« * * Marie March wants you to buy local | Main | * * Deep hate »

* * Rob Solomon wants everybody to have health care

Robert Solomon, MD, is a mensch.

Mensch is a Yiddish word meaning a person with integrity, honor, and empathy. Rob is my general practitioner, an internal medicine doctor in Blacksburg. When people in this country can’t afford the treatments they need – and let’s be clear; at some point in our lives, everybody gets sick – it’s heartbreaking not only for them but for doctors like Rob, too.

When we met recently to talk about the problem from his perspective, he said, “When I was in the Army, the environment was basically socialized medicine. Everybody I took care of had health care provided. It made it easier for me, as I didn’t have to worry about the money. If a patient needed a test or a drug, I could prescribe it without worrying about whether they could afford it.”

Originally from Roanoke where we met as kids at Temple Emanuel, Rob got his medical degree at Eastern Virginia Medical College on a scholarship from the US Army, and then did his residency in the Army, treating patients in Panama and in Germany. He was in active duty for 6 years, before returning to Virginia to set up a private practice in Radford in 1990.

“My biggest adjustment going into civilian medicine was that often people couldn’t afford what they needed. At that time, 40 million Americans didn’t have health care; it’s an astronomical number! The percentage was probably higher (locally) than the national average. More people are now covered, but the costs have gone up dramatically.

“When a patient can’t get proper care because they can’t afford it, it’s sad. It’s very important for me as a doctor to look at the money aspect. I have to look at whether the patient can afford treatment, what their insurance covers if they have it, what their deductibles and co-pays are. Doctors shouldn’t have to do that. If my patients can’t afford it, they won’t get treatment. People have to eat.

“Here’s an example. There is an effective vaccine for shingles, a painful and potentially deadly disease that may affect as many of fifty percent of people by the time they reach 80. It is two shots, $180 or so each. Most Medicare doesn’t pay for it, without a supplemental plan. Some people can’t afford it.

“Insulin is another example. It’s gone up dramatically in recent years, as much as 100-fold.”

I noted that the insurance companies contribute nothing to human health, but still have their hands in the till.

Rob agreed, “Insurance companies take $504 billion annually out of the health care pie. It is a for-profit industry making money off health care while really not providing anything. I believe in a (government administered) single-payer system. This type of system is used throughout the industrialized world and is not a new idea here. President Eisenhower proposed this type of system, as did President Nixon. They were both Republicans. There is a strong conservative case to do this.”

The beauty is we already have a system, Medicare, that is working for millions of Americans and simply needs to be expanded to cover everyone. Anyone who hates wasteful overhead and bureaucracy should love Medicare for all.

From my experience traveling overseas where citizens enjoy universal health care plans, their reaction is two fold: First, they can’t believe a great country like USA doesn’t cover everybody, and second, they’re astonished that anybody in the USA believes our system is better.

Another advantage is that people are not dependent upon their employer, so coverage is transferable if they want to switch jobs or start a company.

Rob said, “I just want people to have basic care. I want to be able to prescribe the best treatments and the best medicines and know that my patients have access to them and can afford them. If someone gets a catastrophic illness, they can be decimated (financially), even if they’re insured.

“Some people don’t even come to the doctor when they’re clearly sick. What if a person who has no insurance develops a breast mass? She’s scared to see a doctor because she fears the costs. It may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So she doesn’t go. The mass becomes metastatic before any doctor sees her. Then she dies.  Many deadly diseases can be treated if discovered early.

“With Medicare for all, everybody will be equal on the same system. Administrators of a single-payer system could better negotiate prices from drug companies.

“We spend far more than any other country per capita on health care,” he said, “but our outcomes are not near the top. We have been prejudiced by powers that gain from the current system. With a single-payer system, I’m confident I could practice better medicine. I think we can change it. I’m optimistic.”

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>