The recent debate over the state of American health care has many presidential candidates talking about the subject. Some – – Hillary Clinton, included – – intend to call for a total overhaul of the American health care system. On the surface, this sounds wonderful. I certainly agree that every human being should be entitled to good health care. However, I disagree that the government is the least bit capable of making that happen.
Case in point: Walter Reed Hospital – – the jewel in the crown of government health care – – which, as it turns out, may not be such a jewel after all. If that is the best there is, then we must ask what is the worst?
I can answer that question. The worst is provided to the military and their families, by the government. I know this because I’m a military brat who married a military man, which means that I have spent much of my almost 57 years with some form of military health care. To say that it is inferior is a major understatement.
Let’s begin at the beginning. When I was little, my father was in what, at the time, was called the Army-Air Force. It took an act of Congress to actually get in to see a doctor if you were a military dependent. It was little better for the actual military member.
I was a sickly child who managed to catch every disease known to man including whooping cough and scarletina (which at the time was supposed to be almost non-existent). Both of these diseases were mis-diagnosed by military doctors.
My mom was told I was “faking” the cough, which wracked my little five-year-old body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In frustration and fear because I was having so much trouble catching my breath, my mother finally loaded me up in the car and drove from New Mexico to Oklahoma to visit my childhood doctor. It took him all of one minute to diagnose the whooping cough.
About a year later, I suffered from high fever, delirium and redness all over my body. Again, the doctors on base told my mom that I was a high-strung child suffering from an imaginary illness. My mom, once again, took me back to Oklahoma. By the time we arrived there, my temperature was 106 degrees and I was unconscious. This time I was diagnosed with scarletina, which almost killed me at the age of five. What it did do is lead to heart damage and rheumatic fever, which severely effected most of my young life.
After that, my mom refused to take me to any military facility. Luckily, my health improved under good health care, even though my heart was irreparably damaged.
When I married my husband, I wasn’t at all sure how I felt about using military physicians during my pregnancy. Luckily, the base where we were stationed sent me to a civilian obstetrician because of my heart problems. Although my son was born on base during a major snowstorm, his pediatrician was civilian. My daughter was born off base and also saw a civilian pediatrician.
One time I did take my daughter on base because I suspected there was a problem with her leg. When I picked her up from day care that day, I discovered that she could no longer walk. Since she had just learned how to walk, and it was her favorite activity at the moment, I knew there was a problem. So I took her to the ER.
The doctor looked at me like I was an idiot, reminding me that my daughter wasn’t even crying. Although I explained that she rarely cried, even when she was hurt, he was condescending and refused my request for a x-ray. He told me to take her home and put hot packs on her leg but (quote) “not so damn hot, that you have to bring her back out here to have me treat her for burns.” (unquote). I went home in tears.
The next morning I took my daughter to her pediatrician who immediately x-rayed her leg. It was broken in three places. She had to wear a full leg cast for nearly three months. Needless to say, I didn’t make that kind of mistake again.
About five years ago, I visited an on-base doctor concerning a rough patch on my nose that kept getting worse. I was gruffly told to stop wearing makeup because I was infecting it. I tried to explain that I hadn’t been wearing makeup or any other kind of skin cream, but I was dismissed.
Over the course of a two-year time span, I brought the problem up each time I had to go in for my heart checkups. I was ignored each time until I finally met with a young physician’s assistant who actually took the time to look at the problem area. Not liking what she saw, she got an immediate referral for me to a local oncologist and plastic surgeon.
The next day, I was having skin cancer removed, which was less than a hair’s width away from invading my right eye. If not for the PA’s quick response, I would likely now be blind or worse. When I went back to thank the PA who helped me, I was told that she was gone. She had gotten out of the military because she didn’t like its health care system.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of experiences that will be likely with government health care. If anyone truly believes that good doctors and nurses are going to work long hours for low pay, they are seriously deluded. That is not to say that there aren’t dedicated physicians who will do the best they can. However, they will be few and far between and reserved for those patients deemed most worthy of their superior care.
If we have not learned from systems like the military or private PPO’s that mandated health care does not work, then we don’t deserve anything better. The goal, as I understand it, is to ensure everyone access to good care. That is commendable for certain and it should be explored, but I submit that the government is not a suitable entity for its oversight.
I encourage anyone who believes in a mandated health care system to do some research. Find out what does and doesn’t work within current systems. Seek out both the flaws and the successes. Understand what the likely outcomes might be. Be prepared. This is an important subject; one that might well effect your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren. It is not something to be taken lightly or to be decided quickly.
Hopefully, at some point our legislators will seek our input on this subject. But even if they don’t, we need to be prepared to make our opinions known. It is part of our responsibility as U.S. citizens to protect generations to come.