04 September 2007

A union for patients

DENVER – Larry Smith has had enough. Smith plans to take his medical records and his medical payments from Medicare and insurance for his on-going care to a doctor that supports universal health care. No more feeding the beast of for-profit medical groups determined to push more patients – and therefore more revenue – through the door every hour rather than offer the level of care being paid for by millions of Americans.

“No more apologizing for getting sick after a lifetime of working and paying for health insurance only to watch everything be lost in an instant to high premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs -- and then still have doctor groups deny my care because I cannot pay them more. My father always said you can’t get blood out of a turnip, but in this system, my father has been proven wrong,” Smith said.

As a patient of numerous specialty groups and specialists over the past 20 years, Larry has seen the system which benefited wildly from his business as a patient morph into one in which he must now beg for adequate care. The 63-year-old Denver man is taking the first steps aimed at organizing his fellow patients to demand the quality of care for which they are paying and to demand meaningful health care reform.

Smith is walking away from the largest cardiology practice in his area – and the same practice that treated his father all the way through a heart transplant, death and income in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from Smith family insurance and savings – and Larry is transferring his care to a Denver cardiologist that supports universal health care.

“Ask your doctor if they support universal health care,” Larry said. “Look around that waiting room at the signage. If the first thing you see is the reminder that payment is expected BEFORE your doctor’s visit, consider checking out this group a bit more before you turn over your life or the life of someone you love to them. What assurances have they given to you about your satisfaction or your well-being based on pre-payment for service?”

Additionally, Smith urges physicians and providers who are serious about supporting universal health care to prominently post that support where patients can note that philosophy. “Does your physician value every human life? Or does your doctor value only those with the right coverage or checking account balance or credit rating? The answer fundamentally changes your focus and your doctor’s focus. You have a right to know these things before the doctor lays a hand on you or someone you love.”
Smith adds that if the doctor’s primary goal is to help him feel better and get well, that is to be rewarded with his business as a patient.

“I have no objection to my doctor earning money – even very good money – for good performance. But right now, the system rewards my doctor for keeping me sick and in need of more tests and more referrals and more follow-up appointments and more spending. The focus is not on my health but on his wealth.”
Smith will also ask the national organization Physicians for a National Health Program to encourage its physician-members to post their membership status for all patients and patient families to see.

At the end of September in Washington, D.C., Larry will formally launch his patients’ union organizing efforts following a vigil on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at sundown on Friday, Sept. 28. The vigil is in memory of Tracy Pierce, a young Kansas City area husband and father who died after his insurance company denied him treatment, and the vigil also honors those still fighting for care now.

Several of the people who appear in Michael Moore’s film, SiCKO, are attending the vigil, including Tracy’s widow Julie Pierce, Adrian Campbell, Dr. Linda Peeno, Dawnelle Keys – along with Larry and Donna Smith. They have recently organized a patient advocacy group, American Patients for Universal Health Care, apuhc.com.

There will be a vigil honoring Paul that same night in Denver, on the West Steps of the Capitol at 7 p.m.

No comments: