Healthcare – Doing Something Better

The New York Times, Commonwealth Fund and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health surveyed those who use the health care system the most. According to their report, while the whole point of health insurance was to protect one from financial ruin in case of catastrophic, costly health problems, the results show it often fails in that basic function. In essence, even those with healthcare insurance face financial ruin.

One key problem, not many really know what their insurance covers. In the case of my parents, one would have thought I requested top secret clearance to national secrets. Thus, I had to threaten to sue the insurance company to receive a complete copy of their medical plan. It was stunning to see and digest the process for used to determine what services were covered and what services were not covered.

One small area I delved into involved dementia and Alzheimer’s. As previously written, the world hasn’t prepared for Alzheimer’s or dementia care. But even today, a major factor affecting the quality of such care is being able to consistently deliver it. In custodial care, Nursing Assistants are relatively disadvantaged economically, have low levels of educational attainment, serve under physically and emotionally demanding work, and are among the lowest paid. Thus, society cleans their conscious by casting loved ones into the hands of these people and later wonder aloud of the things that went wrong.

For those like my father, dementia is an increasing cause of suffering. Insurers however, both private or government, fail to address the tidal wave of custodial long-term care required by an aging population. As a result, as the population of elderly grows,  dementia will replace cancer as the most feared illness. Dementia’s impact not only affects the person with the disease, but family members, friends and those who care for them at home are forced to provide care options to which they are neither prepared nor can financially afford.

Those battling the ethical dilemma generally fall into two groups. Proponents profess that Jesus believed Christians should support a Christian president. Therefore, since the president believes in a public health option, we should therefore assist our fellow man. On the other hand, opponents claim the problem we face is that Jesus never mentioned universal healthcare. There’s neither any Biblical mandate to provide healthcare, nor is there any mandate to implement.

There is a third viewpoint – the one that blames. In the blame-game, current congressional leaders espouse exclusivity. It’s the wanton desire to blame and punish the poor for all societal ills. It is similar to Nazi Germany blaming Jews. Most recently, Senator Mitch McConnell blamed poor people for budget problems his party created. Need another example? Look no further than the September 2011 Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer pushed candidate Ron Paul about a hypothetical man without insurance who goes into a coma. “That’s what’s freedom is all about,” replied Paul. “Are you saying society should just let him die?” asked Blitzer. To which point several members of the Tea Party-heavy audience interrupted with “YEAH!”

In almost every country, the population aged 60 years and over is growing faster than any other age group, resulting in an increase in older people’s care needs. According to WHO, the population aged 60 and over is expected to increase from today’s 600 million to an estimated 2 billion by 2050.

As a Buddhist working in the medical field, good organizational structures, based on a well-coordinated team with good co-workers and a fair and understanding manager, will be critical for maintaining good care. What current congressional leaders miss is that when Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare is cut, it will be difficult to care for the old if ethical foundations for caring is absent.

Citing my personal ethics, we are called, not only as society, but as a humanity, to treat people with loving kindness. This moral compass means moving from simply understanding medical knowledge to acting in spirit-filled love. The following incident as told by a clinician highlights such purpose.

An elderly woman near 90 was acutely admitted. She did not feel well at all, wanted to have her blood pressure checked and said she felt as though shadows were falling over her. We sat and talked for quite some time and I took my time with her. She said that I was the first person she had met that looked into her eyes.

Unless you’re part of the 4%, any proposed healthcare cuts will offer little but suffering. Most will be presented with hard choices, pay a bill, pay for healthcare or pay for a prescription. At the end of the day, society has to do something better than simply saying, “Die.”

Your vote is important, not only for today and tomorrow, but for 2050 as well.



Categories: Social Justice

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