This is “Matt”. Matt is the guy down the street whose kid plays Little League with yours. He is courteous and helpful. So, of course, he works at getting your ‘shades of blue’ reconciled in the paint department at Lowe’s. Matt could be your neighbor, or you. The truth is that Matt is every single one of us. “Matt” is actually my friend Jeffrey, an actor living in Los Angeles, a very funny comedian, an intellectual pundit (when he chooses to be) and a man with a laugh that fills rooms with joy. Jeffrey has been diagnosed with cancer, stage 2 lymphoma to be precise, and at present he is being squeezed in the middle like a tube of toothpaste by a grossly negligent ‘system’ and the people employed by it who have zero sense of humanity. I am mad as Hell over all of it.
The name of his insurance company matters, it’s Molina Health. With ‘our’ shareholder, profit-driven, horribly broken, healthcare system in the United States the truth is that what is happening to Jeffrey could happen to any of us and our loved ones. It also matters that his insurance company hangs up on him. It matters that the administrative staff tell him that his premium will quadruple if he ‘wants’ home care for changing the dressing on the tube sticking out of his arm (sepsis being a real possibility) where he is hooked up to receive his chemo. It matters that I escalate and help seems imminent only to have some drone of an administrative staff person deflect and say it will take two weeks. It matters that appointments are made and cancelled due to software, and human errors and then the humans charged with delivering this news are devoid of humanity. It matters because the stress of dealing with getting healthy on your own (even with a supportive tribe) is enormous. It matters that his first oncologist failed to speak a single word to him in the nine weeks immediately following his diagnosis and never prescribed anti-nausea pills with the host of others which he did prescribe. Jeffrey’s second oncologist is amazing. Despite the fact that I am a non-relation he has taken my call to problem solve aspects related to Jeffrey’s treatment from Sweden where I am currently.
Which brings me to two components of the health insurance storyline in the United States; employer supported efforts like those which “Matt” as an employee of Lowe’s enjoys (really amazing benefits which should prompt all of you reading this to vote with your wallet and shop at your local Lowe’s ‘just because’) and the idea of a single-payer system such as our Canadian neighbors and those in the Nordics enjoy. On this day, with TrumpCare effectively dead, the reality of a single-payer health care system in the United States has risen like Fawkes in Harry Potter.
Let me remove any ambiguity, I have a couple of issues with the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) but neither have to do with the fact that it came to fruition under our 44th President; the first is that it didn’t go far enough and the second being its mandate to be purchased under penalty. If we have sufficient financial resources to wage seemingly endless war across the planet then Americans of every stripe should have universal healthcare on par with what our federally elected officials enjoy. And if that can’t be done then our elected officials should have that benefit voided.
How do we get to a single-payer health care system to the universal benefit of 330 million Americans and put the United States on par with other first world nations? Well, California, where my friend Jeffrey lives, ever the ‘test the water’ state for public policy adoption has a viable solution called The Healthy California Act. Evidently this legislation has broad support on both sides of the political aisle in La-La Land but one man has blocked it from advancing, and there is a reason for that. Actually there are about 475,000 reasons in the form of contributions from the Political Action Committees of health insurance companies and their executives to Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Redon re-election campaign. Redon is a perfect example of the systemic violation of the masses by a corrupt politician bought and paid for by the highest bidders for his favor.
The passage of a single-payer system in California, or nationally, wouldn’t put insurers out of business but the resulting shifts in the market would demand agility that insurance companies are not generally known to possess. A model which offers premium coverage in lieu of, or as a supplement to, a single-payer system would still provide considerable revenue – with a healthier demographic contributing to shareholder value. Policies which would allow customers choices in taking advantage of medical tourism opportunities around the world should also be considered. The increasing perception of health insurers places them at odds with the humankind they are supposed to be serving – essentially sentencing their policy holders to death when costs become inconvenient and expensive. When we make a conscious choice to deny protection and participation by our most vulnerable we can no longer claim to be an advanced or civil society. The costs are too high when we lose our compassion and willingness to step forward and be part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem.
Critically we need to dislodge ourselves from the ‘us vs. them’ mindset that is so pervasive in any conversation about health insurance, healthcare and providing a path forward for all of our citizens. Universal peace of mind around the most fragile aspect of living our lives fully and completely should not even be a question in 2017.
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