Compared to my previous hippy-dippy-love-is-the-answer-we-are-the-world blog, this one might seem like a little bit of a downer, but I've had a rough morning. Those of you who know me at all know that good quality affordable healthcare for every American is the issue I have been most passionate about and will most likely continue to be until my demise.
"Oh, Ilene," you're saying to yourself, "must you bring me down?" Well, yes. That's my answer. There is a horrible reality in this country with regard to healthcare and that is this: If you have money, you live. If you don't, you die. That is the beginning and the end of it, the simple truth that we would like not to think about, let alone rectify.
When it comes to freedom and democracy, we enjoy viewing ourselves and our country as morally superior. But I would like to throw this out there whilst we're busy patting ourselves on our proverbial backs. As long as Americans are dying because they can't get the care they need, and as long as that's okay with us and we are willing to look the other way, then we are far from morally superior, and certainly far from the greatest country on earth. And I say this, not because I'm unpatriotic, but because I am patriotic - because I know we can do better, and we have a moral obligation to do so. When the poorest American gets the same treatment as the richest, then we'll be the greatest country on earth, and not a moment sooner.
Yes, I can tell you that I am impacted directly, that my premiums have just gone up to $600 a month - for a single person. I can tell you that those premiums do not include my neurologist with whom I just had to work out a payment plan. I can tell you that I called two internists this morning whom I was referred to by a doctor whose opinion I trust. Neither one of them will take insurance. I can tell you that it pushed me just a tad over the edge. While sheepishly backing out of any appointment making, I weighed my options - drop the insurance and pay totally out of pocket? Randomly pick a doctor just because they're in my plan? What is the answer when healthcare costs surpass every other expense I have?
And while I'm on a healthcare roll, lets talk about my fellow Nashvillians and our upcoming elections tomorrow, because indeed, all politics is local. Our TV is flooded with ads, and for the first time I can tell you that I've met both the Democratic candidates running for our State Senate seat. I wrote about our current state senator, Douglas Henry, in a previous blog - the one where I went to lobby with the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign to keep centers open for the mentally ill. He told us he wasn't going to vote for anything that cost money, despite our desperate attempts at explaining the bigger picture - that it would cost far less in the long run to keep centers open than to pay for stints in prisons or hospitals. So if you're in Nashville, vote Jeff Yarbro tomorrow. Jeff actually came to the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign's annual meeting, as did our congressman, Jim Cooper. Douglas Henry - no where to be found. And I say that with all the love in my heart for dear, old Doug. Vote Jeff Yarbro tomorrow.
Friends of mine have asked me when I will run for some public office. Truthfully, I'm not sure I have the stomach for it. I tend to call it as I see it - and that's a quality that successful politicians seldom employ. So for now, I'll just keep fighting the good fight of striving for real equality in this country.
A final note about another current trend in medicine - concierge doctors. First of all, I thought it was a fictitious term made up for the TV show Royal Pains, which I love because of my many year crush on Mark Feuerstein, which is neither here nor there. But it turns out that this is a real thing going on in this country. So for X amount of dollars a year, usually in the thousands, you can have more attention from and access to your doctor, and more thorough testing. That's nice...if you have the few thousand extra to spend. But what if you don't? You miss the attention and life saving tests? Again, what does that say about our values?
Call me whatever name you like, I think it's a sin to grant one person the gift of good care while denying another. I think we should have a single payer system. I think healthcare should be a not for profit industry. I think healthcare providers and patients should be making decisions and that insurance companies should be banished from medical decisions and from campaign contributions. I think we should care for one another the way we all pray that we be cared for should we have nothing. I think we should all hold our elected officials on every level accountable for truly representing our best interests. I think that we can and must do better than we are currently doing. There is only one playing field on which the rich and poor are exactly equal, and that is in the voting booth. So vote. Write. Call. Make your voice heard.
Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And good health to you all.