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I Sit and Look Out

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A former colleague of mine suggested after reading my April 23 return column that I give readers more of my thoughts about health care.

Like all of us, I use health services. I am not a health professional nor an economist. I do have some knowledge of the medical world, however, since I have been a public member of the state Professional Medical Conduct Board.

To recap: I was sick when I was taken on Christmas Eve morning to the St. Francis Hospital emergency room in Roslyn. They had to stabilize me before doing an angiogram to confirm that I needed an aortic valve replacement. I do not remember the angiogram or the next 12 days because I was on a respirator and going in and out of consciousness.

But I was never in pain. The valve was replaced successfully on Jan. 16. Some days later I was sent to a rehab center and stayed there until Valentine's Day. Three weeks later, I had visits from Catholic Home Care's nurses and physical therapy personnel. Currently, I am in the middle of a 12-part rehab program three times a week for an hour each time at the St. Francis Hospital Cardiac Fitness and Research Center.

All of these institutions are outstanding, even remarkable. They saved my life and brought me back to a more normal existence. The doctors, nurses, aides and rehab people have all been superb.

Now, what did all this cost? Not all the bills are in, but it is no exaggeration to believe the total cost will be somewhere in the low six-figures.

Naturally, I am not paying that. Elaine and I have Medicare coverage — thank you, President Lyndon Johnson — and I have a good retirement health plan from my last employer. This also affords us good drug benefits and a slightly less good dental program — but we pick our own dentists.

Some money is taken out of Medicare to pay for this, some out of my pension. In all, I would estimate that we pay a good deal under $5,000 annually for these benefits before small out-of-pocket expenses.

It has been estimated by the AARP that there are 47 million uninsured Americans. But even those with insurance have reported that higher prices made them delay doctor visits, limited such visits to serious conditions or skipped or not filled medical prescriptions.

For the "greatest nation in the world," this is intolerable.

Much will be said about health care in this election year. Plans will be put forward — some good, some not. Accusations will be hurled and buzzwords will be used to distract us from substance.

But when I look at what I owe to Medicare and my former employer, I also look at this: There are more than 304 million Americans. The insane Iraq War has probably caused us to spend more than half a trillion dollars so far. Almost $342 million is spent each day, which means this stupidity is costing every man, woman and child almost $1,800 each — so far.

If we can afford this disgraceful conflict, why can't we afford to follow the lead of other industrial nations and give all our people proper health care? You can do the math.

When told this country cannot afford to ensure health care for all its citizens, I can only answer with that great old New York City expression: bushwa!

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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