Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is There A Doctor In The House?

About five or six years ago, I was watching a news program, something like “60 Minutes” or “20/20”, and they did a really long piece about the day in the life of some politician in Washington. This politician, whose name I can’t remember, talked in great detail about the frustration of his job. His frustrations weren't what you would think they’d be -- nope -- this politician was saying that once you get elected to an office a lot of your time is consumed by making sure that you stay in office. He mentioned that it seems like a day doesn't go by that he doesn’t have to attend some fundraiser for himself, his party or one of his colleagues – which means a lot of those $200-$300 a plate benefits with constituents and who knows how many meetings and get-togethers with the lobbyists or the political action groups that helped him get elected.

Now, let’s go forward to what’s happening today in Washington, D.C. with health care reform. I can’t tell you if that politician that I watched years ago is even in office today, but I’m sure things haven’t changed when it comes to what a politician has to do to stay in office today; and that's to continuously raise money for the next election campaign.

And when it comes to health care reform – it’s a safe bet that these politicians aren't listening to the people who voted them into office – they’re concentrating more on the special interest groups that put them into office. You know who these special interest groups are – the insurance companies, the drugs companies, lawyers, etc. – all of those people that have a vested interest in making sure that they things don’t change and they can continue making money hand over fist while more and more people are losing medical coverage or going bankrupt trying to finance hospital and doctor bills.

I want to scream every time I see a politician in Washington being interviewed on one of the cable news channels that says that there isn’t a health care crisis in America and there are a lot of politicians out there who believe that. Who in the hell are they fooling? They should get away from their comfortable office in Washington and away from their staff (who I'm sure are handsomely paid and who's job gives them fantastic medical coverage to boot); and they should stay far far away from the lobbyists and influence peddlers and take a up close and personal look at America’s broken health care system.

They can see what health care in America is really like by visiting a free clinic. The free clinic in the area where I live is only open three days a week from 8 am until noon. Although the doors to the clinic open at 8 am – there are people lining up outside the door at 3 o’clock in the morning so that they can hopefully be seen by a doctor or be given the medications that they need to live. It doesn't

matter if it’s the middle of the summer or some of the coldest days of winter – people still line up outside of the clinic at 3 o’clock in the morning. The people know that if they get in line at 3 o’clock in the morning – there’s a good chance they’ll be seen – if they get to the clinic any later – their odds diminish because the clinic can only take twenty or so people each day. When the doors open at 8 and you’re number 21, 22, 23, 24….they’ll tell you that they’re sorry and invite you to come in tomorrow and play the waiting game again, but there are no guarantees that you’ll be seen if you’re stuck being number 21+ again the next day.

The people that you will find waiting in line at the free clinic aren’t bums or drug addicts. Some of the people that come to the free clinic work and have jobs but can't afford health care. Some of the people who come to the clinic have just fallen on hard times and the free clinic is their last resort and hopefully their key to feeling better. I’m sure that some of the people feel bad about having to come to a free clinic for medical attention – but they soon discover that the volunteers and the doctors who work there have an incredible amount of love and compassion for their patients and they are treated more like a person than they would have had in any other doctor's office. Patients at a free clinic discover that there is someone that cares about them and their health care needs.

One of the drawbacks about this free clinic and probably others around the country is the waiting. Because of the demand for health care and the need to see a doctor -- you have to do a lot of waiting. On top of waiting in line outside to get into the clinic – there’s more waiting once you get inside to see a doctor – and once you see the doctor – there’s the additional wait for you to receive your medications. A visit to the free clinic can begin at 3 in the morning and end some nine hours later and although the hours of waiting can be long – the patients at the free clinic are grateful for everything. How do I know? I was one of those patients for nearly a year and I don’t know what I would have done without them.

I just wish that all of the politicians who are deciding what changes that need to be made to our health care system would take a break from their special interest groups and lobbyist friends and visit a free clinic. Let them see first hand what people with no insurance, no job or money has to do to get relief from pain and sickness. And these politicians shouldn't be allowed to be whisked in to the clinic for a quickie visit with the doctors and volunteers – nope, they should wait outside for four hours or so with everyone else – trying to keep warm when the temperatures are in the teens. And, I wonder how that politician would feel after waiting for hours on end to be told that the clinic had reached their quota for the day and would have to come back again tomorrow. Once they had to face something like that -- maybe, just maybe they would find it hard to deny that America’s health care system isn’t broke and actually work to fix it.

No comments: