I heard a startling statistic today during the White House’s Healthcare Summit.
Sen. Kent Conrad reported that 5% of Medicare recipients receive 50% of the care thereby representing 50% of the costs. He referred to these recipients as the ‘chronically ill,’ a term that I’ve come to know intimately over the last 18 years. My beloved sister has systemic lupus erathymatosis. One by one, each of her organs, joints and connective tissues have or will become the enemy of her own immune system. That which was created to protect, indeed destroys.
He seemed to understand at first but like all politicians, somewhere his logic becomes flawed. He accurately characterized this 5% as those lost within “a system characterized by chaos.” He talked about the lack of coordinated care that is available to those who have multi-system issues that require coordinated efforts across specialities. He touted the great opportunity for cost containment by developing one coordinated effort to oversee improved health for these individuals. Finally, someone understood. It was so….sexy! I was throwin’ my draws right at the T.V. (much to chagrin of the other folks in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube)
But just like a man…he kept on talking. And all that “hot and bothered” flew right out the damn window. He recounted the story of his father in law (FIL) and his chronic illness. Conrad spoke of how he gained control over his FIL’s illness by reviewing the list of 16 prescription drugs he was on and how, with a phone call to the doctor, he had the number reduced to 8. He touted control of the drugs as a huge cost saving measure across the board. But then…he referred to his FIL’s mystery illness as – his final illness. Ugh, excuse me, Dr. Conrad? But could your drug slashing effort be the reason it was your FIL’s final illness? With all of the flaws in the system, does it really make sense to start your fixin’ with the drugs that keep the patients alive while hospitals, insurance companies and bean counters figure out the dollar value for a life? Perhaps if Conrad’s FIL had access to the other eight drugs, he would have the opportunity to enjoy many more illnesses. Who knows?
Here’s what I do know. Forget dollars and sense (that’s not a typo) for a moment. This is serious business. Make a bad decision and people can die. Not random people but people like you and me. Healthcare reform has a face. Let’s never forget. That face doesn’t belong to Paul Ryan or Eric Cantor or Harry Reid or even My Boo. That face belongs to my sister, your brother, our neighbor. If it doesn’t have a face for you today, chances are, it will eventually.
(Now I hate that I had to do this sad-ass post today…but sometimes a sistah’s gotta get behind some sh*t, you know what I’m sayin’?)
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…