2013

13 November 2013: In health care, we’re in it together

In health care, we’re in it together

In a 167-word letter to the editor in the Denver Post, Dr. Mark Earnest nailed the rationale for the need for universal health care.  “In any given year,” he writes, “half of Americans consume almost no health care at all, whereas 10 percent of us will account for three-fourths of all the health care spending that year.”

The problem is, he logically points out, no one really knows if he/she will be among the unlucky 10 percent, given we’re all “one accident or diagnosis away from falling into it.”

My friends Steve and Denise never anticipated they would make the Top Ten.  Both were diagnosed with cancer at relatively young ages: Steve at 57 and Denise at 49. Both had led exemplary, healthy lives: proper diet, exercise, etc., but they were not guarantees of long-term survivability.  Neither survived, Steve dead within 13 months and Denise, 30 months.

The fees racked up during their ordeals were exorbitant.  The financial costs to their spouses and families were astronomical despite the respectable level of insurance under which both were covered.  As Dr. Earnest asserts, “few of us could afford those costs on our own.”

One amazing consistency about nature and life is that we’re all vulnerable, some more so than others due to preconditions, disabilities, or high-risk occupations.  Others increase the odds of their needing medical attention due to self-inflicted wounds, some literally by weapons they keep in their homes and others symbolically by indulging in a poor diet, not taking time to exercise regularly or at all, and through addictions: smoking, drinking excessively, and the like.

Regardless, “In our vulnerability to accident and illness, we are all the same. One size really does fit all,” says Earnest.

“At one point we all needed maternity care. At some point we could all need care for cancer or heart disease. Let’s stop pretending otherwise and start honoring the truth.”

Of late there has been considerable hullabaloo about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  It’s been beset with problems technologically as well as with confusion.  To that, letter writer Floy Jeffares asks, “What’s so special about that?”

As Jeffares points out, quite correctly lest we begin to pine for the good old days of gouging, “Health insurance policies have always been cancelled with sickening frequency due to loss of income, loss of employment, injury or illness, and because policyholders dared to use the benefits for which their premiums have paid.”  She neglected to mention the annual 8 to 10 percent premium cost increases over the past decade.

Good point, though.  Big Health has had an immoral stranglehold on our health care system since the good old days of Richard Nixon who saw it as a good thing.

There are two ways to look at humans: essentially good and wanting to make good choices or not good.  How one looks at that dichotomy is a probable indicator about where he/she stands with regard to people taking care of themselves.

There is one way to look at the capitalistic model: Profit.  Even the undertaker wants to increase his/her bottom line, and death is where it’s at for him/her.

Let’s keep in mind Big Health and Big Pharma are about profit, not about good health, just as Big Food is about profit and not about lessening our processed sugar and sodium intake.  Why, if I were a Tea Party conspiracy type, I’d assert there is collusion amongst them all to keep us overweight and addicted to their products.

All of us in time will likely need to avail ourselves of the undertaker’s services.  My bet is most of us prefer delaying that date as far as possible and in that process avoiding pain and suffering.  For the individual, personal health and the care needed to maintain it is not a commodity.  For United Health and the rest of the insurance behemoths, it is a commodity.

It comes down to this: Health care is a right not a privilege.  A society that allows and even supports predators to stand between a person and his/her right to health care is morally bankrupt.

Obamacare, the pejorative term for the ACA, has struggled to get off the ground, but it has been hugely successful in turning the conversation from Americans being helpless pawns in the corporate competition for profit to us affirming our right to good health care.

As Earnest makes clear, “Everyone is vulnerable. Everyone needs real coverage. Whether you like it or not, we are all in this together.”

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