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posted: 2/9/2010 12:01 AM

Health care woes are a crisis of culture

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A few months ago an emergency room doctor in Mississippi sent a letter to President Obama on the topic of health care. It seems he had had a patient the night before who sported expensive shoes, an expensive gold tooth, multiple body piercings and tattoos, smoked a pack a day of expensive designer-type of cigarettes and was talking on an expensive cell phone. She was on Medicaid. The doctor asked the president why he and the rest of us taxpayers should have to pay for her medical care when she had the money to pay for her elaborate tattoos, but not for insurance.

I realize that many on Medicaid have absolutely no other choice and do not spend money frivolously. I also know that many people smoke, are over weight, drink excessively, and make other lifestyle choices that are not beneficial to health and that lead to the need for medical intervention, both those with and without their own insurance. The doctor suggested the health care crisis is not the result of a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses, but a crisis of culture, in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo: "I can do whatever I want because someone else will always take care of me."

I think huge lawsuit settlements, exorbitant malpractice insurance premiums, pre-existing condition exclusions in health insurance plans, the lack of competition state to state for our insurance premium dollars, the sheer volume of money made by the insurance industry which should be going to patient care, and the high cost of prescription drugs are issues that need to be addressed.

P.J. Bertrand

Wood Dale