Our View: The good Dr. Kipe

Scenario: A patient is rushed to the emergency room with a serious ailment. His life is at stake, and time is of the essence. He has no health insurance.

The law says that patient cannot be turned away.

Although many of us carry health insurance and wouldn't have to worry about the risk of not being treated, those who go without -- from the irresponsible to the disenfranchised -- should be grateful that such a law exists.

Somewhere along the lines, an advocate spoke up, laid out an argument and successfully lobbied for change that enables all people, poor or otherwise, to receive the care they need in their most desperate moments, like trips to the emergency room.

We hope efforts by one of our local physicians, Dr. Larry Kipe, the subject of a feature story in Thursday's Craig Daily Press, is just as successful. His plight -- lobbying for universal health care in Colorado -- is just as important.

Kipe, a physician at Moffat Family Clinic and The Memorial Hospital in Craig for the past 18 years, and who's been in practice for 25 years, became president of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians in July, effectively becoming the figurehead of an organization with a stated top priority of pushing for a basic health care package for all state residents.

In the story, the doctor described the failings of today's health care system as "abysmal," and a "terrible social thing." He spoke passionately about providing people -- all people -- with treatments that could prevent more serious problems down the road.

He spoke against the corporate control that insurance companies have over the health care system instead of the trained doctors and health professionals that work within that system every day.

It is the contention of this editorial board that doctors like Kipe -- physicians who place patient care above the bottom line -- aren't special in this day and age.

They are phenomenal.

According to statistics from the academy, 16.9 percent of the state's population, or 778,000 people, live without health insurance. That translates into roughly the same population as Delaware. Nationally, the figures are even more staggering: 15.9 percent of all Americans, or 46.6 million, live without health insurance.

With a problem this glaring, we must ask, who's at fault?

Is it state or Washington, D.C., policymakers who failed to implement a system that provides an across-the-board health care system? Is it health insurance companies -- the power brokers of the system -- that seem to put more emphasis on the bottom line than providing care?

Or, is it the patient -- provided that the patient isn't a child -- who failed himself by not being self-sufficient and carrying health insurance?

The answer is far from black and white, and this editorial board doesn't pretend to know the solution.

However, we're comforted by knowing that professionals with patients' best interests at heart are at the forefront of lobbying for reform. We're comforted knowing that in a health care world marred by complaints and shortcomings, that doctors like Kipe are out there fighting for patients.

Whether he and the academy are successful, the debate seems to be just as valuable as the result.

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