In 2009, when the first discussions about reforming healthcare begin, I was against many things that define Western Medicine. Particularly: Insurance companies. I was fed up with overpriced drugs and services, and had my anecdotes to illustrate why something needed to change. I saw it as a great opportunity.
In 2003, I had gone in for an annual exam that should have cost $25. When I got the bill for $306 a month later, I debated it with my doctor – who fired me for complaining. I ended up going to the lab directly, and learned I could have bypassed the doctor and gotten the same tests for $48 without an appointment. And that was 1/3 less than my copay. I was furious but slightly wiser.
Later, I had several experiences with Applied Kineseology, which was a type of medicine practiced by a Chiropractor I had met in 2007 after spraining my ankle. He used things like acupuncture, cold lasers, and digestive enzymes to get me back to walking and running in 2 weeks, when I thought it would be months to heal. I jokingly called it voodoo medicine, but was a believer because it worked on me.
In 2009, I favored single payer alternatives and alternatives to Western Medicine, and hoped this was the end for insurance companies. But the Democrats had spine removal surgery. All I could say was that at least they got rid of pre-existing condition exclusions. But I knew it wouldn’t slay the Cost Dragon.
The years that followed had a string of healthcare experiences that brought new lessons. I lost a friend to MS after a heartbreaking 30 years overcoming. I severely injured my ankle skiing which introduced me to more AK therapies and Reiki. I lost a friend to a motorcycle accident that taught me the details about organ donation. I lost a close friend to throat cancer, and took in another with a brain tumor who thought cannabis might help.
Then I had a 2-year journey with my Mom and cancer that turned me into a patient advocate. I learned how to obtain an experimental drug from a pharmaceutical company with approval from the FDA, and then how to let go of that accomplishment a few weeks later and accept moving my Mom into hospice.
If that wasn’t enough, I became a Power of Attorney for my Godmother and Aunt, as she then broke her hip, had to give up her apartment and belongings, and move into Assisted Living paid for with Medicaid after having her life savings stolen by an In-Home Care agency that fraudulently told her the services were required by her doctor.
I feel like the Farmer’s Insurance guy – I know a few things cause I’ve seen a few things.
When I reflect on how I changed through all of these experiences, it boils down to Trust that deserves a capital T. Trust in other people that look me in the eye, tell me the truth, and maybe back it up with a hug. Trust in people that deliver the hard reality, including the flaws in the system that make navigating the financial side often more difficult than the health options – but who show you the ways to minimize the costs, or bypass the system even if it doesn’t benefit them.
And, that’s the point: I can no longer rail on the system as though there are not people within it that care. I know, from experience, that there are many talented people with great intentions throughout our healthcare system – from the ER to Cancer treatment to those in alternative therapies. It’s about far more than money, it’s about compassion.
So, as I approach the upcoming debate, which is more urgent than most realize, I know that I’m not looking at this the same as I did 8 years ago. I’m a different person, and my perspective has changed. Yet, the problems we are facing are, for the most part, no different. In the spirit of Jimmy McMillan, I’d simply say the cost of healthcare is too damned high!
What I’ve learned is how to judge sincerity and genuine compassion. It’s not complicated face to face. You either look me in the eye, or you don’t. And, if the news is bad, you don’t candy coat or mince words.
Our elected officials, particularly Republicans who control the outcome 100%, are avoiding us. They don’t want to look us in the eye and have Town Halls. And, when the few who have Town Halls hold them, they offer scripted responses as they at the floor, sky, and through you. They lack courage and compassion to look us in the eye, and they see healthcare as a privilege, not a right.
We must, without further delay, demand that our voices be heard. But, we must remember and acknowledge that in spite of a system with outrageous prices, there are good people with good hearts that care and deliver some of the best services in the world.
If you want to convince me of anything different and earn my Trust, then look me in the eye so I can see your compassion.