Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 5 Dispatch (7/1) – Bourbon, IN to Warsaw, IN

Writing this dispatch three days after the first of July, it feels as if it were years ago (and certainly many miles and a state away as I am now, as of this writing, in western Ohio). The walk began with Keith (the taxi driver I mentioned in yesterday's post) and I talking my bag to the next hotel in Warsaw (many thanks to Uprendra and the Days Inn for a free night’s stay!). Keith brought me back to Bourbon to begin the long walk along New US-30. The plan called for me to meet up with Katie of Grassroots Media (many thanks to that wonderful group!) to shoot some documentary video of the walk towards Warsaw and hopefully tape some interviews with people.

The air was cool and refreshing but as the wind was still, the truck fumes (new US-30 is a major highway) lay stagnant and choking, I stopped four miles down at the 19 & 30 in Etna Green. From there I decided to head along Old US-30, running parallel south of New 30 and much more scenic and less carbon monoxide-laden . But before leaving (and after a breakfast pizza), I had a chance to speak with Brian—the owner of the 19 & 30 gas station & restaurant.

Brian: “I believe government should not be in healthcare,” he said, though he added that he’d like to see some regulatory changes to actually increase competition, ensure personal responsibility and decrease prices. “The system is sure not working,” he told me.

And so I took off for Etna Green and, reaching Old US-30 headed east. Four miles later I was in Atwood—a small town where you could throw a stone (if you were good) from one end of the town to the other. There I met with Katie where we shot video of the walk, did, in fact, meet with several people along the way and in Warsaw. At one of the truck stops, Harold, a tanker driver, eyed me and with curious interest. I told him about the walk and asked, “What’s your story?”

Harold: Gruff but friendly, and with a face that oozed sincerity, Harold answered, “The insurance—80/20, but my wife is totally disabled so she’s on the Medicaid … and I got a $5,000 deductible! Every year, it just tears me up. We get good care over there at Lutheran in Ft. Wayne but it’s outrageous. When the doctor gives a regular prescription—not the generic stuff, and the pharmacist automatically gives you the generic, makes you sick and then you have to go back to the doctor to get the right stuff to send to the pharmacist, that don’t make no sense.” I asked Harold if he had any choice of insurance or if he had to take this type of insurance. “There’s no choice,” he told me. Indeed ...

Reaching Warsaw, I spent some time contemplating the War Memorial (officially the Kosciusko County War Memorial). As some may know, I was inspired to do this Walk for many reasons among which were the shockingly selfish arguments I began hearing from industry lobbyists and other groups over in Washington in efforts to derail healthcare reform. What ever happened to the notion of a greater good and self sacrifice—principles for which the hundreds of men and women listed on this memorial paid the highest price of devotion.

And so, with somber thoughts in mind, we headed farther into town along Lake Street. There we met a smartly dressed man—Scott.

Scott: He said that, “There should be less government involvement. I really think it should be left in the hands of the people.” He added that he used to work in the orthopedic device industry (there are many in Warsaw). “What I feel that would do, if healthcare was nationalized, is that it would undervalue the products they are making. In the end, I think it would work out as what they would lose in sales, they would get in volume, but I really feel that the healthcare scenario needs to be left to people, not the government.”

The most telling story came to us in a Mexican restaurant down the street. I spoke with one of the counter people, who wished not to be identified. She told us that she did have insurance (through her husband) and that she was happy with the system and that she would not change anything. Then, next to the register, I noticed a posted sign with a picture of a young boy in a hospital bed pleading for $100,000 to help with a kidney transplant.
Here's the sign

Doesn't that tell it all?

So the videographer and headed back up Lake street where I met with Krystal in front of the Warsaw courthouse.

Krystal: I explained my walk, its purpose. Krystal asked how many pairs of shoes I have and so I showed her the extra pair strapped in a bag to my backpack and told her of the several more in the luggage at the hotel. And we that, we began talking about healthcare. “Insurance rates are sky high,” she told me, lamented further that, “like I was talking with my doctor, you almost have to call the insurance companies to get the approval for what drugs you can prescribe—insurance companies are driving the show … they give the discounts or I think they’re in the cahoots with some of the drug companies. They say ‘Oh, we’re having a special on Lipitor' and so they push Lipitor.” We talked about the pharmaceutical companies and that drug costs just seemed to be too high.

And from here I finally arrived at my hotel—The Warsaw Days Inn. There I met the manager, Uprendra, who graciously offered a complimentary room and who told me his story. His pleasant and always smiling wife, Sheila, joined in the discussion.

Uprendra: He does not have insurance—nor does heila, or any of the staff. He has diabetes and gets his insulin, when he can, as free drug samples from his brother, who is a retired doctor. It was an interesting sidelight to the discussion I had with Krystal about pharmaceutical drug costs. Pharmaceutical marketing costs billions of dollars a year and includes not only the ubiquitous television ads but also the free samples that Uprendra takes. Of course, for him, it is very helpful … but don’t you think it’s a bit (to understate the matter) inefficient? I’ve talked to Republicans and Democrats alike on this trip and, I think the common agreement is that this healthcare system, in its varied manifestations, just does not make much sense …

© 2009, Ogan Gurel, MD

1 comment:

  1. One major health issue can take away years of family savings. The costs for health care are ridiculous. It seems like if the government doesn't intervene, the insurance industry and the competition are not going to make it more affordable to the people.

    As a college student, with a college grade insurance coverage, I am vulnerable to injuries and health problems that could literally put me in serious debt and it would take me years to partially pay it off.