The American Health Care Machine and You: A Call to Conscience not Calculators ©.
Our health care system fails us. It fails us not only as patients it fails the many health professionals who are also victims of the rules, reimbursements and regulations. We are buried in bureaucracy after bureaucracy—private as well as public– to make sure no one gets something for nothing. We are plagued by reams of inconsistent and incomprehensible rules, often interpreted by the very people who stand to make money on those rules. We are failed by partisan politics. We fail ourselves by remaining voiceless. Our silence harms our elders, our poor and our disabled. That Medicare and Medicaid takes care of them is a myth.
We have been fighting about health care for decades. We have been fighting over state vs. federal government roles since our founding. We have turned the fight into one of personal vs. mutual responsibility as if these two were mutually exclusive. They are actually inseparable. One cannot exist without the other.
There is an old political adage: “Health care is the third rail of politics. Touch it and die.” Well, it’s time we Americans not only touch it, we need to seize it to become a voice for change that serves our health and well-being. Our ability to do so is a reflection of who we are as a society, as a people. Our health and well-being is a matter of conscience.
What right do I have to say this?
I have worked in the belly of the beast for over 30 years. I have now been a patient. I was not expected to live. I received the best of care. But, I have seen the inside of the system as I had never seen it before. I had every possible gift—knowledge of the system, a stubborn fighting spirit, the ability to write and the miracle of anonymous friends who covered costs I could not when I was suddenly and completely devastated. I could have been bankrupted and lost my home. But I survived and eke by. Far too many don’t have the gifts I have been given. I lived. Now I must give back. I am in a rare position to speak. I can and will speak now as I never could have before.
I am an ardent advocate. I have seen the best and the worst. I was an administrator in an academic research institute, founder and CEO of a national nonprofit founded to engage the public in reform, the marketing director for a private for-profit Medicare HMO, and an entrepreneur. I am an author, columnist, and speaker. As a non-profit executive I worked nationally with the public for seven years to listen to what they need and want in a health care system and to give them a voice many believed they did not have. Consequently, I am in a unique position to write this because I have been in the industry, but not of it. My academic degrees are not even in healthcare. They are in Japanese and Comparative Governments.
I have nothing to win or lose. I did not die. Having been given a second chance at life, I cannot remain silent while we argue health care to death once again. We need a system that works for us, not against us. We need a system with a conscience not a calculator.
My premise:We cannot fix the health care system without systemic changes. We cannot make those changes without changing how we organize and pay for services. We must make our heath and well being the heart of the system. This is neither an impossible task nor a partisan issue. It is a matter of conscience, not calculators.
Our health care Titanic is sinking and all of us along with it. We are not the best health system in the world—we have thrown far too many people into leaking life boats. Yet, even the rich went down with the poor when the Titanic sank. This time there will be no band playing or nearby boats coming to the rescue. (Coming next–building blocks we can use)
Kathleen O’Connor February 22, 2016©