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August 8, 2010 - 12:33pm

Renowned Batavia surgeon weighs in on health care -- part 1

Dr. Victor DeSa talked with seniors Friday about the federal government's new health care legislation. This followed his hour-long presentation, sponsored by the "Older Adult Ministries" program of Batavia's First United Methodist Church.

DeSa is a retired surgeon who had a private practice in Batavia for many years and currently serves on the United Memorial Medical Center Board of Directors. He is well renowned and respected in the community and very knowledgeable about how the health care field works -- including the role of legislation and the relationship between health care and the government.

There is a lot of misinformation about the new health care law and how it could affect  people -- especially Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

The doctor expressed disappointment in the mainstream media's handling of the topic.

"The people in the media are not doing their job," DeSa said. "The media used to look out for the common man, but now they have a bias and a preference. (Consequently), the news we get is filtered and we don't have all the information we need in order to make informed decisions."

For those who could not be there, here's the gist of DeSa's presentation (it will be divided into two parts for the reader's convenience) -- it reflects the arguments he made based on careful and meticulous research, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Batavian.

Health care: rights and responsibilities

The question of whether health care is a right or a privilege came up early in the presentation. This language, said DeSa, is problematic. The real question is this:

"Is health care a right, or is it a personal responsibility?"

He pointed out that health care is considered a right in socialist countries, where people "have abrogated their rights to the government" so that the government "will take care of (them) from the cradle to the grave -- and that includes health care."

"The United States is not yet a socialist country," he said (and yes, he did emphasize yet), "so here, health care is a personal responsibility."

What he meant by this, is that each person has a certain amount of control over his/her own health (diet, exercise, etc). For instance, if someone chooses to live on bacon, cheeseburgers and cigarettes all the time, then he/she is indirectly "choosing" to have weight problems, heart problems, high blood pressure, etc.

"If I'm responsible for my own health, should everybody pay for it or should I?"

Misconceptions about U.S. health care

DeSa assured his listeners that we here in the U.S. do, in fact, have the best health care in the world. To prove it, he spent some time debunking two popular myths that lead people to believe the contrary: that our infant mortality rate is higher than in countries with socialized health care, and that lifespan is shorter in the United States than in said countries.

On infant mortality, he said: "We (in the U.S.) over-report infant deaths, while other countries under-report them. Here, we're so meticulous about reporting, that if a baby takes a couple breaths and has a couple heartbeats after birth, it's reported as infant mortality. But in developing countries, a baby dies an hour or two after being born and it's reported as a stillbirth."

He also pointed out that a large percentage of infant deaths take place in the inner-cities, where there are a lot of crack cocaine and AIDS babies.

"These babies die in spite of very good health care. Their deaths are due to social problems, not medical problems."

As far as lifespan goes, he said that longevity is about the same in this country as in those that have socialized health care; what doesn't get factored in with lifespan studies is the fact that the U.S. is the "murder and accident capital of the world."

"If you took the murders and deaths from accidents in Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans in one month, they are more than the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan in one month."

In short, the evaluation of U.S. life and health often ignores social problems and unfairly puts all the blame on health care.

Universal care vs. universal insurance

...Wait a minute, aren't they the same thing? Not according to DeSa.

"We do have universal care in the U.S. The EMTALA Law ensures that no one who comes into the emergency room will be refused care -- even illegal immigrants. That's the right thing to do, the humane thing to do and the moral thing to do, and I support it."

He says there is a "subtle but important difference" between this and universal insurance, which we don't have. There are currently 47 million Americans uninsured.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that as a result of the new health care legislation, 32 million people who were previously uninsured will be insured at the end of 10 years. However, there will still be 21 million people uninsured -- and this is in spite of the fact that the new law will require people to buy insurance!

Who are these 21 million uninsured, you ask? Young, healthy people making between $35,000 to $82,000 a year.

"When you're young, and you're starting a family, and you have mortgage payments, you have a whole host of other host of things you have to worry about. You're going to say, 'Well, I'm young, and I'm invincible...maybe I won't fall ill. I'll take the chance and hold off on buying health insurance.'"

This is going to have a couple of important consequences. First of all, DeSa said, "the IRS is going to need about 16,000 new agents to track them down."

Even if they do track them down, not much is likely to change.

"If I'm a young person," DeSa said, "and a federal agent tells me I have a choice between a fine -- which starts at $95 and over the course of seven years will go up to about $700 -- and purchasing health insurance for $12,000-$13,000, it's a no-brainer."

Secondly, these people will cycle in and out of insurance programs. Faced with a serious condition like cancer, a young person will go to an insurance company for coverage -- and they cannot be refused under the new law. But when they get better, they will forego the insurance.

"People will abuse the system. That's just human nature."

While uninsured, these individuals will be able to make partial payments for hospital visits about 27 percent of the time; the rest will be covered by the state's "uncompensated care pool," into which each hospital in the state pays.

But even this won't cover the whole cost. To whom does the remainder of the cost shift? The taxpayers.

"This varies from state to state depending on the percentage of uninsured they have, but the average each person pays is $300."

The second and final part of the article will be up soon.

David Lazik
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The "socialist" buzz word this doctor uses appears to come straight out of the tea party & FOX playbooks. Right wing buzz words are often used to confuse & scare people, especially the elderly & poorly educated. How did THE BATAVIAN determine that "his arguements are based on meticulous & careful research"? Why does THE BATAVIAN refer to this retired physician as "renowned"? I guess he thinks it's acceptable for uninsured people with simple complaints like the common cold or a headache to continue to overwhelm our emergency rooms & drive up health care costs. The emergency room should be for what it states - emergencies. According to the WHO, the USA ranks 37 out of 191 counties in health care.
John Roach
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Howard B. Owens
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John, just to be transparent, Dan Crofts is officially a correspondent and is paid for his posts.
John Roach
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David, I was wrong and you did get it right.
Howard B. Owens
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That's not necessarily true, either, John. I believe in letting an author own his work. Unless it's clearly a factual error, I'm pretty hands off, myself. Billie is responsible for editing for clarity and the rules of good writing. And I'll let Dan address any issues -- if he chooses -- regarding interpretation.
Dennis Jay
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His perspective is very biased -- and misleading. The statement about the 16,000 IRS agents was advanced by Newt Gingrich. FactCheck.org says it's wildly inaccurate. (http://politicalcorrection.org/factcheck/201003310001). I think the idea of getting an analysis of health reform from a medical professional is a good one. Would have been better to find someone a bit more objective.
David, You know what I am really sick of? People who can only go to the Tea Party/Fox news attack when someone disagrees with the Health Care bill. I am not a Tea Party member or watch Fox news. I have also read the Healthcare bill. Have you? Did you know that indeed it did call for the hiring of additional IRS? Did you know that there is no reasonable fine structures set up for corporations to continue to insure its employees? Oh and did you know that there was a total re haul on student loans...in a health care bill? Did you know all that? I actually lived in Europe for three and a half years. I saw their system up front, had friends that were placed on deferred care, couldn't get appointments for specialists for months on end and had no recourse except to leave. The problem with people who have these "He's a Tea Bagger" line of dismissal are usually the same people who just watch CNN or MSNBC. I read direct from the source. There is not much that the DR. said that isn't true. If you want to claim fear mongering, maybe you should try reading the actual law, instead of just the bullet points.
Dennis It calls for the addition of IRS agents, but doesn't lay out all of their tasks. Again, why is this in a healthcare bill?
Jeremiah Pedro
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I guess David missed your disclaimer Howard. Typical, he sees this so called "right wing" buzz word and just skims through the rest of the article after that. Then jumps into berating the Batavian, the "right wing", fox viewers, and the tea party. Way to make your opinion look unbiased and viable David. You make me want to vote democrat, not!!
Frank Cook
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Nobody should find this at all compelling. Whether or not what he says is true, there is absolutely no evidence provided to support his statements. Maybe we over-report infant mortality. Maybe we don't. How does he know? How does anyone know? His arguments are based on irresponsible assumptions. And I'm not sure what constitutes a socialist country, but I sure did enjoy my socialist schools, my socialist parks, and my socialist libraries. The way he uses the word implies that he doesn't actually know what socialist means, and he is using it interchangeably with communism or some kind of dictatorship.
John Stone
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If it wasn't so tragic, I might be laughing right now! What I find here is the typical liberal response to anything that deviates from "The accepted party line". (Well, except that he wasn't also labeled a racist, which is usually the FIRST line of 'offense' against those of us that prefer to pay our own way versus having the "State" take care of us.) This typical reaction comes from the fact that one's entire understanding of the issue is what they have been spoon-fed by the liberally-oriented media outlets. They have not actually read this ENORMOUS bill, so their arguments come from the weak position of ignorance... Try reading this monstrosity, and if it is actually comprehended by the reader, he can be left with NO DOUBT that it is a very, VERY bad idea! One thing you seem to be neglecting to mention in your comment, is the fact that the frequent abusers of an E.D. (Emergency Department, as they ceased to be called an Emergency Rooms over a decade ago) are more likely to be those people living with a sense of entitlement based on a lifetime of Medicaid 'benefits', rather than those without insurance. The latter group tends to think about the bills they will have to pay out of pocket, and do all they can to minimize it. They actually prefer to make an appointment with their doctor after an illness gets so bad that some treatment is required to keep them alive. The WORST thing happening to medical costs in this country? Yeah, that would be the labor unions that consistently strangle the taxpayers at every turn, and that is even before the imminent "Pension Bomb" explodes and forces all these different municipalities to declare bankruptcy. To fix the problems in this Republic, and all of it's divisions, we first need to determine the true cause of the 'disease' and begin excising the tumors. (Strange how the list of countries in the worst financial straits are those with the longest lists of current labor unions, huh?)
Frank Cook
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To be honest I think part of the problem is doctors. The last 5 times at least that I've had to go to the doctor for something, I called and was told to go to the emergency room rather than make an appointment. None of these were even remotely close to being emergencies. The healthcare reform has to be a consensual effort between the people, the government, and the doctors to figure out what works best for everyone.
Daniel Crofts
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David, I chose the term "careful and meticulous research" in order to show that Dr. DeSa's intention was not simply to give a knee-jerk reaction to something he doesn't like. This man spends hours researching this type of material and "digging beneath the surface" in order to try to understand it. He did admit that he has a bias as a health care professional, but he encouraged people to do their own homework, become informed, and decide for themselves. Whether or not what he's saying is true, we should give him his due here.

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