Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dr Lewis Wall's voluntary services to the health needs of Africans versus the incomes of American health insurance executives

Compare the voluntary service of Dr. Lewis Wall to the health needs of folks in Africa with the bloated benefits of the health insurance executives who claim to be serving the health needs of America.

Most of us tend to regard health professionals as providing a kind of ministry, a public service, to individuals and communities in their times of need. For that we feel they deserve remuneration fitting to their service, so we don’t begrudge the incomes of physicians, nurses, technicians, and other health professionals. But when the remuneration of executives in the health insurance industry ascends beyond amounts that seem fitting we begin to distrust them. They appear to be self serving, exploiting the sufferings of Americans for their own benefit. Likewise for the investment community: when their essential interest is in profits to be made from the illnesses of Americans we wonder if there isn’t something wrong with the way the health industry is constituted in this country.

I am thankful that my colleague Dr. Lewis Wall has been recognized by Nicholas D. Kristof (his column in today’s New York Times) for the voluntary service he has provided to African women suffering from obstetric fistulas. Through surgery he has enabled hundreds (thousands?) of women to have a normal life who had previously borne scorn and humiliation for an illness created (usually) by early age child-birth. [Click on the title for a link to Kristof's column.]

Compare Wall’s voluntary service with the salaries of top health insurance executives: salaries that run in the millions of dollars. Is it fair for executives to accept a salary of several million dollars a year for managing the health services to sick folks in this country?

This is not a comparison that Dr. Wall would likely ever make himself, but I keep wondering: Isn't there something wrong with an industry spending billions of dollars lobbying congress in its own interest when there continue to be major problems in the health care system that the insurance industry controls?

1 comment:

hannah said...

Dr. Wall's son is a recent graduate of Wash U - he took Arabic a few years behind me, which is where I met him. Good family all around.