Operation Healthcare: The High Cost Of Care
By Ashli Sims, The News On 6
TULSA, OK – Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans are uninsured, but is it a personal choice or a matter of bad circumstances?
Some say the problem is already costing you money. Others say fixing it could cost you your healthcare.
Disease can strike a man in his prime or hit the young unexpectedly.
"And they did an x-ray and found I have a mass in my chest," said Mark Dillon, an uninsured patient.
Disease knows no barriers -- not race, age or income. But healthcare, that's another matter.
"Actually, I think that was probably my biggest worry," said Donna Dillon, Mark’s mother.
Mark Dillon, 22, is one of more than 560,000 Oklahomans with no health insurance. He went to the emergency room with chest pain and left with a devastating diagnosis.
"It just all happened so fast. It's when they come out and say, ‘it’s cancer.’ That's when you start thinking," said Donna.
Thinking about how she was going to help her son, who is unemployed, fight the grapefruit-sized tumor that was crushing his chest.
"Being his age, not having insurance, not having income, that was the worry. I was afraid he wasn't going to get the care he needed," said Donna.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 1.7 million Oklahomans, that's almost half, get their insurance through their employer. About four percent buy individual or private insurance. Almost one-third of Oklahomans are on Medicare, Medicaid or some form of public assistance. And the rest, 16 percent, are uninsured.
“Those that have, need to understand that they are going to pay for those who have not, no matter what," said Dr. Gerry Clancy, with OU’s College of Community Medicine.
“Those costs are passed on to the individuals with healthcare coverage through higher insurance premiums," Dr. Gerry Clancy said.
Some say the solution is a health insurance plan run by the government. Others say that's a dangerous tradeoff.
"I do not feel like the current bills are about healthcare reform at all,” said Dr. Bill Parsons. “They're really about the federal government taking more power over the individual."
Bill Parsons is a doctor and he was recently a patient.
"Well, I had an intestinal problem and I had surgery. And then seven days later I had some complications," said Dr. Bill Parsons.
His intestinal wall ripped and the contents of his bowels were poisoning him.
"And that's a situation which, if not treated very, very quickly, can be fatal," said Dr. Bill Parsons.
Parsons says he was on the surgical table within hours, made a full recovery and is now back at work.
"Under socialized medicine, I really wonder if things would have been quick enough," said Dr. Bill Parsons.
As a volunteer at the Green Country Free Clinic, Parsons is not immune to the plight of the uninsured. But he says the cure to our healthcare crisis lies in a series of small steps, such as tort reform, healthcare coalitions and letting patients shop for insurance across state lines.
Parsons says his insurance performed admirably in his emergency and like millions of other Americans, he doesn't want to risk losing that coverage.
"It seems like government programs go to the lowest common denominator rather than maintaining the extremely high standards that are currently available," said Dr. Bill Parsons.
Dr. Parsons has his own plan for fixing the situation. To hear Dr. Parsons' 7 cures for healthcare, check out the videos at the top right corner of this page.
But for Mark Dillon and his family, those high standards come at too great a cost. And while Mark fights the enemy within, his mother wages a different kind of war -- one that could leave her family in financial ruin.
"When you get in this situation, you look at it differently,” said Donna Dillon, Mark’s mother. “You’re thankful for every little bit of help that you can get."
A healthcare advocacy group reports Oklahoma workers' premiums jumped by 77 percent from 2000 to 2007.
Wednesday on The News On 6 at 6:00, Operation Healthcare takes a look at how millions of healthcare dollars are lost in Oklahoma.