Grassroots Commentary

A Recent Personal Glimpse Into the Future of American Healthcare

By Joan Fischer · Jan. 2, 2013

My husband and I have lived in our home for nearly forty years. During that time, we have availed ourselves of the services of the nearby hospital/medical center several dozen times, for everything from emergency room visits to the birth of our last child. We have praised this particular hospital to the heavens, because, with one aberrational exception, the care we have received there has always been top-notch, compassionate, professional and excellent in every way. Our proximity to this institution has always been the source of a sense of real personal security for us.

I had major surgery a little over a week ago. This particular experience included the same kind of excellent care, with one exception in the person of a nurse who, during my stay, came into my room alone perhaps five times in order to perform one or another function. Quite contrary to the behaviors and personalities of the rest of the medical staff who tended to my needs, her behavior was, simply put, the behavior of someone who would rather be somewhere else doing something else, and she was making a special effort to make that perfectly clear to the patients she was serving. Not one word was spoken to me during the five blatantly obligatory visits she made alone to my room. However, whenever an RN or Patient Care Assistant was with her in the room, she was quite interactive, animatedly discussing her plans for the weekend, the shopping bargains she had found, etc. Yet when working alone, the unfriendliness and begrudging attitude were palpable.

Because a patient is in a uniquely precarious position when expressing even minor criticism to someone who is administering nursing care to her, I waited until her last visit with me to comment to her. As she turned to leave the room after her final, typically silent and morose visit, I asked her, quietly,“Am I an inconvenience to you?” Even then there was no reply, simply a very slight smirk, followed by a shuffling exit.

I made it a point not to watch television while hospitalized – the news especially. The state of America today is not particularly conducive to restorative peace of mind. But the day after I arrived home, the first news story I happened upon on FoxNews had to do with striking nursing home employees in Hartford, Connecticut.

It seems that last July several hundred nursing home employees, all members of a union that is a branch of SEIU (Service Employees International Union), went on strike against a chain of privately-owned Connecticut nursing homes, because the company wanted to make changes in their pension and healthcare coverage.

Before walking off the job and onto the picket line, many of the strikers saw fit to sabotage the nursing homes and their patients, many of whom were elderly, infirm and suffering from serious, life-threatening decline or dementia. Among other acts of sabotage, the strikers are reported to have removed patients' wristbands that contain critical identifying information, changed the names on the rooms of many Alzheimers patients so that the needs and requirements of the patients would be confused with those of others, etc.

After watching a video of the SEIU picketers outside of one of the nursing homes, I can tell you that the barbaric behavior and language of those striking healthcare workers were not indicative of the character of the kind of people I would want caring for me or one of my loved ones.

During the last five months, the nursing home owners have hired more than 600 temporary caregivers to pick up the slack in these facilities, and, according to the results of a recent patient survey, the residents in those facilities have been much happier with the care they are receiving from the newly-hired replacements than they were with the care they were receiving from the union workers.

Yet now the owners of the nursing homes have been ordered by a National Labor Relations Board judge to fire the 600 temporary employees and re-hire the striking SEIU workers, in spite of the facts that (1) the patients within those facilities believe they are receiving better care from their new caregivers, and (2) the striking union workers chose, through their sabotage, to intentionally put their patients' well being, and maybe even their very lives, in danger as an outlandishly selfish tool to extort their own economic demands from management.

That particular news story hit me broadside, and should affect every American in the same way. For many years SEIU and its many tentacles have been one of Barack Obamaís most favored unions (in bed with one another might be a more apt description), and one of his most ardent and extravagant special interest political supporters.

America's healthcare system has been the envy of the world for more than a century, working as a smooth-running machine, manned by tens of millions of well-educated medical professionals dedicated to finding cures for diseases, effectively and humanely treating diseases that have no cures, inventing miraculous apparatuses that make damaged or diseased human lives more pain free, or that make disabilities infinitely more tolerable, discovering drugs and treatments that alleviate human suffering, and creating brilliantly devised tests that help to determine the sources of that suffering. For more than a hundred years, millions of people in desperation have come to America to receive the finest, most professional and compassionate medical treatment in the history of man's walk on this planet.

And yet now Americans find themselves on the brink of being denied the ability to avail themselves of that painstakingly-honed privilege. Unbridled federal government dictates and regulations slapped on everything from pharmaceutical research to what a doctor may treat and what he may charge for that treatment, threaten to dismantle a system that has been successful beyond description in its goals of alleviating human suffering and extending the quality of human life. The American government itself has premeditatedly placed itself as a purposeful roadblock in the path of continued medical advancement and the continued availability of quality medical care. Burdensome regulations are severely oppressing interest in medical careers and medical professionals are leaving the profession in droves.

Add to these monstrously crippling bureaucratic regulations this administration's insatiable desire to support the monolith known as government service unions and the American healthcare system now finds itself tragically doomed to become a system in which the insatiable thirst for power over others, and the greedy desires of special interest groups who play into that power, take precedence over the quality of human life.

The quality of human life. Think about that phrase. Think about our Founders, whose over-riding vision was to ensure that government must not interfere with an American's ability to work, and strive, and sacrifice as he sees fit in order to achieve and maintain a high quality of life, as defined by him, for himself and his family.

Simply because they are on the administration's list of favored special interest groups, healthcare workers like the self-absorbed striking Connecticut nursing home workers who placed their own economic advantages far above the well being of those whose care lay in their hands are now the beneficiaries of government largesse, and blatant judicial favors, and the American people who are in need of quality healthcare be damned.

The nurse who made it begrudgingly clear to me that she had no interest in seeing to my well being and comfort will someday become the rule rather than the exception, as concern for the almighty dollar combined with skyrocketing healthcare costs resulting from gargantuan government interference in the American healthcare system succeed in driving genuinely knowledgeable and compassionate healthcare professionals from the field. As Obamacare begins to unleash its Draconian demands and regulations, each of us will begin witnessing our own microcosmic examples of this tragic, planned deterioration of the finest healthcare system in the history of mankind. It all boils down to an insatiable thirst for power, as mediocrity and self interest will become increasingly commonplace in a system that once prided itself on excellence, innovation, and a reverence for the dignity of human life.

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9 Comments

Trudy in alabama said:

I see the exact same thing, but in a different setting. As a retired member of the Armed Services, I shop in our local commissary (Army). The staff there are union, although I cannot determine to which union they belong. They are so very rude to the shoppers--mostly elderly, as am I. Not merely unhelpful--but rude--with swearing, vulgar comments, etc. They obviously don't know who fought for them and their right to work in a free country. I have never seen them act this way to the young, active-duty shopper.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 2:18 PM

joanie-f in PA replied:

Trudy, that is so wrong! We live in such an upside-down world at this point -- a world in which those who have earned respect and admiration are treated with anything but. And those who deserve neither are demanding and receiving praise and reverence. Thank you for your service, and know that there is still a large remnant of Americans out here who appreciate what you have done for our republic. Warm wishes for a New Year filled with personal peace, joy and contentment!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Barry up the road in Stevens said:

I was in a local hardware store earlier today and when I went to the register to pay for my purchase there was a notice posted telling customers that "due to new regulations and an outdated pump" they would no longer be selling kerosene. Joan, you know Paul B's.

This is a very small example of what is coming down the road for us.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 12:41 PM

joanie-f in PA replied:

Yes, we know Paul B's, Barry. So sad to hear their 'new policy', but you're right -- it's just a foretelling of things to come.

Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:17 AM

Don Rosen in Upland, CA said:

Joanie --

As usual, you hit the nail on the head. We're experiencing an accelerated version of your experience in California. Of course, the bureaucratic morass of misery has already been well-established on a state level, so the infrastructure for a federally-mandated program is already in place. In short, the California experience is simple, and should be noted because what spreads across the country often starts here.

It's not about quality care. It's about money, power, and above all, control. What better way to control a dependent population than by iron-fisted control over the one non-negotiable service all of us eventually need? The power of life and death is basic, and now rests in the hands of the federal government. The right to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government closely follows. And it's no surprise that that right is next on the hit list. It all fits together if you think about it.

A dependent population must be a helpless population. And a helpless citizenry must be disarmed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 1:21 PM

joanie-f in PA replied:

Well said, as always, Don. You and your other half should seriously consider relocating. The California disease is indeed spreading across the country, but you could enjoy a few years of increased quality of life somewhere else (preferably more remote) in the interim.

Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:19 AM

snopercod in Asheville, NC said:

Joan--

Related to Obamacare and Medicare/Medicaid is the severe financial squeeze that hospitals everywhere are experiencing due to freeloaders. At the hospital where my wife worked, at least one third of the patients paid absolutely nothing for top notch care. 19-year-old girls would have their fourth child delivered for nothing and think nothing of it. Welfare is a way of life for many people, it seems.

Needless to say, this little hospital was losing several million dollars per year; Before they got bought out, employees went for several years with zero percent raises, and their wages weren't that high in the first place. It was really heartbreaking to see and I fear it's only going to get worse.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 4:45 PM

joanie-f in PA replied:

Just another front on which the finest healthcare system in the history of mankind is being attacked, by an enemy that claims to have 'come to help'. Thanks for the interesting, if deeply depressing, observations, John.

Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:21 AM

snopercod in Asheville, NC replied:

I found this comment on a blog somewhere:I work in the healthcare industry, and I have to say that the insurance premium increases are just the tip of the iceberg that we can see. Any provider accepting Medicare/Medicaid, especially rural hospitals, are getting hit very hard with federal and state audits. And the audit agencies get paid a contingency fee on the money they declare "misspent". So, they are allowed to go back 3 years and declared services provided as "unnecessary" and take back the payments. The largest rate of denials is that the medical care provided was accurate, but the patient should not have been admitted to the hospital (inpatient). Then there are the pre-pay audits that hold up hospital payments anywhere from 60-90 days. Talk about a hit to cash flow. One person I spoke with says he appeals every denial, and he has a 96% win rate. However, only about 23% of denials across the nation are appealed. The word on the street in the industry is that the contracted auditing agencies are targeting small and rural hospitals/clinics/private practices who don't have the bandwidth to appeal the decisions, so they get to keep the money recouped.

At an audit conference I attended recently, a speaker stated she believed these audits were "veiled rationing".

My friends, the situation is dire and only going to get worse.

Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 7:39 AM