California Road Trip, Day 10, Los Angeles

Bob Wickline in Burbank

Winding our way up Tujunga Canyon driving to our host’s house, we ran into a bevy of emergency vehicles tending to a car that fell off a cliff.  While our host, Dr. Bruce Hector investigated the situation, I reviewed the events of the day.

Dr. Norm Castillo, from Corvallis-Oregon PNHP, and Dr. David Cantor, a retired local gastroenterologist joined us at the Burbank event.  Norm’s family has roots in Cuba and, though David said he was from Iowa, his swarthy, Latino appearance and accent, belied the truth that he immigrated from Argentina early in his medical career.

They both expressed dismay at health disparities that can be attributed, in part, to the injustices that naturally follow treating health care as a commodity.  One of Dr. Cantor’s first patients in this country, many decades ago, had been passing blood in his stool for over a year before he sought care.  Why?  No health insurance.  He recalls being shocked that the United States, the world’s richest country didn’t care for it’s people’s health care needs.  We still don’t and he was mad as hell.

Dr. Castillo spoke to our infant mortality rate, which in 2004, at almost 7 per 1,000 live births puts us at 29th internally (dropping from 12th in 1960) . More disturbing, the rate for Blacks is significantly higher for blacks than Whites.   For individual cities the discrepancy is especially startling.  In San Francisco the rate for Whites was 2.6, compared with 12.3 for Blacks.  In San Jose: 4.2 for vs. 10.5.  In San Diego: 3.5 vs. 12.7.  In Sacramento: 7.1 vs. 12.5.  In our nations capitol, DC, the rate for Black infant mortality is an embarrassing 17.5.

At the earlier event in Monterey Park, a somewhat heckling “reporter” tried to get me to agree to the statement, “We have the best health care system that money can buy”.  I wouldn’t go their.  More accurately, if you have excess wealth and you get very sick, the U.S. is a great place to receive high quality care.  However, if you are an average person, of average means, and you get very sick in our country, you will probably, though not certainly, get the care that you need.  In the process, you and your family will probably lose everything, just like 750,000 of your neighbors who went bankrupt last year because of health care costs.  Three quarters of them had health insurance when they became ill.

Dr. Hector returned from his accident investigation to report that we were unlikely to “get home” in the near future unless we turned around.  An hour later, in the wee hours of the morning, we sat comfortably sipping whiskey in his humble canyon abode.  Sometimes, getting home requires taking an alternative route.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the road we are on today, but we need to find a different road to accomplishing affordable care for ALL.

–paul hochfeld

2 Responses

  1. Ray Bishop

    You might question if it was at all worth it but you should not. Taking time to go on the road to help improve health care demonstrates true care for the people you serve as doctors. Your experience and knowledge of the health care system and your willingness to spread the truth about the problems we face is true evidence that we need to fix a broken system. Your advocacy for single payer demonstrates that this is the best alternative. As a former Chairman of a general hospital I really appreciate what you are doing. Your contribution should never be questioned for the good you do. Not only did you reach many people in person but your dedication to this change in health care has also reached many others indirectly.
    I enjoyed your show and really appreciate what you and others such as Dr. Hector do to practice true health care. I hope that you will keep up your efforts and hopefully others will join you until we eventually fix this problem.

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