The herd of pink elephants in the healthcare reform arena is worthy of Ringling Brothers. One by one they march around in circles while we focus on the symptoms and not the problem. It’s as effective as putting a Band-aid on a sucking chest wound.
The first elephant in the parade is the inequality of healthcare recipients. People who reside in the lower castes of our economic system, and rely on support from the government to eat, do not shop at Whole Foods. Because it’s cheaper and often more filling, they’ve become addicted to Ring Dings, Hot Pockets, and, as my friend Joyce calls it, monkey junk. Even if with more money for groceries, without a plan for long-term education, the only result will be more profits for the makers of Ring Dings and Hot Pockets.
Secondly, those in this category are not prone to exercise. When you’re worrying if there’s enough peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches for your kids’ lunches, going out for a jog is not at the top of your priority list. Exercise for the sake of exercise is a foreign concept to many of the cultures that comprise this group and an enormous commitment to education would be necessary to affect change of any kind.
The next elephant is the fact that most people in the country do whatever is necessary to run away from their feelings through all kinds of unhealthy habits – from smoking to drinking to overeating to watching television 40 hours a week. It’s not the bad habits that lead to poor health. Poor health comes from the unfelt emotions that create bad habits.
Gender is the third elephant. I have friends who practically have to hog tie their husbands or lure them with the promise of wings and beer to get them to the doctor. Perhaps because women get used to going to the gynecologist at a young age (because we’re primarily responsible for birth control, but that’s another story), we don’t suffer from the anxiety level that many men do. Regardless, it’s a factor.
Although government management of healthcare is an elephant that hasn’t been completely ignored, the motivation in recognizing it is fear of the cost. The real issue is because it would be a disaster. It already is. Making good choices about Medicare providers requires the tenacity of Lewis and Clark and the mental agility of a world champion chess player.
Then there’s Medicaid, whose doctors get paid paltry sums for primary care patient visits. I’ve seen figures ranging from $25 to $75, and I’ve been told in Florida, it’s closer to $15. From personal experience, I can attest that this means that if you’re poor, health care is provided by doctors who need to have 4,000 patients on their rosters to make anywhere near what their colleagues earn. Or they have lucrative weightloss or “skincare” clinics that allow them to see patients once a week while the other days are staffed by nurse practioners. Most get burned out and burned up and it takes a very special Medicaid doctor for people to leave the office feeling better.
Leading this silent pack is the reality that the very existence of insurance and pharmaceutical companies is dependent on people being sick. The fact that insurance companies are reluctant to pay for preventative care has nothing to do with efficacy and everything to do with fear. What would they do if everyone were healthy? They have a vested interest in making sure people get and stay ill.
Instead of trusting that using premium dollars to help people become healthy could create an energy that would be contagious, they bemoan expensive claims and small profits to justify denying coverage, and as an explanation for why a woman who’s undergone a mastectomy gets a mere 23 hours in the hospital.
What’s being bandied about Congress is not healthcare reform. Reform means calling out the elephants one at a time and dealing with each one before instituting any formal program. Any healthcare plan implemented without acknowledging and dealing with all of these issues is destined to fail.
The truth is, history will probably repeat itself and the elephants will be ignored. Some type of plan will be passed by Congress and the president held completely accountable when it fails. Why? Because we don’t really want equality. Who would there be to look down upon? To “help” because we need affirmation that we’re better off? Besides, we don’t want to be healthy. We’d rather hold onto our aches and pains and illnesses because we perceive they bond us. What would there be to talk about if we were all well? Let’s see someone take a bite of that elephant.