The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Grandma taught me a lesson at an early age.  It was a lesson that as a child I didn’t really appreciate or understand.  “Sweetheart, if you have your health you have everything.”  I adored my Grandmother but I thought filling up the page of my stamp album with all the pretty stamps or getting an A on the history test were far more important.  Then I got older – and then I grew up.

Because she was widowed at an age when my mother and aunt were young, she had to work hard to get by.  She held two jobs and took in other peoples’ laundry to make ends meet and to save a little bit each week.  Sadly, back in the 1920’s there were no social financial safety nets – other than what you might receive from family, friends or neighbors.

Grandma was not obsessed by money.  She never anticipated, nor did she have aspirations to become wealthy.  But she definitely understood that it was a bad thing not to be able to pay her bills and she worked diligently so that neither she nor her children were ever in that position.

Part of Grandma’s profound understanding of economics, based less than on her third grade education than on the experience she gained by attending the “School of Hard Knocks” was that income was only one component of being financially secure.  The other was how she spent what she had earned.  So she would go to five or six different grocers to buy the finest quality produce at the best possible price.  If she were president of the United States, this country would be running annual surpluses – which then could be used to help those who had not learned or didn’t care about the lessons she had been taught by life.

I don’t believe my Grandmother thought of herself as a Libertarian.  I’m not sure that the word had even been coined while she was alive.  But if she were with us today, I’m sure that she would identify far more closely with that system of government than what we find ourselves saddled with today.  And perhaps, by osmosis, that is why I view the world as I do.

Let me say that my views do not necessarily follow a “party line.”  There are very few essential issues to which virtually all Libertarians subscribe.  Beyond believing in a  limited amount of  government intervention in our lives and taking personal responsibility for our actions,, many of us who consider ourselves to be Libertarians are free to agree or disagree.  That, in itself, differentiates the Libertarian from most people who subscribe to the dogma promulgated by other political parties.  We do not have to subscribe blindly to the party “platform” in order to be considered loyal partisans.  That is, of course, also the weakness of Libertarianism.

Perhaps a better word to use to define Libertarianism is the phrase, “people who are skeptical.”  While we commonly accept the word “skeptic” as meaning a person who doubts, the derivation comes from the Greek “skeptikos” which refers to a person who investigates.  So with that in mind, let’s investigate why Obamacare isn’t working – at least not as it was touted it would.

First, I think it is fair to say that the primary premise behind the law was that it would enable every American to get health insurance.  In that respect it makes the assumption that having health insurance is the equivalency of having healthcare and that those who do not currently have health insurance would, with great avidity, seek it out.  Granted, there have been difficulties with access to the website which might have deterred some of the uninsured from investigating their new options.  But the most recent polls suggest that only one in five of those who are uninsured have even bothered to try to see what options are available to them.

If I were marketing a product that I was convinced “everybody” wanted and needed but found in surveys that only one in five actually had an interest, I would probably revise my expectations and my marketing strategies.

Second, Obamacare approaches the question of “healthcare” only from the standpoint of the consumer – not the medical establishment.   It doesn’t require skepticism to realize that if our doctors and hospitals are not willing to accept people who are covered by the new “health insurance” because of the minimal reimbursements which are being offered to them, they will find more profitable ways to do business and those who hold these new insurance policies will find themselves holding a worthless piece of paper.

If we were to purchase a product that was advertised on national television and discovered when we went to use it that it simply did not work, all sorts of government agencies, in the interest of “consumer protection,” would be filing law suits against the manufacturer and probably drive that company out of business.

Third, I have said many times that we do not now have and will not have after Obamacare a “healthcare system.”  What we truly have is a “disease maintenance” system.  If we were serious about improving the nation’s health, we should focus on having a “wellness system.”  But there are several problems with that concept.

The first is that there is very little money in providing “wellness.”  The healthy individual does not go to the doctor, other than for an annual physical exam and does not need the services provided in our advanced operating rooms.  Nor does she require prescriptions that support our pharmaceutical companies and our drug stores.

The second problem is that living a healthy lifestyle requires effort – individual effort.  It means that the individual must accept responsibility for his own good health and that requires discipline.  Americans like things fast.  That includes food – whether at a franchised McDonald’s or from the freezer of our grocery stores.  These products may be FDA approved – but that doesn’t mean that they promote good health.

The FDA and the Department of Agriculture also approve the way in which we raise and feed the factory-farm animals that contribute significantly to our diets.  The estimates are that 90% of the FDA approved antibiotics which are manufactured are fed to these animals.  As we ingest them in our meals, we naturally absorb the antibiotics that the slaughtered animals consumed during their brief lives.  Why, therefore, should we be surprised that the NIH has raised concerns that antibiotics are no longer proving to have the efficacy they once did as new “super bugs” are proving resistant to them?

It’s one thing to refer to problems and criticize and quite another to offer positive solutions.  But in a country which has almost universally accepted the concept of “disease maintenance” as “the way things are,” it is unlikely that either Obamacare or any variation of it will prove effective in the long term.  Our “healthcare system” will continue to hemorrhage both blood and red ink.  And it will be up to the individual to look after her or his own well-being.  That is if the government will let those few of us who believe this to follow our hearts and our consciences.

As Grandma said, “When you have your health you have everything.”  For those who do not believe that statement – well, they have Obamacare.

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