Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WHAT is health care? And who gets to define it?

The US Senate Finance Committee is meeting behind closed doors to hash out a plan to reform health care. The current debate between Congressional Democrats and Republicans is a debate centered on partisan lines and defined by the demands of those with the greatest access -- not you or me, not the thousands of Americans drowning in medical bills, but by corporate LOBBYISTS.

I love our President. I still think he is the best thing that's happened to this country in a long time. He is just one man - and no, he is not capable of transforming a toxic political system, a broken health care system or a wobbling economy overnight - so be patient folks. Nevertheless, he is largely on the wrong track with health care reform.

So, how do we slow down a juggernaut that is blinded by the primacy of allopathic medicine and over-fueled by politics and special interests -- an underinformed, ill-advised race to piecemeal, corporate-defined care?

Make no mistake - this is not a transformation of our system. It is a desperate, if valiantly motivated lunge to try to increase access to the most expensive and often least efficacious paradigm of care. And, since medicine is the most expensive option, all these desperate attempts to figure out how to reduce costs become a bandaid on a gaping wound.

It is not only our health care system that needs healing. It is congress too, and our entire political process. Politics is inevitably toxic when self-interested parties continually have the greatest access to forming the policies that affect the entire country.

Nothing will change overnight. But we need our Senators, Congressmen and women, our President and those he has tasked to understand health care's problems to rise above the toxicity that politics has become. To take a stand and say no to corporate special interests. We also need our congressmen and women to stop being mired in a political game of constant power plays -- overly worried about raising money, re-election, and their own constituents -- at the expense of the future of the country at large. The American public is tired of partisanship, ideology and ill-begotten, pork-ridden, poorly designed policy. Between partisanship and lobbyists, our policies are falling far short of what they need to be. Who will be brave enough to change the way things are done? We all deserve better - even those on the hill who are mired in "just the way things are". It is up to each of you - to each of us - to change the world in which we live, and we can't change it if we can't change how decisions are made in our political system. This fact is evidenced in your actions around health care reform.

So first, successful health care reform requires overcoming the fallacy of believing that health is medicine. It requires that the American public, Congress and the Obama administration fully understand that by design, medicine is a system that intervenes after we are already sick. It is a system that primarily manages symptoms of underlying illness.

Health care reform requires that we decide as a society whether we want health care that includes medicine as part of the pie or as the whole pie. It then means that we decide whether health care is a right or a luxury, and if it IS a right, then to WHAT do we have a right? This means deciding what and how we ration - and what each of us is responsible for on our own.

Health care reform means that we, as a country, understand that every sector, every stakeholder has played a role in making our system sick, and that every one of us is accountable for creating a functioning and affordable system. This means overcoming the huge lack of integrity on the part of drug companies and the FDA. It means putting the American Medical Association in its place and it means that conventional physicians must accept the fact that they no longer control "what" care is or "who" is allowed to provide it - so if they aren't willing to open their minds about what health entails and requires then they better get used to a shrinking customer base.

Health care reform also means that the American public must be honest with itself that our predominant culture, habits and food production are not conducive to health. There is much to change on this front. Suffice it to say - we have too long been disconnected to the truth of WHAT health is, what it requires, and what it asks of each of us. We want a panacea in a pill and we are making ourselves and our planet sick because of it! Drugs are not health, and it is not up to the doctor to make us well. We are full participants in wellness and illness - whether by any action on our part or not - and learning to accept this fact and navigate it is a liberating and empowering process. The more we learn about ourselves and the interconnectedness of our spirits, hearts and bodies, the more power we have to define ourselves and decide how to be in the world, whether we are well or ill.

Health is integrity, honesty, heart, spirit, passion, love, and treating ourselves and each other well. Health is a socially just society in which we make sure we provide ample opportunity to all to live decent and meaningful lives. Health is getting over being so consumptive, and it is learning how to preserve and live with this planet, rather than destroy it. Until we do these things, we will continue to impinge upon our ability to FEEL healthy, because whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all a part of a larger, collective psyche, and what we do here MATTERS, both physically and energetically.

But bringing this back to health care reform, we must ask ourselves this simple question:

WHAT is health care?

At its foundation, it is the system we create to provide CARE for one another, to restore our ability to be well, to feel good, and to contribute to our society. While this definition is ubiquitous when it comes to actually conceiving a new system, it is a much-needed reminder of why we co-created health care in the first place. We want and need to be well, and we can't always do that on our own! So, we need to know -- what is our purpose? What can we agree upon? What are the best tools we have at our disposal now, and how do we take those and recreate a system that is genuinely about health? Because medicine is useful, but it is unaffordable at the same time that it is not enough.

We need to simultaneously dream bigger (and understand there is a world outside of the drugs and surgery paradigm) while better understanding the nature - and real failures -- of the current system. And then we need to build a bridge between the parts of our system that work now and a vision of a brighter, less costly, more efficacious system that just makes sense - because it is ABOUT your health.

Challenge #1: Distinguishing medical care from health care, getting through to Congress, and reigning in the lobbyists.


"One by one and all together"

1 comment:

  1. I loved your post. I have blogged on this issue as well because it is near and dear to my heart. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.