or caregiver has failed to do his or her job. It doesn’t happen because a social worker is ignorant or unaware of appropriate aftercare programs. And this is not because the patient doesn’t want to get well. The reason patients are going out the door–early and unequipped–is because they are being pushed out by insurance companies which set limits on patient care which cripple and undermine the efforts of the healthcare professionals to provide patients with appropriate care. By denying claims for these patients, insurance companies are taking the decision out of the hands of the caregivers, an act that is dangerous and sometimes even deadly for the patient.

For someone dealing with the disease of addiction, proper treatment is a matter of life and death, because the next drink may lead to organ failure or a fatal accident, the next drug to an overdose. To Big Insurance, these individual are nothing more than numbers on a list; they might tell you that everyone is getting adequate treatment but every day I see a different story playing out, over and over.

I wish I could say that what the insurance companies are telling us is true– that patients who are denied treatment or who slip through the cracks are few and far between, that everything’s just fine the way it is. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and I know because I see it every day in my work. In actuality, the denial of care is the norm rather than the exception, because that’s how the Insurance game works–PROVIDING HEALTH CARE IS CONSIDERED A LOSS TO THEM!

It’s obvious to everyone, no matter their political slant, that there is a crisis in healthcare today. Healthcare professionals and workers have been more than reasonable in giving insurance companies a chance to participate in healthcare reform, but this is not enough for them.

Rather than work for their money under a ‘Medicare for All’ system, or prove that they can deliver the same care for less money as they claim by competing with the ‘Public Option’ as the ‘Private Option’, insurance companies are spending millions of your premium dollars to insure that nothing changes.

They cover the young and healthy (as long as there are no preexisting conditions, of course) and leave the elderly and the sick and the desperately needy to rely on charity, and on the government-supported healthcare already in place: Medicare and Medicaide.

If Big Insurance doesn’t want to operate in honest competition, in the spirit of legitimate concern for others–if they continue to treat the addicts, the mentally ill, and others as abstract numbers on a page–then my suggestion is that they be cut out of the equation entirely. We institute a single-payer system, one that’s been proven to work over and over, in country after country around the world.

It isn’t just a slogan. We need real healthcare reform, and we need it now.

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