Friday, August 14, 2009

Whole Foods, U.S. Health Care, and Buddhist Teachings

I have been a little bit reluctant to directly link the current health care debates going on in the U.S. to Buddhist teachings, but feel compelled to so following an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey Whole Foods Solution . The following post will address some of the issues I see with the approach outlined by Mr. Mackey, and also consider how spiritual practice might impact how one sees these issues.

First, my own story. I work at a small non-profit that cannot, due to funding, afford to give us health coverage. I have long been passionate about my work, teaching English as a Second Language, and feel strongly that it's been a good line of work for me. However, not only does my employer not cover me, but I can't afford to purchase a plan that doesn't also have a 5-10 thousand dollar deductible. More than once, I've been told "move on, get another job." And I am looking, but this brings up the larger issue of telling people to leave careers they are passionate about, or even which are “good enough” because of something like lack of health care coverage. It's kind of a stupid set up if you ask me. I have watched many talented teachers leave the adult basic education system I work in because of low pay and no benefits. And this isn't just our system's issue; people are losing their benefits, or getting much weaker plans, on a daily basis.

So, I support a single payer system. I don't believe that a government run system is a perfect answer because there are no perfect answers. I imagine my readers from Canada, England, and other places might have a few words to say about government health systems. But as far as our own goes , I truly believe it is driven by greed and profit margins, and that too many in the U.S. have forgotten that medicine isn't about making money, but about caring for people and reducing suffering. What I keep coming back is the question “What is most effect way to address the individual and collective dukkha in our society around health and health care?” And the answer that keeps coming back is single payer.

Now, to the Wall Street Journal article. John Mackey's position is fiercely in defense of "free market" system health care. The way he writes about it is exactly why I believe we are in trouble here in the U.S. Let's take a look at some of his lines.

1. "While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system."

When did health care become an "entitlement"? I just don't understand how we have gotten to the point where people can say something like this with a straight face. Here you have a rich, white male, who has assets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, who most likely lives in a gated community, and who has people in his company who do all of the “menial” and “lesser” work for him – and he’s speaking about entitlements. It’s laughable.

Here’s a few things for us in the Buddhist communities to think about. It’s definitely true that everything is impermanent, including our health. That we shouldn’t cling to anything, including our body, believing it will last, because it won’t. But isn’t it also true that we have teaching after teaching speaking about how this human body is a vehicle to enlightenment and that we better “take heed, and make use of this precious life!” And beyond this, what about the emphasis on generosity, and not being stingy? Obviously John Mackey is probably not a Buddhist, but I’m not about to think that all Buddhists disagree with his position, because I’m pretty sure he has some supporters among us out there. So, the question is “How is basic health care for all people ‘an entitlement’, and how does that square with Buddha’s teachings?” I think even if you disagree with Mackey, but support any form of health care system that leaves out large numbers of people – as the current one does – this question is for you.

2. The government should "Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs)."

Mackey argues that high-deductible plans are one of the wonder-drug answers to the health care problem. And sure, they're great for large companies because they cost the company less, but what about the individual who is supposedly covered? As if poor people, or even a lot of middle class people, have an extra couple thousand of dollar tucked away to pay for a medical exams, a broken arm, or even a handful of regular visits and follow-up visits. I paid nearly $200 for a ten minute exam at a low-income clinic four years ago, because my meager salary was over the federal “poverty” guidelines. That was just for the visit, with no exams, no medications, no nothing added. Mackey writes in a way that suggests Whole Foods is compassionate because they offer these crappy health insurance plans, and then give their employees some money to cover some of those costs they might incur.

What I don't understand from a business stand point is how all this red tape - having to set up HSAs, and having someone keep track of all the paperwork involved, is such a cost-effective solution for big business. Many of these companies have huge departments full of people whose main jobs are to deal with insurance claims, coverage for employees, and all the paperwork under the sun. How is that cost effective? Is it that they are so blinded by their belief in the power of the markets that they can't see how, in this case, they are being drained economically? Of course, for every CEO like Mackey, there is another one who sees this very thing, and decides to do away with health insurance for some employees all together. Or simply eliminates half the jobs in the company under the guise of “restructuring.” We have a serious compassion-deficit in corporate America, regardless of what people believe is the best way to address the current health care crisis.

3. "Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying."

This strikes me as a great way to increase the number of denials for coverage from the already denial-happy insurance industry. Let's face it: they love saying no because it increases their profit margin. And eliminating regulations that mandate certain issues and procedures be covered will only make it easier for these companies to throw ethics out the window in the name of the bottom line.

4. "Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America."

Ah, the good old Constitutional argument. I guess while we’re at it, let’s go back to the days of slavery, the days when women and people of color could not vote, the days when Senators were chosen by the state government and not elected by the people. Whenever someone uses the "It's not in the Constitution argument," we should all pause.

Let's go further with the above statements, especially the line about no intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. This is the end point of free-market capitalism - you toss the suffering of others to the wind. You say that they are personally responsible for their problems, for their lack of health care or food or whatever, and you deny that there is such a thing as collective responsibility. In other words, as Buddha might say, "You believe way too much in a solid, separate self."

5. "Even in countries like Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments."

This is the classic fear tactic being pummeled into the minds of Americans again in the drive to demonize any alternative to the privatized system we currently have. Never mind that people are routinely denied coverage for treatments deemed "unnecessary" by private insurers. Never mind that people are routinely denied the option of choosing doctors "out of network" by their insurers. Never mind that there are plenty of waiting lines for non-emergency procedures under the current system, run by these same private insurers. There is no such thing as complete freedom of choice, regardless of the system. And in terms of choice, I'd argue that in many cases, we living under the privatized U.S. system actually have less choice. As for the scarcity argument, it can't get any scarcer for me than the no access until I'm falling apart that I have now.

6. "Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices."

Now, I agree that taking care of yourself, including making wise eating decisions and exercising, are beneficial to one's health. And that some people's decisions definitely have a negative impact on their health. I'm not going to argue against that.

But the above position is a privileged one, made by someone who:

a)probably lives nowhere near a toxic waste dump, commercially poisoned water supply, waste treatment facility, or nuclear power plant - all of which seriously impact people's health, regardless of what the do personally. People of color and poor whites generally face the brunt of these issues because they lack the resources to move elsewhere, and struggle to get their voices heard by decision makers who could change the situation.

b)has the economic resources to pay for healthy food at all times. Many people, especially poor people, live in areas where there are simply no grocery stores at all, or only grocery stores that sell low grade, highly processed foods. These same people, if given the opportunity to purchase high grade, healthy food often don't have the economic resources to do so. Farmer's markets, community gardens, and home gardens help to some degree, but aren't sufficient answers to the problem of obtaining quality foods, especially in northern climates, where the growing season is much shorter.

c. has access to preventative care, which can help stem problems like obesity and high blood pressure at a much early stage. This is not to say that those of us who are uninsured or under-insured can't learn to eat and behave healthier - we can. However, as a group, we often have less free time, and have to work more just to make ends meet, and thus have less time to research healthy solutions, or get help adjusting our lifestyles to better support our health. A lot of people forget that regular access to the internet is, itself, still a privilege not shared by many of those on the bottom end of the economic scale.

Frankly, personal responsibility only goes so far, no matter what one does. And using personal responsibility as an argument against something is often a smoke screen for something much less polite sounding: it's your problem, don't ask me to help you with your problem. It's not a very generous way to live, or to run a society. In addition, it weakens the ability to effectively use that argument when it's called for. Sometimes people do need to "take personal responsibility," but when it's applied to everything over and over again, the meaning gets diminished, and people either tune out, or follow blindly.

7. "Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices."

As far as I'm concerned, the best of the various options to fulfill this call is single payer. It eliminates the middle man (private insurers) and all the costs associated with their bureaucracy. It allows more freedom of choice in terms of doctors. And it extends these opportunities to all of us, not just those who have the financial resources and/or good fortune to have employers who offer coverage.

Beyond this, I personally feel that covering basic health care for everyone is most in line with Buddha's teachings. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'm a deluded treehugger or whatever. But those of you out in the Buddhist world who disagree with me, please tell what system you think might best address these issues, and also tell me how your spiritual practice aided you in coming to that decision.

If you haven't guessed already, I'm of the firm belief that if our spiritual practices don't aid us in how we approach the social issues of the day, they aren't really getting at the marrow of this life. This doesn't mean we all must become activists, or that monks living in seclusion aren't "doing the practice." But it does mean that our spiritual lives should lead us to care more about others, to pay more attention to issues that effect us collective, and to do what we can to lessen suffering and increase joy.


Unknown said...

I appreciate your skillful discussion of the the health care issue. I am so tired of all the self-interested pseudo debate!

Unknown said...

I *certainly* agree that there is something very weird about capitalist institutions doling out what healthcare we receive.

Capitalism is all about increasing profit margins and, thus, limiting the amount of healthcare people ask for from their insurance company.

I agree that a single-payer program has the most appeal. But I don't think that a single-payer program can happen, so I am for whatever the Democrats and Obama come up with, so long as it includes a government program.

In order to keep costs down, the entitlement that people have should be basic. But, I surely agree with you that allowing high co-pays ends up depriving poor people of use of their insurance, defeating the whole concept.

It is difficult to find the right mix of features, that does both "the right thing," and can get approved by congress, but something needs to get done for the sake of society. It's terrible that America still does not have universal health care. We are the laggard of the industrialized world.

Anonymous said...

Entitlement is a guarantee of access to benefits because of rights or by agreement through law. The term is neutral and was used correctly.

"The solution to this ongoing crisis is to recognize that the very idea of a “right” to health care is a perversion. There can be no such thing as a “right” to products or services created by the effort of others, and this most definitely includes medical products and services. Rights, as the Founders conceived them, are not claims to economic goods, but to freedoms of action.

"You are free to see a doctor and pay him for his services--no one may forcibly prevent you from doing so. But you do not have a “right” to force the doctor to treat you without charge or to force others to pay for your treatment. The rights of some cannot require the coercion and sacrifice of others." --Yaron Brook , executive director, Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C.

The Buddha opposed stealing in all forms. Forcing taxpayers to pay for someone else’s insurance is legalized theft. Generosity consists of time and money freely given, not taken by force.

The Buddha warned householders to avoid spending more than they could afford. To do otherwise is sign of uncontrolled greed. Things should be no different for Governments.

Algernon said...

This essay is better than a lot of the stuff that gets printed in that Tricycle thing. Quite good, really.

Nathan said...

Anony. - "The Buddha warned householders to avoid spending more than they could afford." What does this comment have to do with what I wrote about?

"The Buddha opposed stealing in all forms. Forcing taxpayers to pay for someone else’s insurance is legalized theft. Generosity consists of time and money freely given, not taken by force." You assume that the money you earned was earned in a vacuum. That you, alone, did everything to make said money, and thus are entitled to it completely. That's the great individualistic falacy of capitalism, that we each are islands upon ourselves, and that we have no responsibility to the wider community at all. Of course, I don't tend to hear these same arguments made about taxes for roads, police, and fire departments - all of which could be considered entitlements under the same definition. If ever the philosophy of people like Ayn Rand (I'm well read on her work by the way) got into full control of a government, most everyone would be screaming bloody hell at how expensive things would get. How about it? Do you want private toll roads at every turn? Pay out of your pocket every time you need the services of the police or fire departments?

People love to bitch and argue about paying for things that they don't use, or which benefit others directly, but not themselves. But you if you tried to take away that which benefits these same people directly, they'll kick and scream like little babies, even if the same funding mechanisms (i.e. tax money) are used in both cases. This, to me, is the great "perversion" of our times.

Anonymous said...

Nathan writes:
Anony. - "The Buddha warned householders to avoid spending more than they could afford." What does this comment have to do with what I wrote about?

The government is already 11.4 trillion in debt, with 33.4 trillion in unfunded obligations for Medicare and Medicade. Please see:

Expanding health benefits will only serve to increase this amount. If the Buddha counseled householders to stay out of debt, do you think he would encourage governments to spend so irresponsibly?

Anonymous said...

As for the scarcity argument, it can't get any scarcer for me than the no access until I'm falling apart that I have now.

You are confusing *no access* with *no free access* paid for by someone else. What you are saying is that you have to pay your own expenses when you get sick. Poor you.

Nathan said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I've published them for others to see - and I still disagree with you. Now, the readers can decide.

Unknown said...

Great article Nathan--so good to "hear" your voice again. Be well.

RCF said...

Anonymous, you are missing several points. The author isn't saying he wants free access. He's saying:
1) He wants *affordable access* to healthcare.He doesn't even have a policy because he can't afford it on his small teacher's salary. People like him (with no insurance) cost you and me more in the long run, with expensive emergency room visits when something does go wrong.
2) It doesn't make sense for him, and many other low-income and even middle-class people, to have a policy with a high deductible. When you can hardly afford the monthly premiums, you surely can't afford to go to the dr. when you're sick (much less seek preventative care). Seems to me if he could even afford to get one of these "health" insurance policies, it would more aptly be called "catastrophic illness" insurance, as he couldn't afford to use it anyway barring a catastrophe.
3) He is a teacher, and seems to have a a passion for it, but doesn't make enough to have health insurance. Surely there is something wrong with this equation. Could *he* do something else? Could *he* find a different job and make more money? Maybe, but that is not the point. Whether it is *him* or the next guy or the group of people who fill the other low-paying jobs in our society (and there will always be those jobs), they will need to figure out how they are going to take care of themselves. Do they not deserve affordable access to healthcare by dint of their economic status? I, for one, think not.

Vagabonde said...

I think that greed is what is stopping proper health care in this country. I mean the greed of the pharma corporations and the insurance companies. The Constitution says (I am not sure where as I read it when I became a citizen) that the government has to provide for the protection and the “well being” of its citizens, or something like that. Protection would be the police and the firemen and the well being would have to be the health of the citizens. The USA is the only western country which believes that health should be a profit making endeavour. France for example, is number 1 according to World Health for the health protection of its citizens, their life expectancy is higher than here, as well as ½ Alzheimer disease and much reduced heart disease, and they spend about ½ as much (yes those crazy frogs do healthcare better.) My mother, who lived to 92, had terrible high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease. She had to live in France alone because I could not afford her health care in this country and she would never have lived to 92 – her health care there was superb. I think that people like your anonymous person are mostly Republicans who do not want to share. I saw how in Thailand the Buddhists feed the monks – who are young people doing this for a while – here they would starve. The people screaming against Obama’s healthcare are mostly conservatives and the rest of the somnolent public is listening and getting scared. This is an outrage in a country as rich as this that 250,000 veterans are homeless for example. The rest of the world is watching in disbelief. The last government (Bush) had enough billions to wedge a war in Iraq and the voters agreed to spend the money, but now they don’t want to help the poor or uninsured. If you would take the Social Security and Medicare of all the seniors who say that the US is becoming a socialist country, they would change their tune. Do you realize that now other countries are sending free healthcare clinics* to the US? This country should feel the shame. Healthcare reform will be defeated by the Right, as always, or watered down tremendously. (*The Tzu Chi Foundation, an international Buddhist charity headquartered in Taiwan has started free healthcare clinics in California.)

Nathan said...

Hi Vagabonde,

Thanks for the info. about France. It's not too surprising. Glad your mother was able to get some support and live a long life.

Thanks everyone else for the comments.


Anonymous said...

Nathan writes:

As far as I'm concerned, the best of the various options to fulfill this call is single payer. It eliminates the middle man (private insurers) and all the costs associated with their bureaucracy.

With single payer, you are not eliminating the middle man, you are replacing it with the government. If you think private insurance is a bureaucracy, just wait until the government gets involved. Have you actually looked at the Health care act? And you seriously think the government will eliminate bureaucracy? Did you ever fill out a tax form?

Kris said...

The healthcare debate has been heart wrenching and maddening, but I'm grateful for all of it. Grateful that even the most wretchedly greedy and ignorant views are being heard. I'm hopeful that those views will help to "turn" the direction of the country toward a more compassionate, generous way of life. When we hear views so obviously rising from greed and fear, how can one not feel some twinge, some quake inside that says— "this cannot stand!" This debate is forcing our gluttonous culture to face it's self, to face that restless ever present dissatisfaction that spurs our insatiable desires for more, bigger, better. The time is ripe for turning. Thank goodness for you all expressing your views!

Ralph Quinlan Forde said...

You might like this The Book of Tibetan Medicine which holds the secrets of healing and needs to be known by the world once again.

Anonymous said...

Highly recommended reading on a Buddhist economic perspective:
Buddhist Economics and Gross National Happiness


Nathan said...


You're so right. We need to unearth all this, and experience these voices to move beyond where we are at now. I appreciate that you added this to the conversation.

Anonymous said "If you think private insurance is a bureaucracy, just wait until the government gets involved. Have you actually looked at the Health care act? And you seriously think the government will eliminate bureaucracy? Did you ever fill out a tax form?"

1. I'm well aware that government will have a bureaucracy. Figures on the overhead cost for Medicare seem to vary, but they are nowhere near the 25-30% overhead costs coming from private insurance.

2. I don't support the current health care bill - it's 1000 pages add up to little more than money grab for insurance companies. I do support the Conyers single payer bill.

3. You seem to be obsessed with government spending. Are you also out there advocating a significant drop in our bloated military budget? And how about these bailouts passed under two Presidents from both major parties? Did you call out those as being wasteful as well?

Glenda, thanks for the good read.

Anonymous said...

J9 said-I just have suggestions & hope they don't interfere with Buddhism.

2. Re: cost of health care. When I didn't have much money and with or without insurance, I went directly to HCP's (healthcare providers) & I would pay what I could or receive care pro bono. None of my HCP's (CNM, OMD, CCH, DDS, MD/CCH) ever denied me care.

6b. I also live in a northern climate in the upper midwest with a short growing season. Before people ate Mexican tomatoes in January, they put up food for the winter when there was no farmers' market. When I have a crop failure, I depend on farmers' markets for 99% of my food. People can also trade talents for their food. CSA's, for instance are even less expensive; sometimes they will have a U-pick day to get rid of surplus. Putting up food is absolutely necessary because there are many days when I can't leave because of the snow & ice.

Even in NYC, we had farmers' markets/CSA's and Farm Days & I put up food for the winter not only because of taste & better nutrition, but saving a ton of money. A bunch of greens in summer for $1 is a bargain in comparison to winter when it comes in from CA for $2 & raw produce is still cheaper than packaged goods at a grocery store. I dug a root cellar where I stored potatoes, carrots, meats, & non-ethylene vegetables.

Another thing people could do for better free food is to forage in season. Every fall in NYC, the old Chinese ladies go around to places in the parks where the gingko trees are and collect the nuts. Nutritious plants that might be in your area:juneberries, highbush cranberry, thistle, stinging nettle, lamb's quarters, burdock, dandelion. There are lots of library books on the subject. Because foraged food is more nutritious you don't need to eat as much volume because it is so rich.

I have government health insurance now & it is not better than private, union, or corporation insurance. I have fewer choices & it is not cheaper. They have some really funky rules such as you can't get care outside of your literal work region or they only pay for married-with-rings partners (GGNY has paid for domestic partnerships for over a decade before it was fashionable). Since my government insurance doesn't pay for any care that I want, I continue to use the free-market sector where I pay what I can & receive the service that I need. Costs are much less because there is a lot of competition between these HCPs (who compete against each other) and because they aren't licensed by a cartel, such as the AMA, which excludes those who can't afford their schools & controls the number of graduates. My care is better because they are focused on healing to stay in business, not whether they will be paid by insurance, subsidies, or grants.

Hope my suggestions are helpful. I have found that when Others hold money hostage, too many strings are attached whether it is government in food or another party in healthcare. I have many more choices when I negotiate myself whenever possible.

On a humorous note, in traditional China, a patient wasn't charged unless they got cured.

Nathan said...


I absolutely agree that we can all be more resourceful when it comes to food. I have long been a supporter of farmer's markets, collecting food stores don't/can't sell anymore, and also harvesting wild foods. I'm a big "weed" junky, and deliberate let the nettles, purslane, dandelions, and many others grow in my garden. I also just canned some veggies with my father. I've written some about this kind of stuff before, but think I'll do more in the future.

As for state government plans, they tend to be run on budgets that get cut constantly the moment there's an issue about the state budget as a whole. I don't qualify for the state plan in Minnesota anyway because I make "too much money."

#laughing my ass off

Our state government, under the leadership of the current governor, has cut the budget for the state plan at least twice in the past eight years. So, like your insurance, I'm sure that our state insurance isn't so great. It's not a priority; it's more like the table scraps left over when the main meal has been finished.

As for HCPs - I did a little research. We really have nothing equivalent to the The New York State Association of Health Care Providers, Inc. in Minnesota. And my guess is that most states don't. It's just not that networked here, and so costs for basic medical care are not affordable for the most part. We have some community clinics, but they're running on shoe string budgets, and it seems every couple of years another one disappears. And again, because I'm not technically "in poverty" they want my to pay much higher rates.

Right now, I can do it because I have had no serious illnesses, and am in good health. Plus, I have no children or anyone else dependent on me.

I don't believe a government run system will be flawless, and I actually am mixed about large government programs in general. But in the case of health care, it seems like the best choice at this point in time. I understand that you disagree - and I'm not foolish enough to think anything I say will change that.

Anonymous said...

J9 said-I don't mean to be anonymous and prefaced my first comment with J9 said. I am very bad with computers & only know how to do the anonymous button so I'm really not trying to be anonymous like the other anonymous. The reason why I don't blog is because "Everything I Do Is Illegal" in the manner of Joel Salatin's book and WI already has NAIS in place. . .and my husband works for the bad guys.

Re: state benefits. I don't have state benefits but 'nice' federal government benefits that don't cover anything I need. Sorry I was not clear in my previous post but I am advocating that one seeks care DIRECTLY from the human-healer for care like the old-fashioned neighborhood doc. By HCP, I actually mean hcp as in any human who provides care for health. I don't want to say doctor because it excludes homeopaths, naturopaths, OMD'S, midwives, lactation consultants, Native American healers, etc. Most of the healers I deal with are single person operations so they don't even have a secretary. In the city, you might go to their office or apartment but out here in the country, we actually go to their house or they come to ours. None of them have ever asked about my income so there is no such thing as making too much or too little if you need a break. This is face-to-face human interaction and compassion that I am talking about.


J9-Hey Kathy, how are things?
K-Good, did you find a homeopath for your cat?
J9-No but at least I found someone who would tolerate me.
K-Can't beat that in NY. Say, what's up?
J9-I need to reschedule my appointment.
K-Why? You've never done that before.
J9-Well, I have a big bill this month. . .
K-Don't EVER postpone an appointment because of money! If you have a problem, let me know and we'll work it out. Just pay what you can if at all. I'll see you at your scheduled time!

Please excuse her hard NYC attitude but she meant it with lots of love.

I am open to any good ideas if it includes all choices for everyone. I don't see why this couldn't work since I'm already doing it and do so in all economic circumstances. I've lived with so many kinds of health insurances that didn't pay, I just ended up talking with my choice of doctor, midwife, homeopath, dentist, OMD because things were more simple for both of us. Healers don't want paperwork, they want to heal. With the neighborhood doc, you went to his house and worked things out and got care. Even as recently as the 1980's my friend's dad was one of these guys charging only what the person could pay. Even hospitals perform pro bono work. Why wouldn't anyone deal directly with their healer of choice? This is what I mean by no middle, no group, no network or whatever people want to call it. Hope I'm more clear this time. Most people can't believe what I am really talking about and I have to explain several times. Going through a government or insurance company for healthcare is like asking the USDA about how your favorite farmer grows food. Nevermind the USDA and just ask your favorite farmer directly! You see them on Saturdays anyway and they are your friends. Likewise with your favorite healer!

Anonymous said...

J9 said-Ok, my son tells me that my idea only works for me because I love people, socializing, and talking with people. . .From the mouths of babes, I guess I won't argue.

Nathan said...

J9 anonymous - well, I have to say you and I are on a much closer page than you may realize. For the most part, I'm focused on alternative medicine modes such as the ones you mention. I've studied herbalism for years, aromatherapy, have visited accupunturists, have worked with accupressure - and I have friends who are midwives and massage therapists among other things. I'm much more interested in natural healing methods than in western, allopathic medicine for the most part.

However, I do see the absolute financial ruin and dangerous, sometimes deadly health consequences that occur when a person has a major accident, or a disease like cancer, and needs to go to doctors and hospitals. For myself, the drive for a public health care model is mostly to provide that access to services when the need is vital, and the costs of not going are too high. No one should have to worry about huge bills while undergoing treatment during a crisis situation, which I why I think that have a public health model is the best of the available options.

But I actually believe, like you it seems, that most issues are better addressed with natural and alternative forms of medicine. And these approaches are often much less expensive, and definitely less damaging to the body, in the long run.

I'd like to think that someday we could again have a combination of models serving people. During the second half of the 19th century, there was a large school of medical professionals in the U.S. called the Ecclectics. They took their understanding of medicine and health from a variety of sources, including allopathic sources and western herbalism and Native American herbalisms. The AMA and other groups got together with the federal government in the early 20th century and destroyed the school system that trained these folks, and at the same time, pushed herbal medicine underground by making much of it illegal to practice.

Things have gotten better to some extent obviously, but there's still a long way to go. And the gathering of medicinal plants and wild foods that you mentioned, well, that knowledge is still not that commonly spread, and definitely needs to get out there into the general public. To me, this was one of the by products of the shift away from natural medicine forms, as well as the shift towards large scale corporate farming and supermarkets. People don't know how to take care of themselves very well.

Thanks for adding your ideas to the discussion. I believe they are also part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Nathan writes:
3. You seem to be obsessed with government spending. Are you also out there advocating a significant drop in our bloated military budget? And how about these bailouts passed under two Presidents from both major parties? Did you call out those as being wasteful as well?

First Anonymous writes: Yes I am concerned about government spending. I don't want to impose my generations' medical debts upon my children and grandchildren. Do you?

The Congressional Budget Office states that the Federal Budget Deficit is already unsustainable due to rise in existing Medicare and Medicade expense (currently at 23% of gross domestic product, it exceeds the 21% of GDP for military spending, which has been a fairly steadily decreasing % of total GDP since 1950s). And yes, I would like to see it decrease more.

Absolutely the bailouts are wasteful and absurd, and like most things the government does, tend to benefit those in power.* (in addition to Federal government excuse to increase its own power which I believe you may regret if a Republican takes office next). So are a lot of other expenses from current and past administrations, both Democrat and Republican.

*The pharmaceutical industry is the biggest single spender on ads in favor of health care reform.

Nathan said...

First Anonymous, what would you suggest the 47 million+ of us who are uninsured do then? Or those who have plans with 5-10 thousand dollar deductibles?

Do you really think we are all wasteful spenders who deserve to be where we are?

Let me tell you this. I have no car, no cell phone, no tv or cable plan. I rarely go out to sporting events, concerts, or movies. I do not own a video game system, nor do I spend money on lottery tickets or other gambling options.

If anything, I'm too stingy with my money. And still, most health care is out of reach for me.

Frankly, I find that people who spend all their time talking about the GDP and limited federal government power tend be privileged themselves, having enough money to live off of, and just want more. I'm a little tired of hearing words like entitlement from those who are entitled. And I'm absolutely tired of hearing people who have good health care coverage telling people like me that we're a burden on the "tax paying public."

I am a tax payer, buddy, just as you are.

And frankly, we all will be paying for my health care, one way or another. If I, or someone like me, lands in the emergency room, you'll help pay for it no doubt.

There's no way around interdependence, and the faster we learn that, and shed some of the enormous greed we have in this nation, the better.

Anonymous said...

Nathan writes:

First Anonymous, what would you suggest the 47 million+ of us who are uninsured do then? Or those who have plans with 5-10 thousand dollar deductibles?

Well, Nathan, my family deductible is well over 5000, a lot of things are not covered, and we pay our own health care bills in addition to paying for insurance coverage. So far we can do this because, like yourself, we work hard and spend conservatively. Although we might "benefit" in the short term from government payments, I would rather pay my own bills than have the government(ultimately meaning my neighbors, or future generations who have to somehow deal with our nation's debts) pay them.

If you follow the link in the last post you will see that even without increasing the size of these programs they are projected to be a very rapidly increasing portion of the national budget. What we should be focused on is how to contain this cost, before we think about expanding the programs.

Anonymous said...

Margaret Thatcher said "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money". And as I pointed out earlier, dana or generosity is given freely.

Are the health care proposals socialist?

Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating state, public or common worker (through cooperatives) ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with an egalitarian method of compensation.[1][2][3]

Here is another interesting comment from the same source:
Vladimir Lenin, perhaps influenced by Marx's ideas of "lower" and "upper" stages of socialism[5], later used the word "socialism" as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.