Carroll County Times

Culleton: Health care isn't a 'bad thing'

This is an election year and the electronic media is loaded with political ads. My favorite (I have viewed two different versions) warns voters that if they vote for a Democrat some “bad things” will inevitably occur. The joke is that all the “bad things” would be welcomed in this household.

For example Nancy Pelosi, born and raised in Baltimore, was a very effective speaker of the House and important legislation was passed under her leadership, including the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. Among other important features this act provided for coverage of preexisting conditions. Republicans who ran against this act in 2016 are discovering that this feature is very popular, and many of them, including those who signed on to a court suit to block this provision, are proclaiming that they really are in favor of this provision.


The Republican ads warn against her reinstatement as House speaker. The aforementioned Republican “bad things” advertisement warns against a complete government takeover of health care. As it turns out, this household depends on Medicare to pay much of our significant medical bills. We have other relatives who depend on Medicaid. These are government programs developed under Democrats.

When I worked for the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, during the period when Medicare was first developed many years ago, I was tasked with writing a staff paper describing the histories of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. These early health insurance programs were developed during the Great Depression because hospitals and doctors had trouble getting paid. Blue Shield was developed by the American Medical Association. When I read the AMA Journal as part of my research I noted that the AMA took a strong stance against the “corporate practice of medicine.”


Today, in most jurisdictions including Maryland, both doctors and hospitals now report to various corporate entities. Some of these corporations have the audacity to claim to be nonprofit entities. But they pay their executives huge salaries. The net result is that our nation has the highest health cost per capita in the world at $10,348. On average, other wealthy countries spend about half as much per capita on health than the U.S. Australia, for example, spends less than half as much at $4,708. However the quality of our national health care as measured by life expectancy ranks 53rd among all nations.

One of my nieces married an Australian. Eventually they moved to Australia. He is elderly and has serious health problems. In Australia, if your income exceeds a certain limit, you are expected to buy hospitalization insurance. But my family members there pay nothing for health care. When he has a medical appointment he is taken to and from his appointment for free. When I have a medical appointment in Westminster, one of our children has to take time off from work to drive me to and from the appointment. Medicare has flaws. If I have an attack and am taken to the hospital by ambulance, I am charged a fee for that service. If I am held over for observation, Medicare does not cover the first three days. So I have other insurance.

Medicare Part D covering drugs pays full list price for the drugs. One of the few sensible proposals made by President Donald Trump is the negotiation of price reductions with the drug vendors. Canada negotiates these prices as does our Veterans Administration. I am a Korean Era veteran but there are no VA facilities in or close to Carroll County and VA wait times for appointments are notoriously long. I don’t pay for Part D. My other insurance covers drugs. One of the specialists I need to visit periodically is a neurologist. This doctor is overburdened with patients. Sometimes, I have to wait months for an appointment. We lose neurologists to other jurisdictions regularly because they can make more money elsewhere. Corporate medicine strikes again.

The threat of a total government takeover of health care is a false one. Indeed all of the “bad things” listed in the Republican ad are good things. The Democrats could not have written up a better platform.