I have a confession: since the election, instead of meditating first thing in the morning, I’ve been obsessing over the news.
It’s a terrible habit. I can see the negative effect it has on my bodymind. I need to Just. Say. No.
Problem is, this is not mere news voyeurism. This is eye-opening, consciousness-raising, holy-fuck-what-could-they-possibly-be-thinking revelations about the minds of My Fellow Americans.
Here, from one of my favorite medicine/science/tech news outlets, is a revealing piece on what a few handsful of voters have to say about the new “repeal and replace” iteration that has just passed the House.
For all y’all who hail from ports afar, this is about the current Administration’s effort to purge the government, and by extension the health insurance system, of “big government.” What is Big Government, you ask? From my observations, it seems to mean “any regulations that protect consumers and/or the environment.”
Here, give this article a read if you have a moment. It’ll provide a bit of thought material for when you read the anecdote that follows.
It was a busy evening in the ER at the Crossroads of Life and Death. I shuttled back and forth between my domain in the Pediatric Emergency Department and the general ER, pinch hitting the “simple” cases so that the adult ER specialists could attend to heart attacks and strokes.
A guy in his late 30’s had fallen off a ladder while cleaning the gutters on his house. Unfortunately, he landed on his bum, causing two of his lumbar vertebrae to pancake together. The neurosurgeons were wheeling him to surgery, but the prognosis was grim: they did not expect him to walk again.
His wife was huddled in my arms, weeping uncontrollably. He had been laid off from his skilled factory job (no unions in that town). They were patching things together, with their two oldest boys–they had five–and the father, growing a landscaping business, just starting to climb out of the hole. Christmas was coming, and they had no health insurance.
“It can’t get any worse! It can’t get any worse!” She chanted this over and over. I tried in vain to comfort her, or at least shut her up, because I know one thing very well: it can always get worse.
It got worse right then.
The special radio that communicated with the ambulances crackled to life, giving us a quick briefing on the critical patient they were bringing us.
A 17 year old white male, motor vehicle accident, multiple major trauma. This was my case, since he was under 19. I peeled the poor lady off of me, apologizing, and ran to get the trauma team ready. Readiness is everything in the ER.
He was banged up, all right, and needed lots of attention from the surgeons. I got his vital signs stable and turned him over to the OR team, then stripped off my blood-soaked outer gown and wandered back into the main ER.
The unfortunate wife was still there, now huddled in the arms of the social worker. Uh-oh. The social worker was only called in at night when there had been an unexpected death or some similar disaster. I strolled over.
The wife saw me and burst into even more violent sobs.
“Y-you know you s-said it could always get worse?” Her voice edged on hysteria. “That boy you just worked on. That’s my oldest son!”
I still tear up when I write this.
She didn’t have to say another word. I knew exactly what was driving her panic.
Her two breadwinners, smashed up, facing long hospitalizations, surgeries, rehabilitation, long recoveries.
Her other four kids, the youngest in kindergarten.
Their home, nearly paid for…but not quite. They would lose it.
Their fledgling business, down the tubes.
Bankruptcy, in those days (the 1990s) highly stigmatized, especially in the ranks of skilled laborers.
Public Assistance. Their children would be ostracized.
Medicaid. At that time, there was only one doctor in town who accepted Medicaid patients. His waiting list for new patients was out the door and around the block.
This is why we need universal health care.
Medical disaster is the #1 trigger for personal bankruptcy. This is not due to “poor planning,” as some of those in Washington (and many voters who, justifiably or not, feel financially secure and don’t like to share) like to preach. There are literally thousands of ways to plan very well, only to have disaster leap out of hiding and gobsmack you.
If you doubt that investing in America’s health, and by that I mean the health of ALL Americans, is “good for business,” consider this:
Healthy women make healthy babies. Healthy babies require well child care. Healthy children grow up to be healthy adults, who require much less healthcare spending than do sick adults.
Healthy adults enter the workforce, where they contribute to the economy, resulting in a net gain in productivity, which will offset the initial investment in their healthy childhood.
After this initial investment in maternal-child health, at some point there will be a small percentage of children and adults who have congenital or acquired conditions, such as diabetes. With appropriate healthcare, many conditions are so manageable as to make their economic impact negligible–but only with active management. The flip side is a deficit both in functional health and productivity.
Health is wealth, in the words of my late grandfather, a tradesman who became disabled, lost everything, and never recovered.
Health. Is. Wealth.
Is that not a simple concept to grasp?