Morning #1. Willow Creek, Sept. 23.
On the road again… Yesterday, we wound our way through the fabulous Trinity Alps to our host’s house near Willow Creek, half way up the side of a mountain. As the near-full moon sets and the Sun is about to illuminate the valley below, let’s call this Morning #1
Fittingly, the first phase of health care reform- PPACA (aka Obama Care)- begins today. Is it good or bad? Over the last few days, the Mad As Hell Doctors have explored this important question through a series of meandering email exchanges that resemble yesterday’s mountain roads. Winding and harrowing.
Here’s our “party line”… Undeniably, PPACA does a few good thing that are beneficial to a few people, but overall it further entrenches Health Insurance Industry by subsidizing their flawed product with more tax dollars. We still don’t have anything resembling a real system, with true universal and equal access to care. Rising costs remain a cancer to our economy and, without question, some of your neighbors will continue to suffer unnecessarily because of financial barriers to care. We can do better.
Morning #2, hosted in the wooded hills behind Arcata, the Hippie Capital of the West.
Last evening, our event at the Bayside Grange drew an enthusiastic audience of over two hundred who, I hope, learned something that they can share with their friends and neighbors. Since, it’s apparent that we can’t count on Major Media, it up to YOU to take the discussion to your communities, either one-on-one or in small gatherings. It’s OUR job to make sure you have the tools to answer difficult questions about Single Payer health care. Isn’t that Socialism? What about choice? How can we afford it?
The easy answer to the last question is “We can’t afford not to do it!” Consider all the money we are now spending on health care as our “health tax”, as do just about all the other industrialized countries. That’s over $7,000 per capita. By putting everybody in the same risk pool, getting rid of the 1,400 middle men (insurance companies) that don’t add anything to our “health”, we can save 20-25% of the total. With those savings, we can accomplish true universal access and make sure everybody gets the care they need when they need it… instead of wandering into our emergency rooms in critical condition costing ALL of us more money in our sometimes futile attempts to “save them”.
We’re all paying for everybody anyway so why don’t we create a system to reflect it!
Morning #3. Santa Rosa, Sept. 25
Before leaving Eureka, Philip (dwarfed by the tree) and I shared a couple of beers with a dear friend and his grown son who own the local concrete/gravel company. Of course, the talk turned to health care. By their accounts, like other small businessmen, virtually, every time they interface with the “government”, whether dealing with environmental regulators or marketing/supplying their products to local, county or state governments, they find waste and workers who have little regard for the efficiencies they cherish in the private sector. I can’t argue with their experience, yet I explain that the laws of supply and demand are upside down in health care. The suppliers (that would be doctors) dictate demand by the tests/interventions that we order. Furthermore, unlike any other industry, we are all paying for everybody anyway and the for-profit private health insurance industry is a middle man that adds NOTHING to the quality of the product (health) while adding 20-25% to total cost. My friends “get it”, but when it comes to discussing the solution, they go right, embracing smaller, less intrusive government, while I go left, to a single payer system managed by those charged with the well being of all of us, aka government.
The following day, en route to Santa Rosa, I stopped briefly to gawk at the Redwoods, where it occurred to me that without government regulations, all of the large groves would eventually disappear into lumber for our decks. Isn’t it the responsibility of government to reign in the self-serving urges of private (and corporate) interests, who have a long history of profiting from plundering the planet while leaving the REAL cost of repairing their damage to all of us? It may be a stretch, but so it is with health care.
The for-profit private health insurance industry spends a lot of money dividing us into risk pools: Medicare, Medicaid (MediCal), the Vets, Employees of large/small companies, and Individuals with/without previous medical conditions. Using taxpayer subsidies, they profit from being the middle man in the care of those who are least expensive, while the government (that would be the taxpayer) pays for the care of those who are most expensive … the old, the sick, and the disabled. The taxpayer gets screwed again while corporations manipulate the political process thereby ensuring their continued profits.
By simply putting everybody in the same risk pool, we could save a substantial amount of money which would give us more resources to care for everybody. Who administers the risk pool? That would be the single payer. The government. Can we trust them to do it? Wait, wait. “Them” is “we”. We trust the government to run the post office, we have cheapest postal rates in the world, and they never lose a package. The VA Health System gets better results that the community, has high patient satisfaction, and does so at less cost. Virtually every other developed country of the world has some form of “single risk pool”… and they get better results at half the cost. In the meantime, United Health Care spends “our” money on very slick, expensive television ads try to convince you they are more concerned about YOU than their profits.
Back to my friends, throughout the (late) evening, we laughed, listened, agreed to disagree, caught up on family stuff and looked forward to our next opportunity to verbally spar, while sharing our friendship. Respectful conversations with those who don’t yet share our insights are crucial to the “cause” of single payer. Don’t be afraid to talk to those who aren’t already part of the choir. Are we going to change their minds? Probably not in the short run, but we’ll have fun trying.