Both my father and grandfather were doctors. When Medicare was introduced in the 1960s, this “socialized medicine” was about as popular in our house as the government’s health care was in the home of Harry and Louise in the 1990s.
Throughout my working life I was covered by health maintenance organizations (HMO), preferred provider organizations (PPO) and employer self insurance. For a period after retirement, I carried non-group insurance and paid premiums of more than $1,000 a month. When I was covered by Medicare at 65 I was surprised to discover that my father’s “socialized medicine” was superior to all the others.
This summer a discussion of the present health-care proposal heated up as the temperature climbed. Everyone had an idea to offer. I have some suggestions based on the time I have spent in waiting rooms, emergency rooms, and doctors’ offices in the last few years.
Starting with the waiting rooms, it is prohibited to tear out pages of a magazine — especially the last page of an attention-grabbing article or a promising recipe. Perpetrators will be banned to a corner of the room that has nothing but two-year-old periodicals.
All television sets will be muted, and anyone who wants to hear cartoons at high volume should bring their own earphones.
In the examining room, both hooks and hangers will be provided for the patients’ clothes. Stiff paper robes will be abolished and replaced by those reaching below the knees made of soft fabric and that close securely in front.
No conversation about a diagnosis will start with the words “normal at your age.”
During the appointment doctors will spend 75 percent of the appointment looking directly at the patient and 25 percent or less typing on the computer.
Medications will be produced in enough different strengths so that no pill will be required to be split in two.
Medical professionals will dress to reflect the dignity of their position — no sneaks, sweats, and with the exception of the pediatric wards, no jackets printed with teddy bears, lollipops, or balloons. (I would like to see the white starched uniform for nurses return, but there would be too many special interests to get that one passed.)
I don’t expect that my suggestions will be included in the final bill, but I hope with the cooler weather of autumn, cooler heads will prevail and come up with a reasonable plan.
I think that my father and grandfather would say that this should not be difficult. It is not about the party of the right or the left, insurance companies, hospital corporations, or pharmaceutical companies. Health care is about medicine and medicine is about healing the sick. Take care of the patient. The rest should be easy.