Chicago Sun-Times
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The Increasing High Cost of Decreasing Health Care

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God bless you.
I wish God would bless each of you as well as he is blessing people like me.
Sure, all is not completely well with me. I am dealing with brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure that may require me to have at least two serious surgeries as well as an out-patient radiation seeds implantation procedure.
But, thanks to God, on the whole, I am doing very well in my healing journey. Run down this basic checklist with me:
1. I have faith in a healing God, who is sustaining and healing me as I have been reporting to you, and I have His ultimate gift of eternal life.
2. I have a good job and good group health insurance coverage.
3. I am receiving effective treatment from skilled doctors at The University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Chicago Prostate Cancer Center.
4, I have a beautiful wife of 39 years (Joyce), a great family and a wonderful, comfortable home.
5. I am experiencing no significant or sustained pain or discomfort.


Few things better teach us how blessed we are than adversity. Look around and you will see that

although there are a lot of people doing better, there are far more people around the world doing

worse.

Having faith in God, a job, a family, home and health insurance put me in better position to deal with

my sicknesses. When I realize that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's April report, 240,000

more Americans lost their jobs in the first three months of this year to bring the unemployment total to

7.6 million, I realize I'm blessed to have a job.

When I read reports that America's homeless population now exceeds 3,500,000, I'm blessed.

When I read reports that more than 47 million Americans have no medical insurance, I realize I'm

extremely blessed.


In December, when I was billed $31,500.65 for a two-night stay at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

to undergo an angiogram and other other tests, my insurance paid everything except about $1,200.

Then in early April, when I spent four nights in the University of Chicago Hospital for tests

examining my heart and prostate, I ran up hospital and doctor bills of $55,000, of which my

insurance paid all but $535.

Without insurance, I would have incurred roughly $85,000 in medical bills that didn't even

include surgery. These were all primarily for tests. But the biggest surprise for me about the

Northwestern Hospital bill was a charge of $5,154 for two days of room and board and $2,200 for

a six-hour stay in the emergency room, including two hours in a hallway until my hospital room was

ready. At the University of Chicago Hospital, room and board average a little less at $2,200 a day. But

that's still mighty stiff for what one gets. Now, understand, I'm just talking room and board and having a

nurse to check on you periodically. The hospitals told me this did not include medicine, doctor visits and

any tests done on me.

For $4,500, I can book a two-bedroom, lake-view, deluxe suite with living room, dining room and

three baths for two days at Chicago's Four Seasons and that includes spending $300 each day for

food.

For $3,800, I can book a two-bedroom, two-bathroom lakeside suite in Chicago's Ritz Carlton for

two days and that also includes $300 a day on food.

For $3,700, I can book a two-day stay in a grand deluxe suite in the Chicago Penninsula Hotel and

that includes spending $200 a day on meals.

For $3,600, I can book a Gold Coast suite in the Drake Hotel, including $200 a day for food.

And for these exorbitant prices, these hospitals provide the smallest and most flimsy of wash cloths

and bath towels (my towel was the size of a hotel hand towel), a tiny bar of soap and a tiny box a kleenex

with tissue not even big enough to properly wipe the nose of my grandson Caleb Banks.

But the worst amenity of a hospital stay is its tasteless, limited, ugly food and small portions of it.

This includes the thimble-size cups of fruit juice. The only reasons I can figure for hospital food

being so awful is to make the patients fight harder to get well, get out and go back home. Hospitals

suck all the flavor out of its food. I can understand how some of the meals served to patients have to

be low on salt. But surely, the hospitals can serve a wider variety of menu choices and put just a teeny,

weeny bit of flavor in their food.

I also discovered that it's far cheaper to bring your own medications with you if you are on

medication and administer it yourself because its five to 10 times more expensive to have the

hospital nurses to come in and give you that same medicine from the hospital's pharmacy.

Making matters worse is the fact a rapidly rising number of Americans don't have health

insurance because they're either unemployed or because their employers have stopped offering

health insurance as a fringe benefit. So many people just skip going to doctors or hospitals to get

the care they need until they simply have to and then it's too late.

Corruption is another thing driving up costs. Many doctors are performing operations the

patients really don't need and are not only over-charging for them but they are charging some

patients for treatments they didn't give and also over-prescribing medicines.

No wonder, many Americans are critical of our health care system, which, according to investigative

reporter Michael Moore and the World Hospital Organization, ranks 37th in terms of the quality and

economy of care. In his newest documentary, "SiCKO," Moore even shows how it's easier and cheaper for

patients to get care in Cuba, which ironically ranked 39th, than in the U.S.

Moore's premise is that American doctors work more to make money while doctors in England,

France, Canada and other countries work more to help people get well.

Consequently, more and more Americans, according to the May 12 issue of U.S. News and World

Report, are taking their business to foreign doctors and hospitals in places like India, Thailand and

Singapore, where they can get bargains like a coronary bypass for anywhere from $7,000 to $32,000

instead of paying from $70,000 to $133,000 for the same thing in the U.S.

A hip replacement would cost $10,200 in India, but $33,000 to $57,000 in the U.S. A prostate

surgery that would cost $3,600 in India would cost $10,000 to $16,000 An heart valve replacement

that would cost $10,200 in Indiana would cost $33,000 to $57,000 in the U.S.

Of course, one must add some $5,000 for round-trip air fare and a couple of extra thousand

for hotel, food and local transportation for a week or so. But one still comes out saving thousands and

thousand. And he quality of care is equal to, if not better than, much of what one would find here in the

U.S. After all, most of the best doctors already in the U.S. are foreign doctors anyway, or they were born

abroad.

So although I'm blessed to have insurance to pay most of my medical expenses, I still really feel bad

and even mad that growing millions of Americans don't have it.


God bless you.

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9 Comments

The suntimes articles on cancer and cancer prevention have been extremely enlightening but here is more enlightening news. Women civilians and retired women police officers are not eleiglbe for any insurance aid for mammograms and pap smears. The average cost of these exams runs about 650 dollars a year, along with paying for our insurance and our deductibles. Insured men in the city can get paid prostate exams and there is even free exam drives for cancer prevention. What are women, second class citizens in this city? It is apparent that the City Fathers would rather pay the millions in cancer treatment. Thanks Mayor Daley, the City Council, the Police Borad, the Pension Board,the FOP, and other unions in this city for takeing care of the ladies who work for you.

So true!

Hi Lacy,

Glad to hear you are doing well. You are right on about the healthcare situation in the U.S. There is one thing I hope the new administration does.......its provide healthcare for all. No one living in America should be living without healthcare. Those of us who are fortunate to have it are paying dearly for it. Not only are you allowing us the privilege of seeing your healing take place, you are also educating us.

I continue to call you out by name in my prayers daily.

Donna

Mr. Banks

I am truly happy to hear all the great feedback from you. You are truly blessed, and I feel that because of your faith, your positive attititude and love from family and friends has assisted along the way. Doing this blog is healing in itself. It is giving everyone who is suffering an opportunity to realize it is possible to fight back, and assist in creating your own destiny by not giving up and by having faith. I am extremely happy that you are giving hope to those who have lost it and giving everyone an opportunity to see that miracles happen everyday. You and your family will always be in my prayers.

LOVE YOU!

Charron

What'd I tell you, HE's still on the Throne. You and yours are still in my prayers.

To the anonymous writers who claimed that mammograms are not paid. Please stop the lies and sexist comments. Lacy did a great job of pointing out his facts and his experience.

There are thousands of programs and charities for women where men have a few.

As Lacy points out there are many tests and procedures performed that are not necessary. Many of the tests performed in the name of prevention and health for women are not needed or helpful. Insurance companies make decisions based on costs and risks.

To keep the costs of the health care system low and to enroll more, we need a comprehensive overhaul of the system. Here are my concrete suggestions:
- Remove the 'middle'. We as a nation became a multi-level service providers in last 20 years. We have added many layers of administrative and managerial costs that are simply not needed. The brokers of insurance (30%), the managed care companies (20%), the lawyers (15%), consulting doctors (10%) and processors (10%) all add layers of costs that are not directly helping the patient or the actual provider. I know all the howling these people will do to claim they provide a benefit. They do but not at the costs charged
- Limit the services to the extremely sick and elderly. It does not make any sense to give a 1 million dollar hip replacement to a 92 year old person. It does not make any sense to give 10 million dollar chemo treatment to a 97 year old person. The christian thing is to help someone live but nowhere does it say in the bible to take the money that could serve 10000, 20 something people and spend it on one person who will never survive the operation and come back to be a contributing member of society. We should limit the expensive care and unneeded care to the 90 plus year olds. We should help ease the pain and make them comfortable and allow them to pass with dignity.

i know many of you will disagree, but we need solutions and not rhetorical and ideological mayhem.

If there was an all controlling god, can he please get this stuff fixed soon. I am ready. Otherwise we need to do it ourselves in a hurry.

Thank you, my friend, for addressing the plight of un- and under-insured Americans. I’ve edited my reply where I intended to talk about how old remedies as goose grease, mentholated swallows, kerosene and sugar, Sayman salve, going to the county clinic to get vaccinations, stuff in a bag on a dirty string worn around the neck and cod liver oil kept us away from hospitals and doctors. I was going to share with you how when we as children and teens were sick, Daddy would say, “Come here, baby girl”, cup our head between his hands and pray that we would be healed.

I don’t know about my four siblings, but this writer can assure you that I knew I would feel better when my Dad prayed for me.

My plan was to ask why we’ve moved from the simplistic to the bombastic mess and quagmire of America’s health systems. But I’m going to leave that discussion for another time.

It seems, my friend, that your blog has ‘raised a little Cain’. I believe that we are a human and compassionate society which accepts the responsibility for the welfare of others. Hopefully, we will not base a solution to the healthcare quagmire by proposing any system which suggests selection by gender or age. At what age would we identify the “elderly”? –70? 75? 80? 85?” Be careful, we may eliminate our parents, ourselves, or even our President.

Yes, Lacy Banks, this blog has raised a little Cain. Am I my brother’s keeper?

BANKS RESPONSE: Yes, we are our brother's and sister's keeper. We should never be penalized for growing old or for being born flawed and consequently denied the best of care for the selfish sake of the so-called fittest. Hitler subscribed to this Machiavellian morality to justify his Nazi drive for a master race. Never should one race, one age bracket, one economic or political class of people have the right to deny another class equal access to the best of health care.

Conquering cancer and heart failure from childhood, it was obvious that the hand of God and the Spirit of God was on my brother Lacy. From man-child preacher, scholar, pioneering journalist, talented vocalist to benevolent preacher, loving father, faithful husband, son, brother and uncle, his life is full and prosperous. Following his triple-bypass surgery, his evangelistic preaching became more provocative, stirring and edifying. Now, in spite of his current tests, we believe that God's hand and Spirit are still as present and as powerful as ever and He is still able to perform miracles!!! Just watch and see!!! (Somebody ought to shout GLORY!!!!)

It is incredible that with everything you have to deal with you have found the time to speak about the troubling questions raised by medical insurance practices in the United States. I live in Canada and, although our system is not perfect, and, believe me, it is not perfect, nothing can compare with the feeling of knowing that if something happens to me, I have a Medicare card that will enable me to leave a hospital without a bill. Mind you, yes, our taxes reflect this service and our system needs a lot of adjusting but it is something no modern society should live without. Take care.

BANKS RESPONSE: Perhaps this is one key reason I've always enjoyed visiting Canada and feel a sense of extra comfort and serenity. Imagine how the nightmare of runaway health care cost haunts most Americans with added fear, tension and stress to compromise our otherwise equal happiness. Our maliciously mercenary medical systems exacerbate just about everything else that to wrong with our society to include crime, mental and emotional breakdowns, strokes, etc.

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Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on May 14, 2008 11:23 AM.

Why Choose A Public Healing? was the previous entry in this blog.

Love, marriage and healing--launching into the deep is the next entry in this blog.

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