the wealth care industry

February 19, 2001

I got suckered the other day — and I hate getting suckered. Here’s how it came down: Chris Cordiani invited me to join him on his eleven o’clock roundtable, which I always enjoy doing. We got on the topic of health care. Chris, being a self-proclaimed conservative, was arguing that the status quo was okay. And I was arguing that the status quo sucks. Then I got suckered.

Chris didn’t intentionally sucker me, but sucker me he did. Because right away, he’s got me and callers debating the U.S. vs. the Canadian and British health care systems. Chris does not like the quasi-socialist nature of the Canadian and British systems, so we got in a debate about how they compare to ours. And that’s where I got suckered: because it’s a debate set up to completely avoid addressing the real issue.

The fact is, I don’t care about the British or Canadian health care systems. I don’t care if they are good, I don’t give a damn if they are bad. That’s their trip. I care about here, my life, the lives of those around me, and your lives. So the question to me is not how does our system compare to other systems, the question to me is how does our system compare to what we hardworking citizens need and deserve?

My opinion — not from statistics but from my life — is that our health care system sucks. Ask the uninsured, ask the barely insured, ask the working insured, ask the elderly…even better yet, ask the people who work in the system: the nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists and lowly aids. Ask them and you’ll get the same answer I always seem to get: it really sucks. (I don’t bother asking surgeons, because they are already so obscenely wealthy that everything works for them.)

On the other hand, ask hospital administrators and hospitals stockowners. Ask the executives of insurance companies who get paid more when they are fired than most of us could earn in five lifetimes what they think of the system. Ask the stockholders who get hung up on the value of their shares and forget about the value of our lives. They love this sucker.

It shouldn’t be called health care, it should be called wealth care — because brothers and sisters, that’s all the system and its defenders care about.

Where are you on this stuff? Does your experience with the wealth care system make what I say sound silly or am I sounding fit of mind? Personally, I’m praying that I stay fit in body — because I can’t afford to get ill.

Geeze, sometimes I think that we all feel so powerless and so victimized by the system that we are happy to just get whatever crumbs they toss us from the table in the corporate dining room. Or we have this misguided notion in our heads that this is capitalism and a free market and the system works the best it can. Baloney.

We’ve got a lot of mentally ill people out there, but just try to get coverage for psychiatric treatment. They just look at you and say, “Hey, you’re nuts.”

Remember the Constitution? We ought to read it every now and then. The whole thing, amendments and all, starts with a promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Well, what is life in this country given the wealth care industry? What is liberty if you can’t get proper care? And God knows what their idea of the pursuit of happiness is when we live in terror of going into the hospital, which, nowadays is just plain dangerous.

The last two friends of mine who had to be hospitalized — one from a serious car accident and the other from a stroke — were both almost killed by the damn hospitals, not by the accidents that sent them there in the first place. And in both cases, a loved one or friend had to be in the room around the clock to protect the patient from the doctor.

I met a wonderful doctor when I was living in California. He worked for Kaiser Permanente, which allows him exactly five minutes per office visit, so he would go to the homes of his more seriously ill patients after work. He is wonderful, but he’s just one guy. Somebody out there please tell me that the system is not a whole lot sicker than we are.
My personal physician works for a clinic as a contract worker. Everybody else in the clinic, the secretaries and the nurses, are all only, in theory, allowed to work thirty hours a week. This means that legally, they are part-time workers and their employer does not have to provide health benefits.

This means that my doctor doesn’t have health insurance. Tell me that ain’t sick.

The worst of it is, this particular clinic is owned by two doctors, who buy themselves health care because they can. By not buying health care for their workers, they make themselves rich enough to buy their own insurance. If that doesn’t define wealth care, what does?

Does anybody out there have any ideas about how to fix this catastrophe? Or are we all so anesthetized by the self- perpetuating bull of our politicians that all we do is wait and hope for the best?

The problem isn’t evil people — although I really don’t like the cats that profit from this or the cats they pay to be our politicians. No, the problem is an out-of-control system, and those of us who are unwilling to grab the steering wheel and get this sucker back on the road.

We are supposed to be in charge of our country, right? Or am I just still high on the stuff I swallowed in 1967? (Could be, it was made by Stanley Osley, who I still consider a health care hero. But that’s another story, and probably one I shouldn’t tell, though if you know me you know that I inevitably will.)

What we need are ideas. Bill and Hillary flew one out there in the ‘90s, but it was so complicated that it got shot down with a BB gun.

Personally, I want a constitutional amendment so the thing reads, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the opportunity to be healthy enough to have the first three.

I know that if we knock our heads together, we can make it happen. To hell with Canada and Britain — we have forever been the country that figures stuff out first. But first, we have to take the profiteers out of the discussion.

Sorry pals in the medical and insurance industries. We already know your opinion, now go wait in the corner while we figure out how to deal with this. Then, assuming that you have any expertise in the area of real health care, which is unlikely, we might invite you back into the room — if you’re lucky.

From now on, if a politician doesn’t speak directly to improving this stuff, I don’t care about their other campaign platforms: they won’t get this violator’s vote, and hopefully they won’t get yours, either.

While we are healthy enough to stand, its time to stand up to this system and change it. Like the man said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

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