On Healthcare Reform – Less Just Might Be More

My compatriot Amanda and I were having breakfast this morning and somehow the topic of health care reform came up. I said was pretty apathetic about the whole thing, which she disapproved of and so we got the chance to discuss it. As a result, I now have a much more concrete concept of what my opinions on health care reform are.

I think we all agree more or less that our current health care system is broken or at least, far from the ideal. Thus, everyone is trying to come up with ideas of how to fix it. The goal is apparently for everyone in the country to be able to get the healthcare they need. This is a good goal. But I have a hard time getting enthusiastic about any of the solutions being proposed, mostly because I disagree with their foundational assumptions.

The first foundational assumption is just what healthcare needs to include. Our nation is obsessed with health, but this obsession often times seems to a) have much more to do with comfort than survival and b) be solving problems that are a result of unhealthy lifestyles. And so, when we expect healthcare, we expect much more than is necessary or reasonable. We want a pill and a cure for everything and we want it now, thank you. This is not to say that all healthcare is like this; there are legitimate health concerns and health needs in individual lives. I’m just saying that in a lot of cases we expect much more than what we actually need.

The second foundational assumption is that if people do not have access to healthcare, that it is the government’s job to do something about it. (sidenote: we expect the government to do everything else to keep us happy and comfortable, why not this?). For centuries, the responsibility for healthcare did not fall on the government, but was picked up by the church. Who cared for the sick and the dying? The church. Why not today? Did not Jesus tell us to love and care for the least of these?

So, my response to healthcare reform is, let the government do what it will do with the healthcare game. The game is broken; they’re trying to rewrite the rules. My solution? Get out of the game and help those who can’t afford to play.

We don’t need institutionalized healthcare was much as we think we do. Our bodies have an amazing capacity to stay healthy; they’re designed that way. Every day our body successfully defends us against millions of physical and biological threats often without us knowing it. The best healthcare reform we can have is reforming the way we care for our best medical resource: our bodies.

Your body is the best doctor you have, and common sense is the best medicine. Take care of your body (healthy food, lots of water, regular sleep and exercise) and it will take care of you. Granted, it’s not wrong to access healthcare when it’s really needed and to go to a doctor in some situations. But we don’t need it as much as we think we do.

Good healthcare reform would be this:
To reform the way we take care of our bodies
To reform our expectations about what healthcare we really need
To reform the church’s lack of responsibility towards the poor, needy and sick

Kristina BjorkmanGooseRadio

4 thoughts on “On Healthcare Reform – Less Just Might Be More”

  1. Great words, Kristina. I think your take on whether or nay we ought to expect the government to provide us with care as a right is dead on. No pun intended.

  2. I appreciated having the opportunity to read your post. I think the biggest issue in Health Care today is the lack of understanding about what “health care” in America is. Most people commenting about it, though well intended and generally correct about the broadest concerns, like the three generalizations you listed in the conclusion, but are familiar with the intricacies of the current system. They are often led down the primrose path by the media which, except in the rarest of cases, is markedly biased toward their own particular generalist view point. I love that you have taken the time to look more deeply at a subject that has been beaten to death but remains relatively uncovered in the public eye. I wish more would look deeper. After all it’s one of those issues that all of us will have to face at some point in our lives. Related to you summary points, then a few of my own, “Good health care would be”:

    a. To Reform the way we take care of our bodies: I agree 100 percent. Health care has been moving in that direction in a substantial way for the past 15 years. We have insurance policies that pay portions of health care memberships for instance, and a host of preventative or early intervention services supported a wealth of informational media to support changing how we take care of our bodies. We also have the businesses associated with being young forever even if that is only accomplished cosmetically (another issue). My point is that ‘health care’ has been and currently is addressing this issue fairly forthrightly. It is supported by private as well as public health care systems but is not “required” by any I am aware of. So the question remains, though the point is well taken, how do we motivate people and/or incentivize the system adequately enough to cause people to actually follow through with your fundamental consideration? You could say wait until their health gets so bad that they have no other choice which is one of the underpinning issues of the current expense.

    b. To reform our expectations about what health care we really need: This is a twofold statement; (1) reform our expectations about health care which is underpinned by; (2) determining accurately what we need. In many ways I agree this is a generalization at the heart of the debate. Who determines what is “health care” and what is “needed”. Is it the subscriber? Is it the government? Is it the insurance company? In today’s world for the majority of Americans it’s the ‘health insurance company’. The would be patient determines they have a health care concern (symptoms). They go to the medical professional. The medical professional matches the set of symptoms to a probable cause and recommends a treatment regimen. The insurance company then determines what is “usual and customary” in that case and only pays for what their current subscriber contract allows. Any variation of the regimen is resisted by the insurance company regardless of the necessity determined by the attending physician. So… basically, most people go with what the insurance company will cover and stop there. What is “needed” becomes a very relative term… depending on which relative you talk to.

    c. To reform the church’s lack of responsibility toward the poor and sick: Another common generalization offered as a method of taking care of what people believe to be the biggest reason for publically subsidized health care. While I agree with the church taking on more of what it once did, the church is still people… not just an institution to point toward. A church’s ability to help the sick and poor is directly related to how much resource the congregation is truly willing to put forward. Based on current trends, I don’t see any church’s resource, except Scientology, that is growing at a rate that would allow any one church to take on even the needs of their own congregation for any length of time. There is also the issue of willingness to take on the issue. Christ was/is a tremendous example of how to love the poor and care for the sick. Many Christians are also tremendous examples. I wish there were more of us that would or could mobilize in the direction you speak.

    Charity in America is not the charity I grew up believing. Charity is not a “tax deduction”, it’s a part of a belief system that presses one to give without expecting a personal benefit in return. Charity in America benefits those that can take the tax deduction and then insinuate they have actually given to the poor. Harsh? Yes, but truth. On top of that the churches are really not receiving that many donations.

    Just a few of my points then I’ll bring this to a close instead of writing a book haha:

    1. Most people have no idea what the current health care system is: Most American’s don’t concern themselves with health care until there is a reason to engage it. At that point they discover all kinds of things about the system that seem outrageous. The current funders of health care, whether purchased or publically subsidized, use terms that the majority of Americans do not even understand because how they are applied has nearly nothing to do with how they are defined by “Webster”. The terms “medically necessary”, for instance is defined differently by each insurance company and has to do with how many days or increments of service should be approved based on their research about the particular condition. To most Americans, the terms ‘medically necessary’ mean the steps necessary to resolve a medical condition.

    2. The system is already remarkably publically subsidized yet under regulated in terms of the funder’s accountability. How many hospitals are not-for-profit yet generate millions of dollars in revenue? All the lack of tax payment is a public subsidy. I am familiar with at least one system that can build a new hospital at nearly any time, competes with the private sector in all kinds of ways utilizing the 3 to 15 percent additional revenue generated from not being taxed as an advantage in the market place…. is this truly not-for-profit? One of the largest health insurance companies in the US is not-for-profit yet has all kinds of physical assets and a huge number of government contracts… again subsidized by the public dollar.

    3. The common clamor we should privatize health care completely. Well… in many states we’ve actually tried that. In Minnesota who do you suppose currently reviews and rations health care to the poor? Private insurance companies do. You might have believed that it was Medicare and Medicade but in Minnesota “managed care companies” like Ucare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Partners, Medica, etc. all bid to ‘administrate’ the prepaid medical assistance plans. In other words, the private companies are the ones in control of the public funds and have been for several years. There are all kinds of examples I could bring forward.

    Economics are at the base of this debate, not people. The actual providers make less and less being squeezed from both sides. Most are forced into contracts where they, at best, get seventy cents on a dollar for services rendered. Plain, basic, economics suggests it actually costs X to provide a service. If an insurance company will only pay seventy percent of the charges then the provider has to raise their rate to the point that it can recoup at least one hundred percent of the cost to provide the service or go broke. The result is an escalating charge for the service even when the actual money received is break even. When you look at a day in the hospital and see the charge most of us cannot believe our eyes and complain about how expensive health care is. In reality what has happened is that the hospital has made adjustments to make sure they receive the revenue necessary to cover the expense of providing the service. If it costs 1000.00 to provide the service and the funder only pays 700.00, the rate will be raised to 1430.00 a day in order to get the 1000.00 on a plan that will only pay you 70% of charges. It’s a shell game that most people never ever take the time to see much less understand but everyone has an opinion about what we should do haha.

    Finally, sorry so long winded but some of the pure bull that is pumped by the media in general gets under my skin. I see really good people standing up fairly forthrightly barking out their disdain while waving a piece of yellow journalism as the underpinning of their understanding. This is a remarkable issue. The system truly needs to be fixed. It is not the poor who are causing the issue. Without the poor you would not have the rich. Someone has to give up their piece of the pie if you want more. It is not the alleged expansion of government that is the issue. Demanding accountability from the systems ‘funders’ should be a high priority and that will require governmental intervention because the current funders will not police themselves sufficiently.

    Again, sorry so long winded, I’m writing on the run. Thanks for bringing the subject forward and providing a forum through which a person such as myself can actually comment.


  3. Curt, thanks for your reply to the post, even if it is long :-)

    Your perspective helped me to refine in my own thoughts my perspective on this issue and my goal in the post. I think that the things you shared are much more big picture than mine. If I were to title your post it would be something like “the foundational problems of current healthcare and their ultimate solutions”.

    My post on the other hand was more trying to get at “simple solutions to rely on while the government is trying to do something. Don’t panic.”

    The government is intervening. Whether or not that is good or right or the only option can be discussed. But the government is intervening. A lot of people don’t like that and are in a panic about it. My perspective is more for the every-day Joe; don’t panic, we can get along alright no matter what the government ends up doing to fix things. We can work harder to stay healthy. We can reeavluate what kind of care we actually need. We can begin to rely more on each other (in my case, within the church) to take care of each other when it’s needed.

    I don’t like panic and we don’t need to panic, even if what the government is doing is a) going beyond their boundaries and b) coming up with a solution that won’t eventually work.

    We’ll be alright. Don’t panic.

    Thanks again!

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