Consider Chronic Pain When Voting on Tuesday

Voting Chronic PainIt is not glamorous, but voting is essential. One of the most important issues to medical practitioners is the need to maintain access to healthcare. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but we also have one of the most expensive systems with some of the poorest outcomes. The tough decisions that would make healthcare more affordable are often blocked for ridiculous reasons, especially those protecting big business and privacy. Currently, like it or not, the biggest issue is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare. Voting is critical if you want to maintain access to healthcare.

Many of those who have pain have chronic conditions, or have had injuries to the back or neck. Prior to the ACA, health insurance companies could deny care to those with a previous injury or chronic condition, or could just make insurance costs so high that it was not a feasible expense. Despite its recent problems, more people do have health insurance and costs are more affordable for those who do have chronic conditions. Without the ACA, in the past myself, and two of my kids would likely have been unable to be insured, do chronic health issues or back problems. If you have never had a health problem, insurance is easily obtainable. Now, the law requires everyone have insurance, spreading the risk pool across a wide spectrum and reducing costs. Throwing out the ACA and the guaranteed ability to be insured at a reasonable cost is not an option in life for most patients with chronic pain.

Healthcare Costs in America

The cost of the healthcare is an issue in this country. The problem is our elected representatives have no onus to develop sensible healthcare changes in our country. The first thing that is necessary is that insurance companies should be allowed to work across state lines to broaden their base of clients and lower their overall risk profile. They also should be considered basically minimal profit, such that the cost reflects the product, not the profit to investors. Second is to move to a better level of control of the drug/pharmaceutical industry. The fact that the government does not place any control on these companies have led to the outrageous charges for medications. If one buys the same drug in Mexico, India, or Canada, the cost often is 10 percent of what is paid in the United States.

Data is the best way to improve our healthcare system. The best way to improve our system is actually quite simple; every person must have a unique medical identification code, and every medical record is kept electronically in the same way in one single system. If anyone sees a doctor, every other doctor who treats that person can see what has been done and will not need to duplicate tests or services. Statistics then can be data mined for any condition and treatment and soon it would become clear to see what works and what doesn’t work for any management option. The cost should plummet once we stop repeating tests and start seeing what really works for management of various problems.

Going backwards and throwing out the ACA is not viable option for anyone who needs to see a physician regularly or who has had a chronic medical issue. Vote for those who recognize the need to maintain the ability to obtain insurance. Also, vote for those who will stand up for changes to big businesses like the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. Lastly, get over the fear of the government having access to your personal health data, if they know everything about you financially since you pay taxes, what is the difference if they are actually trying to improve your health and make the system less costly? The United States ranks about number 40 in the world for the quality of healthcare, behind many third world countries. It is time people step up an vote for leaders who will improve the quality of our lives, not the politicians’ own pocket books.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).