December 30th, 2009
01:53 PM ET

Two parents' view of health care reform

Editor’s note:
We profiled the King family in our 2008 documentary, “Broken Government: Health Care Critical Condition.” Matthew King was born in 2005 with a congenital heart defect requiring intensive medical care, which quickly ate up the family’s $2 million health insurance policy. The Kings avoided disaster only because Michael’s employer, the Las Vegas Police Department, raised the lifetime limit on its policies. We invited Terri and Michael to share their concerns about the health care bills that were passed by the House and Senate.

By Mike and Terri King

As the parents of a medically fragile child who will need open-heart surgeries for the rest of his life, we are terrified about these health care bills. We think this is just a gateway to socialized medicine, which we are against!

First and foremost, when the government pays your medical bills, it can restrict your behavior. Just imagine helmets required for children’s soccer, or a ban on fattening foods. We’re also afraid of the 40 percent excise tax on expensive health care plans. Won’t some companies just drop coverage altogether, and transfer the cost to the government? (The House bill would require most companies to offer coverage, but the Senate bill has fewer requirements). Won’t they pass on those exorbitant costs to their customers? Most alarming to a family like ours: Will they cut back needed treatments to make the policies less expensive?

The bill is full of new taxes – more than a dozen, and we might be missing some. One tax will be on our medical devices, which is insidious because it’s up to the government to define what is a “medical device.” For a while they talked about about taxing tampons and Q-tips. That’s out, but the Senate bill does have a big tax on tanning beds. What’s next? With all these new taxes, our premiums are going to skyrocket.

We believe this health care overhaul would leave us with less choice in Matthew's health care. We’re afraid that with all the new taxes sucking money out of the system, there will be less funding, and less incentive, to innovate and find new medications.

We also feel we’ll spend much more time in waiting rooms, waiting to see our doctors. Have you been to an emergency room or a department of motor vehicles lately? Citizens in countries with socialized medicine can wait months to see a specialist. Prior to an open-heart surgery, our son needs tests from many different specialists. From what we’ve heard, in Britain or Canada it could take months or even years to get that done. When the pressure in Matthew’s heart begins to rise again, we won’t have that long to wait.

Instead of increasing government involvement in our lives, we should lessen it. We need freedom to decide what we want for our families, whether it’s a health savings account and catastrophic coverage, or sticking with a traditional policy. We need more insurance choices, with companies allowed to sell policies in any state. We also need tort reform. Something needs to be done to stop expensive and frivolous lawsuits that force doctors to order needless tests and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in malpractice insurance.

The health care system might be broken now, but this bill is a mess that’s not going to fix anything.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. CEG

    Healthcare is expensive to receive because it is expensive to provide. This is worsened because the average American (don’t forget 49% are below average) wants to spare no expense or effort when they or their family are sick but is not willing to go to the trouble to stay healthy. When patients come to the doctor or hospital they want a pill or a procedure rather than be sent home with advice to lose weight or stop smoking to cure their problem. The cost of care is not a concern for most covered by insurance once their deductable has been met and those on Medicare and especially Medicaid are having their bills paid by hardworking taxpayers. Taxpayers with insurance pay their monthly premiums, then their deductable, and finally their co pay in addition to paying taxes to cover government healthcare programs for others, many of whom pay no taxes and make no effort to stay healthy. Americans are the fattest, sickest people in the developed world and if the obesity prevalence returned to 1991 levels we would save a TRILLION dollars annually. Every competing healthcare entity has the latest greatest multimillion dollar CT, MRI, PET scanner and patients demand the best and doctors get sued if they miss a diagnosis because they don’t order the latest test. If you have the ignorance or misfortune to end up in an ER, every conceivable test related to your complaint will be done to protect against a malpractice suit. Because of Federal bureaucratic laws relating to extensive required documentation and mandated procedures, all administered by highly trained expensive personnel, everything you get in a hospital will cost 10 times what the real cost should be. 80% of Medicare dollars are spent in the last 6 months of life where heroic efforts and expenditures are made to stave off the inevitable. The same goes for profoundly premature infants who usually have severe impairments if they survive, requiring further lifelong expense and support. We have a legal and philosophical mindset to preserve life at all cost without regard to the quality of life. You cannot maintain that mindset with the latest technology and expensive new drugs and significantly reduce costs. Those who believe that all Americans should have government (i.e. taxpayer) provided health insurance might as well extend that philosophy to malpractice (which is far more expensive), car, home, and other insurance. Ultimately, those that work and pay their own way will also have to also pay the way of those that don’t, and the non worker who pays no taxes will vote to elect someone who will give them taxpayer entitlement support. Right now healthcare is rationed by either what the individual can afford or by what the government and insurance companies will cover. Ultimately to control costs there will need to be some form of rationing aimed at cost effectiveness, a change in the mindset of Americans towards accepting death in futile situations, a change in malpractice liability, and enforcement of individual, corporate, and government responsibility and accountability. Unfortunately not a single one of these criteria are currently viewed as politically correct. Yes, we absolutely need changes but it will be the wrong changes if politicians are allowed to meddle with individual health choices because they have a proven track record of expensive and wasteful failures including housing projects, the Post Office, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, bankrupt social security, pending Medicare bankruptcy, FEMA waste and fraud, and the gargantuan bailouts of companies consequent to the failed government supervision of banks. The fact that those in congress accepted bribes for their recent healthcare votes in the way of various exceptional funding to their states to further their political interests should outrage all Americans. You don’t want your healthcare to be in the hands of politicians who care more about re election than your well being.

    December 30, 2009 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jeff

    Mike and Terri are very, very lucky that the $2 million life-time limit was lifted. What if it wasn't? What about those who are not so lucky? Without some type of government program they and others like them would otherwise have no healthcare for their child.

    Private insurers already ration and restrict care in myriad ways depending on the caliber of the policy one can afford to have. My wife is on numerous medications for chronic diseases and, while we are well-insured by my employer, the insurance company continues to practice medicine without a license by stipulating which medication(s) she can have at which level of co-pay. We are fortunate that we can afford our co-pays thanks to my employer-sponsored flexible-spending account plan. Others are not so lucky.

    Mike and Terri state, "Citizens in countries with socialized medicine can wait months to see a specialist. Prior to an open-heart surgery, our son needs tests from many different specialists. From what we’ve heard, in Britain or Canada it could take months or even years to get that done"

    I am tired of the "haves" trotting out the tired lies about the health-care systems in progressive countries like England and Canada. If Mike loses his job or his employer decides to change the life-time limit once again, then a government-sponsored plan that forces competition with the for-profit insurers will suddenly seem like a good idea.

    December 31, 2009 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Terri

    I am all for insurance reform and tort reform.
    Never government run.

    January 8, 2010 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Melanie

    First, the direct and indirect expense of tort on healthcare is less than 2% of all healthcare spending. So even if you had extremely aggressive tort reform that eliminated 90% of tort expense the effect would be negligible. So any talk of tort reform as a solution or even a partial solution is rediculous.

    Second, as 1) a health economist who has actually read all of the bills proposed cover to cover, 2) a former resident of one of the "socialized medicine" countries mentioned, and 3) someone who has medically fragile family members both in the US and other countries, the viewpoints expressed above reflect believing blindly in the rhetoric provided by politicians this family trusts rather than reality. I would urge them to check out the wait times in the UK themselves, which can easily be done by doing an internet search for the NHS wait time database. You will find these are comparable, if not BETTER than the typical wait times experienced by those with insurance in the US. Moreover, Canada does not, in fact, have a "socialized medicine" system.

    The parents seem to worry about healthcare rationing, but forget that it is only a last minute change that kept them from being rationed out of a system (incidentally, this would NOT happen under the UK or Canadian systems). Perhaps it will seem like a good idea when, inevitably, their child hits that new upper limit. Rather than rely on hearsay or "what you've heard", do a little investigating yourself. If you rely on credible websites, you will find that the vast majority of what politicians on both sides of the aisle is largely inconsistent with reality.

    January 14, 2010 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    It's time to PARACHUTE in food, water, and med supplies to the people of Haiti.

    All other transfer methods are too slow!

    January 14, 2010 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.