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Health care reform: revolution or evolution - the change we need (part 1 of 3) sunday, may 29, 2011 by: len saputo
When Barack Obama was elected to the presidency of the United States, many of us felt a sense of hope we hadn't experienced in decades. We were convinced that a new era of transparency was unfolding, and that America would finally resolve its most important social, economic, and political disparities. We sensed a turning point in American history, a social transformation of major proportions. We imagined the rebirthing of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. At the very least America had already taken a giant stride forward by electing its first ever African-American president!
While this "high on America" feeling swept across the land, a highly sophisticated narcissistic and evil counter movement to sustain the status quo was also gaining momentum. A small and powerful segment of the wealthy elite who run the business and politics of America for their own personal gain had no intentions of allowing "the change we need" to take root and upset their economic and political control. It wasn't "the change they needed!" When Barak Obama took his oath of office, the massive financial power of these massive giants was fully capable of purchasing and controlling the US Congress, and only Congress would determine what health care reform would mean. Since that time, nothing has changed this frightening scenario. Nothing!
Make no mistake, what is happening in health care reform is not at all different from what is happening in the reform of any other sector of our society -- be it business, law, religion, politics, science, or sports. The fact is that despite our hopes and great expectations, up until now "the change we need" remains far more a dream rather than reality. Fortunately, at last, many Americans are awakening to this reality and are outraged. However, outrage alone is insufficient to create the change we need.
Being a veteran physician with several decades of experience has given me an insider's perspective on why and how medicine has lost so much of its heart and soul and become a coveted business enterprise that is far more about return on investment than service. Yet I continue to have faith that the "change we need" is possible. We have the tools and power to make it happen today, but we haven't stepped up to the plate and used them. We've been in such a deep trance that we've failed to appreciate that we have always been in position to change how America operates in every way at the deepest level. We have been living under a spell cast by corporate America and those wealthy elite who control it.
The Affordable Care Act was little more than a token for health care reform. It did little beyond rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking Titanic. President Obama failed to educate and rally the public, and especially his political base, and few people in Congress understood the full implications of the long, convoluted, and poorly understood Affordable Care Act. Don't think this was done by accident. It was deliberate. Even worse, too many legislators focused primarily on how much money and power they could get in return for selling their vote. Big Pharma, big hospital chains, and the insurance industry did stellar work in investing their money and promoting their narrow, self-serving "solutions" in the US Congress and even the White House. Their return on their minor investment promised to be exceptional. And relatively speaking, the money they spent on lobbying and campaign contributions was merely their pocket change. What a cheap way to buy Congress and guarantee the status quo.
Big Pharma and the insurance industry invested in an excess of $500 million in "donations" to Congresspeople in 2009 that are nothing less than outright bribes. Let's do the math. There are 435 members of the House and 100 members of the senate. That comes to 535 people divided by $500 million dollars. Hmmm, that's nearly a cool $1 million per Congressperson! It is impossible to follow the dotted lines and come to any conclusion other than Congress has an allegiance to preserving and enhancing the status quo for Big Pharma, the insurance industry, and the very wealthy who control them and many other highly profitable industries. The value of a political soul in 2009 had a price tag of less than $1 million per Congressperson. What a steal when one considers that a total health care budget of $2.3 trillion was at stake!
Health care reform: revolution or evolution - what did we get from the affordable care act? (part 2 of 3)
So what do we Americans really want when it comes to health care? Wouldn't it be nice to have health care reform that provided affordable health insurance for everyone and shifted the focus of the health care industry from managing diseases to promoting wellness and vitality? Sure, we were outraged by the fact that this did not happen, but we're still asleep at the wheel when it comes to taking action to change this situation.
What has become more clear with each passing day is that without radical health care reform, the future of medicine in the US will continue to operate far below its potential. Quality of health care will continue to be split into two groups. The first group will provide mediocre health care at best. Of course, it will be offered to the uninsured middle and lower socioeconomic classes. Under the Affordable Care Act there is no increase in funding to pay for this! So what do you suppose will happen to the already poor quality of Medicaid health care? Both the quality and quantity of health care will have to be compromised. It will be nothing comparable to the best private health care plans such as what Congress and the wealthy have. Millions more will be pressured to choose a plan from state-run exchanges that present health insurance plans from the same old greedy private insurers, and untold millions more will not have access to any insurance at all!
The second group gets the best health care possible. Of course only the privileged and the wealthy can get this insurance program because it is unaffordable for the rest of us. Money talks! It gets you in the hospital you want, the doctor you want, the tests you need in a timely way, any treatment there is, and there are no exclusions, long lines, or red tape that gets in the way of getting the best care possible on the planet. Overall, however, for the rest of us there is no sensible reason to predict that we can rise significantly above our present lowly WHO ranking of 37th in the world in overall quality of care. We need radical health care reform for this to happen and that has never been an option.
It's been said that our thinking has to evolve to a new and higher level if we want real change in any area, including health care reform. So what is that new and higher level, and how do we achieve it?
This higher level could evolve from pondering and taking action to resolve questions like: Can we act at the grass roots level to develop healthy programs that would prevent disease and promote wellness? Do we need government to take care of our health care needs? Can we take responsibility for taking care of ourselves by living a healthy lifestyle and stopping the massive pollution of the planet? We have become so brainwashed that we believe we can rely on the medical profession to take care of us if we don't?
It is time we begin appreciating that as consumers we have a lot of power. We have been so vulnerable to advertising that have forgotten to think for ourselves and make intelligent choices about what we purchase. We have fallen victim to clever advertising that we know does not tell the truth and entices us to buy products that are often unhealthy, unnecessary, and environmentally unfriendly. We have forgotten that corporate America is completely dependent on how we spend our dollars.
So, how can we change this scenario? Should we clean out Congress and replace it with honest politicians by voting every incumbent out of office? At least it takes a certain amount of time for the new faces in DC to become corrupt. Is it realistic to create legislation prohibiting Big Pharma and the insurance industry from its disregard for service and its greed for profit that has finally become so obvious? Is it possible to safeguard our precious medical research by prohibiting the publication of scientific literature because of conflicts of interest that lead to lies or distortion of research data? Can we force Congress to provide the financial support the FDA needs to make it an independent agency that can regulate Big Pharma without having an incestuous partnership that jeopardizes its regulation of drugs, cosmetics, household products, and even the food we eat? Can we pass laws that prevent the pollution that puts us at risk for poor health and injures our environment? Is the answer going to come from legislation or through inspiration; from law enforcement or education? Or both?
Pogo was right after all; we have found the enemy and they are us! It has finally become clear that we are waging a war against ourselves! We have become brainwashed to worship the almighty dollar and have forgotten our true purpose in life -- that of loving one another and living in community where we all pitch in and take responsibility for our social, economic, political, legal, spiritual, and medical practices. We have forgotten that true community embraces and rewards for giving and graciously accepting, but not for narcissism and taking. We have forgotten the principles of the village where every person is interconnected and an inseparable part of the whole. We have replaced this philosophy with one based on competition and have placed our own self-serving desires above that of the community. So where do we go from here?
The pitiful squeaks of the enlightened few are barely decipherable above the powerful roar of corporate America. Today's politicians beg us for votes and make grandiose promises to serve us as their primary objective, but in the final analysis their pocketbooks and their hearts are owned by corporate America.
Health Care Reform: Revolution or Evolution, What Can We Do to Control our Own Destiny? (3 of 3)
Health care reform is considered by many Americans to be the most important domestic issue in America, but is it really? Indeed it is important, but is it more important than the loss of our democracy and the loss of the voice of the people? Is it more important than the pollution, poor quality food, and high levels of stress that are causing much of the epidemic of chronic diseases that now affects 50% of all Americans? Is it more important than fighting the two wars we've been engaged for such a long time? And at a much higher level, is it more important than solving the global issues of preventable disease and hunger?
We have partially awakened from our trance and are starting to address some of these issues. We're screaming about our lost rights but are feeling helpless about creating change because we don't have faith that we can make a difference as individuals. We have forgotten that the only way change ever occurs is with an idea and someone to represent it. We must remember that if it is worthy, others eventually will see and follow.
Is there hope? Is it too late? There are very worrisome signs that our government is so far out of the hands of "we the people" that it no longer does much good to "write to our Congresspeople!" In fact, even voting in many respects no longer offers much choice; does it matter in any substantive way whether you vote Democratic or Republican? Is there that much, or even any for that matter, difference between the two parties as far as corruption is concerned? Has either party come up with a solution to our health care issues that is sensible? Have we become involved with a colossal struggle characterized by politics so polarized that we have lost sight of what we're trying to accomplish. Why is it that every single Democrat votes one way and every single Republican votes the other on health care reform? Is anyone in either political party thinking for themselves? Is following political party lines more important than working together to make America a better place? Are we doomed to crumble under the weight of our own corruption as have so many empires of the past?
Perhaps Gandhi had the answer when it comes to effecting social transformation. Our natural instincts are to fight against what we believe is wrong. However, where has this gotten us? Into fights! Sometimes there is no other option, but generally, even when this works, it causes change through fear and dominance rather than inspiration. How about we behave by becoming the change we want to see? That was what Gandhi proposed. There's no fighting involved in this approach. But, it may be more difficult to change our behavior rather than do what comes so naturally to us; fighting back. Change through inspiration tends to be lasting because it comes from within and is what we choose. Change through fear and dominance may impose change, but it is not likely to be lasting because it is not our choice. It leads to revolution, not evolution.
What if we took action at the local level and engaged in community programs based on good things such as developing programs that support a healthy lifestyle? What if we began participating in local government to create policies we believe in? What if we created educational programs that teach the golden rule first, and then how to build community? What if we learned to listen and care about everyone in our community? What if we spent our dollars to achieve these goals and refused to spend them on what we don't believe in? What would happen if we took this kind of responsibility?
The answer is obvious! We'd control our destiny. We'd take back democracy without the firing of a single shot. We would become leaders rather than followers and would elect only those Congresspeople who would represent us completely. We would stay in constant contact with our elected officials and participate in all governmental decisions. We'd eliminate any corporate or private business that did not offer service as the first priority because we would not purchase their goods or services. We'd be teaching our children how to get along with one another and live in community. We'd have health care that we could afford and would encourage wellness rather than react for the most part only after we get sick. In short, we'd be healthier, much happier, and make decisions that benefit our community. We'd have meaningful purpose in our lives. We'd also have far more financial resources to allocate to whatever projects we believed in.
The choice is ours: reacting to corruption with outrage, or being the change we want to see. Do you support revolution or evolution?