My attending and I have a pretty good relationship. Good enough that we can have a back and forth about politics (typically a no-no in the world of medical education and "professionalism"). He tends to point out my leftist tendencies and I point out his right-winged nuttiness. After 3 weeks of working in his clinic, which serves a rather impoverished part of the state, I can see his point of view.
Nearly half his patients have their healthcare covered by the state. This is great, but it seems like those same patients tend to do the worst at taking care of themselves. I don't mean eating right and exercising. I could understand if they didn't have the resources to do that. I mean they ignore doctor recommendations, then get an exacerbation of their disease, get admitted and have a hospital work-up that costs tens of thousands of dollars, get better, then go back and ignore every recommendation made to them. It's frustrating for a physician when a patient who is unemployed (and has no trouble with transport or any responsibilities at home) misses important appointments repeatedly or a patient who has all their medications paid for not taking them. Yes, some patients with good insurance also fall into this pattern, but from my admittedly short experience so far, it's a nearly universal pattern with those that are under the public health plan (and my attending agrees). One assumption I could make is that they have trouble following recommendations because they have a lot of other problems in their lives, but it's hard to tell if that's the case.
No, fear not dear readers (both of you), I'm not becoming a Republican (though my attending keeps on telling me that it's a matter of time). Rather, I think that there needs to be a shift in healthcare resources. Covering expensive medications and procedures is great, but I'd rather give those up for increased education of patients and more access to social workers. Preventative care looks great on paper, but in the real world, it only goes as far as patients know to take it.