People I meet: Enrique


People I meet: Enrique.

This is a series of articles about the people I meet year in and year out. I travel—on average—twenty times a year and the most valuable thing I take, over the miles, the layovers, crappy hotels, faulty A/C and stale cookies, is the people.

 

I met Enrique in the U.S. in 2011 when I visited San Diego for training. He was a thick man with a bushy moustache, eyeglasses and gray hair.  We instantly clicked as both us used sense of humor to cope with everyday life. The thing was, his everyday life was completely different from mine.

It was after meeting him that my perception of the medical industry changed.

Enrique had been working for IC Medical for fifteen years already. When the recession hit in 2008, IC Medical had to cut costs and it meant milking the living crap out of every single one of IC Medical’s tech minions, Enrique included. The manufacturing shifts—in which he was included—went from the normal 9 hours to a 13-hour permanent overtime shift. But the salaries didn’t proportionally. IC Medical claimed a lack of income as the sole reason.

Granted, it was a problem that hit all of the U.S. and the world.  But, if it only had been that their lives were the same, with just a bit more work then there’d be no problem. But Enrique’s wasn’t.

His wife had suffered an accident, displacing three vertebrae on her back and, ironically, needed the equipment IC Medical sold to fix her condition.

Given that healthcare in the U.S. doesn’t use a socialist basis, Enrique could only afford certain hospitals. Hospitals, by the way, which were not willing to use IC Medical’s products to cure her, because the hospitals were “married” with other companies. Enrique was left with an alternative: either dig and burrow through his house for more money or turn to his employer for support.

So he turned to IC Medical. If his own company could pay for a hospital that did use the products, then his wife would make it. IC Medical didn’t even flinch. At the moment, providing the products for free was out of the question. I’m talking about two or three consumables and one machine: a cost of about 1000$.

So, as he told me this, whispering of course, I started thinking about all that I’ve done throughout the years. I’ve sold to doctors just because they want something cheaper, I’ve sold to doctors just because the brands I distribute are prestigious and I’ve sold to doctors just because their employers bought our brands. And in all three cases, I’ve wondered if they’d even flinch when I ask them for help.

Just like IC Medical with one of its own employees. A veteran nonetheless.

I kept in touch with Enrique after the training. I send him emails every once in a while and the most recent email I got was that his wife is now permanently disabled. IC Medical offered to pay for a percentage of the insurance required to have her home all day. But nothing else. Enrique is still being milked for every last drop of effort he can get. And I still sell IC Medical.

Why? Because I have to. Because Enrique has to. Or else, we f***ed.

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The Future of Health Care in the United States.


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Obamacare

This should be posted in every doctor’s office.

As the days leading up to 2013 begin to fade in quantity and the changes this new year will bring become more and more evident, many citizens may wonder where is Health Care going in the U.S. and the answer might be simpler than many imagine. It’s all matter of downsizing the population and looking elsewhere.

Because the PPACA is approved by a superior Court of Law and grants Obama and the Congress as correct in the decisions they implanted in 2010, this means that every citizen in the U.S. has to either have insurance or pay a tax (this very same tax will not be called a penalty, or fine, as some people dwelling about in the internet have chosen to refer to it), depending on their income. This tax, which comes from all citizens that generate an income within the country, goes to a big, massive, system which hands out medical care to everybody at an equal, constant and carefully organized rate.

The theory behind this is quite simple: if I make a lot of money, then the government takes more out of me than someone who doesn’t make a lot of money. But that someone, just as me, has the right to be healthy, he or she has the right to get into a hospital and receive medical treatment. If he or she falls ill, there is a chance the government will use my money to heal him or her. It sounds fair, doesn’t it? It is. It’s a socialist approach to a capitalist problem, it’s the best solution anyone could have come up with and it won’t work.

I’d like to tell you a little story: I was flying back from training in Texas. The flight had me take a connection in Houston and then fly home, landing about nine o’clock at night. As I waited, sitting just yards from the counter, I heard my name being called out: I was being upgraded to first class. This all fell as great news, more legroom, less time waiting in line, all the works, and one of the most interesting conversations I ever had.

A burly fellow, probably forty, forty-five years old, sat in seat 1B, just next to me and greeted me with a potent southern accent. He tilted his head and nodded just once; I replied and we got to talking, primarily because he didn’t shut up and I don’t either.

“So, where you flying today?” he said, fixed himself, and turned to me.

I flashed my ticket quickly and showed him my final destination. His eyes opened wide in surprise, as if he was being pranked, in a good way, and he smiled.

“I’m going there too!” He said and smacked his leg, “My God! What a coincidence!”

“It sure is,” I told him, “do you live there?”

“I do, actually,” he replied proudly, “just some miles from the airport.” It’s important to highlight that the airport in my country is located in a very warm, sunny area just about twenty miles from the capital. Right now, this place is brimming with financial activity: a new hospital was built, several Tax-Free zones have been created to promote business and residential housing is constructed in little havens with pools and open green spaces.

“Are you married to a Tica?” He nodded with satisfaction and showed me her picture. She was o.k.

“So you’ve got Social Security?”

“Oh, yes,” he replied with a devious smile. There was satisfaction in it, in that grinning gesture of success, “I take advantage of it.”

“And what do you think of the ObamaCare?” Instantly he hummed, pursed his lips in a disappointed fashion, as if I had insulted him and he was too polite to answer back, and did not respond.

“I ain’t paying them a bit out of my money,” he said. And that’s when I got to think about this plan.

In order for Health-care to work Obama Style, the President and following leaders have to change the mentality of a nation that is not willing to share. One of the primal evidences suggesting this is the controversy behind such a plan; it’s as though people don’t see that eventually, because private and uninsured health services end up imploding and creating immeasurable expenses, the citizens of the U.S. have to get used to and accept the socialist approaches Barack Obama has taken.

And they will. It will take time, but it will happen.

And, for fifty or so years, the Socialist based Obama Health Care system will work perfectly—after the rough adjustment process that is—because people realize that getting a “free” medical service is actually working for them and not against them. Since the monthly quote is smoothly retracted and not abruptly taken away, the process feels as though money is being put somewhere for them; and it is! Social Security services will grow, little by little, and develop itself into a behemoth of bureaucratic procedures. This is where everything goes wrong.

The thing is, some people go to the doctor constantly and rarely get any healthier. These people exist now, they will exist when Health Care turns socialist. These are patients labeled as “frequent fliers”. Then there are the patients who don’t like waiting, otherwise known as “impatients” (creative, I know); this is on the patient side. On the health-care professional side come those who understand that the process is, under the common conception, free, therefore people won’t leave—they can’t afford going to a private MD so they must wait—hence professionals become patient, they become used to this. After all, it doesn’t affect them. Then numbers come into play: a system that fills the medical needs for tens of millions of people will have its flaws. These represent themselves in the form of missing files, unassigned appointments which are actually assigned, system clashes between identical patients and so on. It may seem trivial to mention flaws within the system as a major cause for malfunctioning but it’s justified: these happen from the start.

Finally, and unfortunately, a socialist system bases itself on trust, something not many countries have. It’s a system in which trust is needed because doctors, with the power to assign appointments, secretaries with the power to change schedules, directives with the power to shift talent from side to side, have contacts on the other end: close friends or relatives become patients, patients need an appointment and they need it fast, friends or relatives become suppliers, suppliers need their product sold and fast—the competition’s better but this one is cheaper—while the rest can wait.
All these symptoms ironically create costs within the system; the system turns inefficient and the costs to maintain these “mandatory” symptoms (they are, pretty much unavoidable) make socialist-based Health-Care one of the most expensive in the long run. Since costs cannot be shift upwards drastically, the amount of money coming in at first will suffice, within years, when the expenses amount to and equal the income of social security, measures will be taken (too late because the expenses accumulate historically) and, eventually, the system will be forced to privatize itself in order to stay afloat. It is a vicious cycle which can be seen in various countries adapting the socialist health-care system, take a look at Russia, Sweden, Finland and such.

But, yet again, our lives work in cycles and this is just another one.

This is a light, summarized opinion about Health–Care. Heck, it’s only a rant at midnight. But it’s a rant from a biomedical engineer hailing from the country in which the U.S. is basing its social security system.

Cheers.