July 30, 2009
Where Obama Lost Me (and Lots of Soccer/Hockey/Volleyball Moms): The Avoided Tonsillectomy
Posted by Christine Hurt

Two disclaimers:  (1) we rarely talk politics here at the Glom and (2) I voted for Obama.  That being said, Obama lost me last week.  (I think he also "jumped the shark" with the "come over for a beer" invitation, but I guess that's for another day.)

Obama lost me in his fifth press conference on health care reform.  Hey, no one likes the health care system.  We all want a better system.  It very well may be that a national health care system, while imperfect, would be better.  But the argument that Obama made, which I'm sure was vetted by lots of people before he said it (because I've watched The West Wing), completely made me want to filibuster.  I saw the headline last week, and I had meant to look at it later.  When I looked for it today, I realized that many other people had the same reaction.  President Obama:  your tonsillectomy example scares me to death.

OK, in case you don't know what I'm talking about.  Obama was trying to make an argument that in our current system, if doctors know that a more expensive, but unnecessary treatment is paid for my insurance of Medicare/Medicaid, then that's the treatment option that is suggested.  I have no idea if this is true, and I'm not sure of a good way to empirically test it.  My own experience is that my doctors are usually very cost-conscious and give me several options, but that's an "N" of 1.  So, Obama says, "So if they're looking and -- and you come in and you've got a bad sore throat, or your child has a bad sore throat, or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, "You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out."  Unstated here is that under the Obama plan, your kid doesn't get his tonsils out.

AAAARRGGGHHH!  Someone needs to take the president aside and explain to him that yes, a large portion of the voting, taxpaying public fears medical overcharging.  This may be a problem, and if it is, then a new system should not have incentives to overcharge.  But another large portion of the public fears undertreatment.  Some people lie in bed worrying that they'll get cancer and it will bankrupt their family.  Other people lie in bed worrying that they have cancer, but their doctor won't order the right test that will catch it in time.  And nationalized health care really scares the second group of people because it conjures up nightmarish scenarios of waiting lists and rationing.  If the second group is going to buy in to health care reform, then you have to allay their fears, not confirm them.

As a parent, I am quite familiar with the near-continuous string of ear infections and the near-continuous string of strep throat diagnoses.  Maybe Obama has never taken the baby in for its umpteenth ear infection, hoping that someone will put in tubes and maybe someone in your house will get a full night's sleep, and then been told that his insurer requires him to go through another round of amoxicillin, which seems to be as effective as liquid Flinstone vitamins.  We have been very lucky in having great doctors that moved as quickly as possible, given standard protocols.  What drives fear into my heart is that one of my children will have strep four or five times in one season, missing 8 days of school (and that goes for me, too), but a tonsillectomy is out of the question because the federal government says no.

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