Health Care Ills

Ish19_cover_sick_01 A newly hired lecturer at City University of New York talks about the fibroid tumors that crowded her uterus because she could not afford the surgery, and her health care hadn't yet kicked in. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, family talks about living with Noah, a boy born with Down Syndrome and autism, who has fought colds and viruses for all of his seven years.

Health, illness and a broken-down insurance system is the subject of Dragonfire's latest issue. Drexel's online magazine seeks to tell of a global problem in snapshots. Among the coverage, five interactive diaries tell stories of those who are sick or those caring for the sick. One of them is by the mother of Dragonfire editor Amy L. Webb.

In 2004 Bella Webb was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine cancer. The tumors were inoperable. The chemo could only contain. She had been prescient -- a decade before she'd elected to take out an insurance rider that covered the cost of her care. It even paid for wigs. "Without this policy, I don't know what my family would have done," her daughter writes.

It made her think of the 46 million of so Americans without health insurance - about 3 out of every 20 persons. And it made her think beyond our borders.

In her editor's note, she writes: In this issue of Dragonfire, we wanted to explore the concept of health from myriad perspectives.  We wanted to know why Avian Flu caused enough of a panic that it trumped the real and tangible STD epidemic already afflicting Africa and Southeast Asia.  We found the last leper colony in Europe. We were surprised to find that people with this disease were still forced to live in seclusion and we wanted to know why.  We learned that in Egypt, a group of volunteers has created a hospice center for critically ill children, who are taught how to make nutritious vegetables grown in the desert part of their care.  And Dr. Marla Gold, internationally known for her work on HIV/AIDS and for her expertise in the field of public health, explains why more people need to know about the health-related problems that affect us all.

The issue also poses five questions to Jerry Flanagan, health care policy director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), and Larry Akey, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the largest lobby group for U.S. insurance companies.

Among their suggestions: Flanagan said the country needs to treat insurers like utilities:  We need to regulate their rates. All Americans know what happened when we stopped regulating electricity; we had the Enrons of the world. The health insurers are the new Enrons.

Akey: The whole issue of insurance company consolidation, we really regard as something of a red herring. It’s important to remember that the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission have both looked at the issue of competitiveness  in the health insurance marketplace and have determined that the marketplace remains highly competitive. There’s simply no way that a health insurance plan can dictate prices and coverage terms to physicians … The notion that somehow consolidation has lead to an unbalanced marketplace for health insurance is simply not the case.

Dragonfire is on a role. It's a finalist for the Webby Awards as well as for the Eppy Awards, two of the most prestigious laurels in new media. This past summer, when the Drexel interactive magazine launched, it was attracting about 4,000 readers an issue, Webb says. Today they're pulling in 70,000 a day. "One of our servers is crashing once a week," she says.

Another local site has entered the health care fray. Kiko's House, a blog by former Daily News reporter Shaun Mullen, is asking for readers to write their own Rxs for the problem.

"Year in and year out, reforming America's troubled health-care system is the biggest third rail in politics," he begins. "No matter how you approach it and no matter how you want to fix it, you're going to get shocked."

He's interested in hearing from some experts:

Utterly absent in what discussion there is about health-care reform are the voices of the key players in the system after patients themselves -- nurses.

If you are a nurse or know one, you or they should step up and let the rest of us know what's really going on at hospitals -- which are the ground zero in health care -- because there can be no reform until the problems there are fixed first.

I singled out nurses because unlike the powerful physician, drug and insurance lobbies, they have no voice in the discussion. I know this for a number of reasons, including the fact that I owe my life to a nurse.

He's looking for 300 to 400 words. Anonymity is OK. Send suggestions to Kiko's House.

jay lassiter
Posted 04/26/2006 04:40:32 PM

I haven't had health insurance since i graduated from school in '96.

Daniel Rubin
Posted 04/26/2006 04:42:40 PM

how do you manage?

Star Lawrence
Posted 04/26/2006 05:51:44 PM

What do I know--I am Health's Ass. Check out my health news site... Sorry--I mean SASS. Anyway Dragonfire seems to have taken kind of a scattershot approach. Bird flu and AIDS are separate issues... Personally, I advise people to think about their personal situation in a pandemic--would you be prepared? I recommend Gratton Woodson's book, The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner (Amazon). Might I add--apropos of nothing except association--that Dragonfire has stonewalled writers on payment and although the ezine seems all nice and intellectual, many writers won't work for their low wages and sweat their long or non-existent payment cycle.

Daniel Rubin
Posted 04/26/2006 06:13:37 PM

how do you know that about stonewalling?

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