Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Health care reform is the most contentious issue facing Americans today. Across the country, town halls are jam packed with citizens testifying, arguing, rallying and criticising. The air is thick with tension as the shrieks of sky high premiums! Socialized medicine! Government take over! Death panels! and Pre-existing conditions! shoot off like thousands of fire works over a Fourth of July weekend.

Is there anywhere in this great nation where people have access to quality, affordable health care, where doctors can treat their patients with a minimum of red tape, where cost containment doesn't lead to the specter of rationed health care and millions more uninsured?

Yes there is. It's on TV.

Just turn on your favorite soap opera or medical drama and you will see folks getting top notch care without exorbitant co-pays or double price hikes.

The long-running CBS sudser "The Young and the Restless" is a perfect place to start. Currently, there are 3 residents of Genoa City facing a serious health care crisis, but figuring out how to pay for it isn't one of them.

First up is model Lily. Newly married and hoping to start a family, she has since learned she has cancer. We know Lily is really suffering because she has lost her hair and wears nothing but sweats these days. However, she's bravely enduring chemo with the full knowledge that her teenage bout with VD has not been ruled a "pre-existing condition", thus denying her provider the chance to drop her coverage just when she needs it the most.

In fact, Lily is not the only gal on "Y&R" that has battled cancer and was subsequently treated humanely by the insurance industry. Several years ago, master chemist and Jabot heiress Ashley Abbot was diagnosed with breast cancer. She bravely pulled through and never once fretted about co-pays, rising premiums or being referred to one of Sarah Palin's ominous "death panels". Indeed, freed from these pressures, Ashley could concentrate on her recovery and, more importantly, decide if she should tell her young daughter Abby that Brad, the man who has raised her, is not her biological father, but that super tycoon Victor Newman is (Ashley wisely chose to stay silent for the time being).

But back to the present. While Lily is bravely enduring her trials, across town spokes model Sharon is experiencing a different type of medical crisis.

The death of her daughter, a divorce and an unhappy remarriage have pushed Sharon to a shattering mental breakdown. What's more, she's pregnant with no less than 3 guys (husband Jack, ex-husband Nick and brother-in-law Billy) as a possible sire. However, her health insurance clearly recognizes that mental illness is every bit as real as cancer and thus covers its treatment equitably. That's why even though Sharon is confined to a lock-down facility, she has her own room, is allowed visitors, receives prenatal doctor visits and still sports her designer wardrobe and high heels.

Last, but not least, is plucky toddler Summer. The daughter of Nick (Sharon's ex) and his possessive wife Phyllis, Summer has one of those Extremely Rare Food Allergies and landed in ICU a few weeks back. She, too, received top notch care and while her parents ranted and raved about who poisoned their child (it was nut job Patty/Mary Jane), neither Nick or Phyllis wondered how they would pay the resulting hospital bill. Furthermore, Nick and Phyllis' health insurance has no long waits for referrals. Turns out, little Summer needs to see a specialist and their health care provider quickly recommended one--in Zurich. When last seen, Phyllis and Summer were heading to the airport with hopeful hearts and comprehensive coverage intact.

Of course, no health care delivery system is perfect and Genoa City is no exception. Their primary lapse, however, is not in treatment or cost containment, but security. For instance, Ashley was able to artificially inseminate herself with Victor Newman's banked sperm without anyone being the wiser--including Victor and the sperm bank's staff. And she wasn't the the only gal in town to pull off this stunt. Another of Victor's ex-wives also swiped his "man juice", but apparently forgot to read the fine print. Thus, when her bundle of joy arrived, it turned out to be not Victor's kiddie, but Jack Abbot's--Jack having banked his sperm at the same place.

Nor is this shocking laxity confined to "Y&R". Over on "The Bold and the Beautiful" ("Y&R"s spin-off), Taylor was horrified to discover the eggs implanted in her body (which allowed her to conceive baby Jack) were not her own, but arch-rival-for-Ridge's-affections, Brooke. Other than that, everybody on both shows is perfectly happy with their health care.

Soap operas, of course, are notorious for being especially wacky. After all, where else on earth do people age from 6 months to 12 years in a weekend, folks regularly come back from the dead and a revolving door of marriage and divorce and remarriage threaten to turn any child born into their own first cousin? Thus, let us turn our attention to another TV staple, the medical drama.

Whether it be "ER", "Grey's Anatomy" or "Private Practice", the hard working doctors and nurses portrayed there in ply their healing skills in a network of hospitals and clinics that combine comprehensive care with an effective, stream-lined administration process that has little if any red tape or unnecessary cost-over runs. That doesn't mean everything is perfect, however. Observant viewers will no doubt have detected these abnormalities among this framework of efficiency:

1) All the doctors and nurses appear to have paid for med school by being Chippendale's dancers or Oil of Olay models.

2)You or someone you love could be having a serious medical crisis, but your doctor's personal life comes first. That's why "Private Practice" doc Tim Daly can leave a waiting room full of patients experiencing everything from an ear ache to the advanced stages of the Plague while he makes whoopee in his office.

3)A person can be refused treatment for reasons that have nothing to do with pre-existing conditions, coverage gaps or reduced benefits. Back on "Private Practice", one of their female ob/gyns refused to treat a gal experiencing a difficult pregnancy because the said gal's husband confessed he no longer loves his wife, but is love with her. Conversely, a distraught mom with a sick child can refuse to allow an assigned doctor to treat her son because she discovered he liked porn.

These quirks aside, American citizens might want to ask themselves the following question: "If my soap opera characters and medical drama cast members can enjoy universal health care coverage in a single-payer system with minimum administrative costs that employs nothing but hot looking doctors and nurses who enjoy wild nights of passion after curing the sick, why can't we have such a system in the real world?"

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