Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

The excruciating mystery of health care reform: Mrs. Winchester explains it all

January 23, 2011

Tags: Health Reform Repeal, Affordable Care Act, repeal, Winchester Mystery House, Kate Scannell, understanding the Affordable Care Act

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 01/23/2011

IF THE ongoing ... ongoing ... and ongoing debates about repealing the Obama administration's new health care law causes you to feel weary or disoriented, a quick visit to "The Winchester Mystery House" could set you straight. This popular tourist attraction in San Jose is just the ticket for an invigorating education about the American health care system. It can make anyone feel more confident about surviving the deadening clamor of the current disputes.

The first thing to appreciate about the Winchester Mystery House is that it continues to stand despite its original owner's obsession with constant architectural renovations. Legend claims that Mrs. Winchester conducted nightly séances to divine home-remodeling tips that would allow her to elude and confuse "bad spirits." Her compulsive need for self-protection meant constant and unwieldy revisions to her home.

Consequently, at one point the Winchester home contained at least 500 separate rooms of varied shapes and sizes. Stairways that bluntly ended at ceilings. Chimneys that ascended short of the roof. Doors that opened to nowhere. As the home's official website describes: "The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her."

We are kin to Mrs. Winchester as we continuously amass disconnected health care policies under one old roof and choose to think of our ramshackle construction as a unitary "system."

We never get the foundation right because we always listen to the loudest political spirits of the day and take their piecemeal advice. We pass innumerable health care laws and regulations that are so mind-boggling and labyrinthine to navigate, that we often give up the ghost trying. Meanwhile, as individuals and as a nation, we pay a hefty premium for the thrill of it all.

In other words, the Winchester Mystery House looks a lot like our American health care system.

But the Winchester house uniquely offers visitors the opportunity to experience chaos and structural anarchy without suffering apoplectic fits. In fact, (more…)

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How the new health care law may affect the unliving

January 9, 2011

Tags: Health care reform, end of life counseling, Medicare, unliving, death, politicization of death, advance care planning, zombies, Kate Scannell

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 01/09/2011

LAST WEEK, the Obama administration removed a provision from the new health care law that would have encouraged opportunities for patients to consult with doctors about life and death concerns. Under the provision, Medicare would have reimbursed physicians for time spent with patients who wanted to discuss end-of-life treatment and voluntary advance care planning during their annual wellness visits.

Thank goodness -- and Sarah Palin -- that the Obama administration had the timidity to withdraw such a ridiculous provision. Really, why would any mortal being ever want to talk about ... being mortal? Why would anyone ever want to document their own preferences to guide their future medical care when they became unable to speak for themselves?

Besides, whoever heard of a dead person complaining about the insurers and medical personnel who took charge of their health care during their final hours or months within an ICU?

Clearly, it is better to allow our dying process to arrive as one big surprise party for all concerned. (more…)

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