Does health care reform begin with us?

This summer, I've mostly watched the discussions of health care reform from a distance. However, during the United Church of Christ's General Synod, I was invited to work on their news team, and I had the opportunity to meet U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) when he came to General Synod to talk about health care reform and to advocate for a single-payer option.

While there seemed to be agreement among Synod-goers that health care needed to be reformed, and some healthy differences of opinion about what the best solution would be and what could realistically be done, one thing that I wasn't hearing during the conversation was a call for personal responsibility. Perhaps that was a given with many of those present, but in my own case, it was an 'aha' moment.

As a middle-aged person I see a lot of people my age making changes for the better. In some cases, friends saw the big "40" or "50" in the near future, and began an exercise regimen, or even training for a marathon. In other cases, it was an injury or illness: a knee gives out, a friend develops cancer. Simply stepping on the scale at the doctor's office can be an eye-opener also (unless we can convince ourselves that a "surge" of gravity occurred at the exact moment we stepped on the scale).

For me, though, the eye opener was the health care reform debate. I want better and more widely available health care for everyone. But I also don't like the idea of asking anyone to pay anything on my behalf while I'm on a first name basis with fast food drive-thru employees (and I've had to face the fact that while Caribou Coffee sounds cooler than McDonalds, it's still fast food).

Intersection member Eric Hutton mentioned to me that he had heard Dave Ramsey (the Financial Peace guru) talking about the need for personal responsibility, but other than that, nothing. And while there are justice issues intertwined with a personal responsibility approach (people of color and people in impoverished areas are more affected by air and water pollution, and have less income to spend on fresh produce, for example) we still need to have the discussion about what kind of changes, even small ones, we can make in our own lives.

That doesn't mean we need to be perfect in our own habits before we can ask the government, health care providers, and insurance companies to make any changes. We can do both at the same time.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Views: 2

Tags: care, government, health, insurance, reform, responsibility, wellness

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Comment by Jim Robinson on August 29, 2009 at 12:30pm
Hey, Dean, I'm in agreement that the insurance industry is at the root of the blame; but I'm not sure that health care providers don't also share part of the blame. When I can (or at least could) go to Canada or Mexico and get exactly the same prescription medication, produced at the same source, for 20% (or less) than I'd pay at home, there's a bug in the salad somewhere. And middle-man costs notwithstanding, when that same medication, when administered in a hospital, costs multiple times more yet, there's another bug somewhere. And the malpractice suits that emerge from our "get-something-for-nothing" culture has to bear some of the blame for increased costs. I think there's enough blame to go around.
Comment by Jim Robinson on August 29, 2009 at 11:30am
Thanks for the link. I think I browse the site pretty thoroughly; but admittedly some efforts get lazy. I'll check out Kaye's Forum. She always does a good job.
Comment by Rebecca Woods on August 29, 2009 at 11:09am
Agreed, Jim. There is a lot of misrepresentation. My post was tangential to discussing how to cut through that, but Kaye Edwards started a Forum discussion not long about that elicited more of that kind of conversation. You may already have seen that but just in case, here is the link to it.
Comment by Jim Robinson on August 29, 2009 at 11:03am
First and formost, before we debate the pros and cons of the issue and/or the pros and cons of whether our GMP should make public statements or any other discussion, we need to get our facts straight. There is so much intentional distortion of fact and misrepresentation of truth that I'm not sure we can make informed responses. What can we do about the intentional misrepresentation that complicates the matter?
Comment by Dean Phelps on August 12, 2009 at 9:28pm
I heard someone say that we don't really have 'health care' in the US. What we have is 'sick care.' I appreciate your perspective on this and agree that preventative self-care could go a long way. I just hit 50, and I've just about hit my target weight to be out of the 'overweight' category. Another 5-10 pounds and I'll be there.

I'm not in the camp, though, that wants insurance to cover that preventative care. I wouldn't ask that any more than I would ask my homeowner's policy to cover painting my house or ask my automobile coverage to cover my oil changes. However, I do want my insurance provider to reward my good behavior in how my coverage is priced. In that regard, I'm a fan of HSAs and have been for a long time.

I am describing a consumer-driven system of health care, but we have allowed the system to become insurance-driven. Health care providers and health care consumers are not driving the train. Insurance providers are. I don't trust the federal government to drive the train any better than the insurance companies, and, as I feel about the coverage providers, that's the wrong entity to put in the driver's seat.

As has been correctly pointed out, a consumer-driven system depends on personal responsibility for the personal choices we make. That is a huge cultural shift.
Comment by Nathan Hill on August 12, 2009 at 8:03pm
Well, Rebecca, the problem is that a lot of folks really don't know what is healthy and good to eat. I still get so many mixed messages. Just because something may be low in fat, low sugar, or "whole wheat" or whatever, does not mean it is good for you. Just because something has a bunch of those vitamins and minerals and things, that doesn't mean any of that gets absorbed in your body.

What would be great though... is if we began a culture shift with this health care reform, where families could build relationships with doctors and have access to the many resources that are out there... like nutritionists. Where preventive care is covered by your insurance plan. I think people can be more personally responsible when they have access to information and good advice. Sure, it doesn't mean everyone will, but right now, most people treat doctors as "emergency/sick/half-to" options - not for when you are healthy or wanting to get healthy.

I've tried taking personal responsibility for my diet over the years, especially with my wife having gestational diabetes, but I still have so many questions. The internet really hasn't been helpful - way too many whacky ideas mixed in with the good stuff.

That is a fundamental shift that Pres. Obama seems to want. I don't know where this debate will lead, but if something like that comes out of it, then I am pretty stoked.
Comment by Rebecca Woods on August 12, 2009 at 12:12pm
I have to add this caveat...I also realized this morning that yesterday, I had breakfast at Perkins' Pancake House with Bill McConnell. What did I order? Eggs, bacon, hash browns...at least I ordered wheat toast with no butter. Some old habits are hard to break.

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