Retired Fireman’s Political 5 Alarm Fire

August 30, 2008

Socialized Medicine

Filed under: The Fireman's Fav's — Retired Fireman @ 11:48 pm

Due to a comment tonight over on Michelle Malkin’s blog, I decided to dust off this article I wrote a few years back for my old blog and post it.  It may have some of the referrences out of date, but it is still just as relevant today as ever.

Also, looks like I will be returning to this blog and making regular posts, now that I have a reason to be excited about this election and have quite a lot built up to say.  So come back soon and I can guarantee that there will actually be updates once again.

Socialized Medicine

The left repeatedly makes the claim that “everyone has the right to healthcare”. OK…we won’t bring up what is and isn’t in the Bill of Rights, but I am pretty darned certain that it isn’t there. We do have the right to the pursuit of happiness and being healthy goes a long way towards that goal. However, all that says to me is that we have a healthcare system that is beyond doubt the best in the country in terms of the quality of the medical professionals and the treatments and medications provided. The United States leads the world in education, research, and medications. People from all over the world come here specifically for treatments they can not receive in their own countries. People come here to train in our medical colleges. Just take a look at your own doctor or the treating physician and nurses at your local hospital. Take a look in your local paper to see which child has come here for some obscure medical treatment they can only receive here. Oh sure…there are certain procedures that are done in other countries that aren’t done here, but that is because they haven’t yet passed our rigorous testing to ensure the safety and effectiveness standards yet.

Socialized medicine means that anyone at anytime can be treated for anything without worrying about the cost. From a “feel good” level it sounds great. The rallying cry for the Dems is that “Umpteen million people have lost their healthcare”. I personally do not understand that. Companies do not have to supply people with health and life insurance. This is something that came out of the labor movement, and was actually begun in the mining industry as a way to ensure the health and welfare of minors. It caught on and today is a bargaining point when looking or a job. You know, “What kind of benefits package do I get?” However, in this country, health insurance is available to everyone. A responsible person or parent spends the extra $100 bucks or so that it is offered. Where do I get that number? Well it is only from personal experience. When I was a single parent and quit my day job with the “bennies” I was left with needing to get insurance or suffer high medical bills. I searched around and was able to get a BETTER medical plan than was provided by my former municipal employer for $92 dollars a month. Compare that with the COBRA rate I was offered to pay to continue the coverage I had with the city I worked for of over 450 dollars a month. It is out there. The entitlement class, however, has a different view of the way these things are done.

Last summer I had the opportunity to have a discussion with someone at the California State Fair. Prior to my becoming a Firefighter/Paramedic, I worked in the entertainment industry as a Union Stagehand. I worked on films, a couple of television series, concerts, stage shows etc. One of my union brothers, who is also my fishing buddy, was working one of the stages there and I stopped in to see him. The guy he was working with is a parent and works hard trying to make ends meet. The industry is rough as steady jobs are rare and you usually work from gig to gig, feast or famine like. We got into the discussion of healthcare. It became apparent to me where the thought process of the entitlement class lie. He was complaining about the high price of healthcare. He then went on to say how I really couldn’t discuss this issue as I was covered at work. It became apparent that everyone thinks that just because you have insurance at work that it does not cost anything. Well…just look at your paycheck. I don’t know about the rest of you, but in order for me to cover myself, my wife and my 4 children, they deduct over $600 out of my check every month. There is no free ride. Everyone’s benefits package varies, but even my wife, who is now unemployed and staying home with the kids, recently received her COBRA bill and it, too, is over $600.

This “free healthcare” myth is incredibly prevalent. Just look at the argument of how many people have “lost their medical coverage”. The coverage is there, it’s just that it either isn’t coming out of their checks anymore, their companies no longer provide “options” or the companies are no longer even in business. As it stands now in this country, ANYONE can obtain medical insurance. It is really just a question of how it is paid for.

So…Socialized Medicine. What does this mean for us as First Responders? I can really only speak for myself. I am aware that every fire department is different and not all of them respond to medical aids. FDNY has a separate EMS division, and the engines and trucks respond to fires, and the medics respond to medical aids. I am a Firefighter/Paramedic. My department currently has 22 houses with 10 medics (ambulances). We are over 50% medics in our sworn staff of over 400. Currently, when you graduate the academy, you are placed in a “detail pool” of 150. You split your time between a medic and either a truck or engine, meaning one rotation of 4 shifts on the medic and then one rotation of 4 shift on either a truck or engine. This goes on for about 5 years until you get enough seniority to be permanently assigned to either a truck or engine. We run over 64,000 calls a year. Over 80% of those calls are medical aids.

Not all of the people we run on have insurance. In the State of California, if you make a minimum annually, the State covers you. Everyone has the right to be treated, and by law, you are to be treated for your medical emergency before you are even asked for insurance at the hospital. As we all know…money is not required to be treated. Our medics run anywhere on average 13-20 calls a shift. Our shifts are 24 hours long. Do the math. Of course, not all those calls are “legitimate” emergencies. We have a large contingency of “residentially challenged urban campers” who, when it is cold, they are hungry, drunk, or need to get somewhere, have figured out the system. They call us with a bogus complaint that gets them to the hospital. Once there, they “AMA” out and thus your tax dollars have just provided a very expensive taxi ride. The complaints vary, but they tend to be something that guarantees them transport without having to have a treatment done. This also works for someone with a minor cut, a bump on the head, flu like symptoms, colds etc. When explained to them that it is not a life threatening emergency (you know…the reason we are coming with lights and sirens) and that they can go themselves or call their private doctor, and that they might not want to incur the $900 fee for an ambulance ride, the response is the same. “I don’t care…I’m not paying for it”. The other misnomer is that the general public feels that going to the hospital in an ambulance guarantees that they will be seen sooner. This is false due to the fact that a patient is seen on a severity of complaint basis.

“I ain’t paying for it”. No, they are not. Who is? You are. Your tax dollars go towards paying for their trip and their time spent in the ED. Our ED’s are over worked and filled to the brim now with people who should be going to a clinic or their private physicians. So what does this have to do with Socialized Medicine? Let’s think for a moment. What will happen if EVERYONE has the same healthcare coverage? This coverage is funded by the government. You know…TAX DOLLARS! Currently, the State of California only pays pennies on the dollar for medical treatment and transport. This is crippling services and treatments in that companies that provide these services struggle to stay in business. The higher cost of fuel alone damages the industry. If everyone had the thought of “I ain’t paying for it” and were then given to calling an ambulance for transport to the central medical facility, then think about how many calls there would be per shift? The closest thing to socialized medicine is the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers. These hospitals also house the physician’s offices. If you call to make an appointment for something, you may wait months to see your doctor. Labor and Delivery departments are basically clearing houses with several women all in one room waiting to deliver. Pharmacies are also located in the same building, and you can’t go to your neighborhood drug store to fill your prescription. You are assigned a number and that’s what you are known by. You do not get a choice as to who your physician is, but are assigned one, and changing physicians can take months. Don’t even get me started about what happens should you need a specialist. When you have a problem and need to talk to a doctor, you call an “advice nurse”. No matter what the complaint, the response from this nurse is always the same. “Call 911.” Imagine our country if that was the norm for healthcare? Imagine your world at work if that was the answer to every complaint. “I ain’t paying for it”.

Does this sound a little far fetched? Look at the current call volume for medical aids. Look at the types of medical aids we roll on as mentioned above. Think about what it would be like in your tax base if you had to pay for something that you weren’t using daily, if at all, but everyone else in the country did.

The other point I brought up with this guy at the fair was this. Which doctor would you rather visit? A doctor who has taken the time and energy to continue his studies and specialties based on the fact that the more he knows and the better he is at what he does, the more he is paid better and the more he can charge patients based on his knowledge. Compare that to the doctor that knows the minimum for his job because he is paid for the job only, with no chance of advancement based on his continuing education. This guy stated that this argument is far fetched and the extreme. I told him it isn’t because that is exactly what socialized medicine means. The government would be paying the bill and therefore would set the salary range for physicians. Without having the opportunity to make more money based on knowledge and expertise, the incentive base is removed and human nature takes over. Sure, there will be the exceptions to that rule, but they will be rare. Human nature is what it is. It is the reason that socialism and communism does not work. Humans always want more, and are not satisfied with the fact that everyone has the same. It is why we strive to get raises at work. It is why we strive to get an education. It is why we work overtime; in order to get more. If you knew that it didn’t matter what you knew, or how hard you worked, that you would never advance or get paid any differently, would you try? Would you put forth the effort? No, you wouldn’t. Why bother? Is this the type of physician you want taking care of you and your family?

So I ask you, who is the fool? The person that wants to maintain the way our physicians look for knowledge and gain the experience needed? To keep our ED’s from continuing to be over worked and understaffed? To keep our 911 system from being the private taxi service for hang nails? To keep you taxes as low as they can be and not used to fund people that are too irresponsible to take care of themselves and their families? Or is it the entitlement feel good class that thinks everyone will be better off in a cattle like medical system paid for by those that have jobs and struggle to take care of their own?

When you are presented with a person that backs the Socialized Medicine plan, ask them this question and tell me the answer you get:

“Why should I pay for your healthcare?”


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