Thursday, June 29, 2017
Simplify Life; Simplify Healthcare
The strangest thing happened nine years ago.
As I recovered from open heart surgery necessitated by an infection-destroyed-aortic valve, I began sifting through my possessions.
I threw out the used-up; I gave away the used.
It felt freaky.
I literally made five or six trips to Goodwill, my car filled to the brim with unneeded items. I gleefully unloaded them — boxes, bags, packages.
It is a good example of the idea of the unconscious.
I was definitively not preparing to die.
I was not advised of any shortening in my lifespan.
I wanted to live.
However, and for then-unknown reasons, I sought to make my life simpler.
I continue the process to date. But I understand it now. The death-defying wake-up call elicited a yearning for simplicity, for clarity, for integrity.
When I buy a new shirt, I give two away.
When I clean up up my office, I give away a book or a statue.
I eliminate clutter.
I find clean kitchen surfaces and desks calming.
Too much information frays your nerves.
Like many other psychological studies, a recent one related to this topic confirms the obvious. Researchers designed a study on stress. One group of subjects took a one-hour walk in the wilderness; the other took a one-hour walk in the city. The researchers then measured the amount of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in the participants’ saliva.
Just like you would anticipate, the folks walking through the wilderness had lower cortisol levels.
Because, even when walking calmly through city streets, you are exposed to massive amounts of information.
You see neon signs and flashy billboards. You hear loud noises: tires shrieking; horns blaring. You encounter hundreds of people.
Your bodymind absorbs massive amounts of information.
In contrast, when walking through the countryside, you see bushes, trees, hills, and sky.
You take in less information; you experience less stress.
The Senate healthcare debate unfolding over the past few weeks makes a rush-hour walk through New York city seem calming. It has become the Platonic ideal of information overload.
The bill renders even more complicated an already absurdly confusing healthcare system. Perhaps more accurately, and as an NPR interviewee noted yesterday, it is really a tax cut for the wealthy masquerading as a health care bill. It facilitates these tax cuts for the wealthy by decimating the amount of federal aid provided for healthcare services for the poor.
In brief, the bill transfers wealth from the poor to the wealthy.
And, while doing so, according to the Congressional Budget Office, some 22 million Americans would lose their insurance.
Several months ago, I posted on this topic from a different angle — how our current healthcare system represents a form of psychotic denial. You can view it here:
Today, I emphasize the simplification — less information, less stress — that would come from an easy solution to the complex, healthcare mess:
Offer Medicare to all Americans, from birth onward.
Medicare, as a system, works fairly well. It is already set up. Physicians offices, hospitals, clinics, know how to use it efficiently.
But many resist such a hardly unique solution.
Some fear it represents a form of socialism.
This argument lacks foundation. Our taxes pays for police, fire, airports, etc, but not our own citizens health? We are the only major industrialized country — in the entire world — to not have universal healthcare. It is not socialism; it is the same social democracy we already have — only a better, more humane version of it.
Some fear the tax increases which would be required to pay for such expanded coverage.
This concern also lacks any rational basis. Why pay large sums to profit-making companies, like Blue Shield or Aetna, when you could get better benefits by paying less in taxes?
I pay more than $1000 per month for essentially catastrophic health coverage. My deductible is $4000. I would much rather more in taxes, particularly if it helped to provide healthcare coverage for all Americans.
No one could object to the extreme simplicity such a solution offers.
Meanwhile, while the white-privileged-male-dominated Senate dithers about, great profits are made on citizens’ cancers, hypertension, gastric ulcers, and other diseases. It is a moral nightmare. It is a sham.
Expansion of this extant single payer system would still allow insurance companies to exist. They could compete for various levels of supplementary care. Wealthier Americans could buy vision, dental, and other additional benefits. But all Americans would be entitled to the “essential health benefits,” including maternity and mental health care.
Let’s simplify the American life.
Let’s simplify healthcare.
While on the topic of elegance and healthcare, consider the US Tax Code. It run 74,608 pages. It contains more than 10 million words.
It too begs for massive simplification, but one thing at a time…
Let’s start by simplifying the healthcare system in America and, most importantly, ensuring all citizens have insurance and access to care.
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