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                        Mark Macy

 

 

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The Healthcare Debate: Sources and Stooges

 

Mark Macy

 

Outwardly, at least, we humans are biological beings susceptible to a rugged environment in which bones break, bodies bump and bruise, and life preys on life to survive (regardless of whether the predator is as big as a grizzly bear or a mugger, or as small as a mosquito or flu virus). Being physical beings in a physical world, then, injuries and disease happen, and so we need health care.

Our humanness boils over into our nations, which are like great, big lumbering people and are vulnerable to similar dangers and uncertainties. When a nation gets injured (militarily or by natural disasters such as drought) or when it gets sick and bloated (economically instead of biologically), problems start cropping up on all fronts. Businesses might falter, transportation and communication networks might get harder to maintain, and so on. Down at the grassroots of a sick society, people have to pay higher prices, some lose their jobs, and lifestyles throughout the system start feeling stress.

At that point we humans start noticing the growing problems around us, pointing fingers at each other, and name-calling. It would be a nicer world if, instead, we exercised the gray matter, got to the root of the problem, and came up with a solution… but it's just so much easier to let the adrenaline take over.

Getting to the core has been my life-long motto. I've got hormones and ego like everyone else and often get hot under the collar, but when I back away from a macro-issue and start looking at the big picture, I sometimes find a cool solution outside the box (case in point, the Vitality Ratio). Sometimes I get lost in the maze for awhile, but if I stick to it, (with lots of research and reflection and writing) I usually find a way out with a clearer view and a possible solution.

Healthcare in the States at the moment is one of those really messy macro-issues. I've been thinking about it for some time, and I'm using this blog today to see if I can find my way out of the maze of insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, pricey medical equipment, faltering economy, political activism, fear-mongering media, special interests, socioeconomic theory… and, of course, the universal desire for good health.

It's been a very personal issue for me since my 1988 bout with cancer priced health insurance way out of reach. Fortunately, a 4-year stint in the Navy during the Vietnam War qualified me for Veterans medical. It's a bit of a drive to the nearest VA hospital for 6-month checkups, but at least my healthcare is covered.

Nearly 50 million American's aren't so lucky. They can't afford health insurance, and for the most part get no health care at all until crisis hits the family in the form of serious illness or injury… then they may go into debt to pay the hospital bills.

So that's what Americans are arguing about today. President Obama and his liberal supporters (like me) want everyone to have access to health care, and a public (government-supported) health insurance option is the surest way to do that.

Opponents argue against public healthcare for various reasons, the loudest one being that government involvement would be socialistic and a threat to freedom.

Finger-pointing and finger-biting

Human beings resist change, American healthcare is due for a complete overhaul, and so the healthcare debate is escalating to the point of rage. A few days ago two groups of demonstrators clashed in the Los Angeles area—Group A supporting a public healthcare option, Group B opposing it. At some point, a Fellow B decked a Fellow A with a punch in the face, so Fellow A got up and bit the other guy's finger clean off. Ouch.

We tend to hear more about scuffles like that than we hear about the economic, political, and social forces that shape the healthcare crisis. Why? Humans prefer stimulation over contemplation, action-romance movies over documentaries, novels over textbooks… so TV news and other media thrive on drama to attract an audience.

When the real issues ARE addressed by the media, they usually involve the opinions of one group or expert at odds with the opinions of another group or expert… with a lot of finger-pointing as to which side is the real cause of the problem. Again… drama… with no discussion of real solutions.

When we do get past the drama of this issue, usually the first thing we notice is the sky-high price of health insurance, so it's our first inclination to blame insurance companies. In truth, they're just the scapegoat—the stooge. Let's trace the problem to its source.

The real forces behind the healthcare debate

First off, why is health INSURANCE is so expensive? Mainly because health CARE is so expensive here in the States. Highly paid doctors, expensive hospital procedures, expensive malpractice insurance, expensive outmoded record-keeping methods, expensive surgical procedures, expensive high-tech medical equipment, and expensive drugs all add up to huge bills submitted to insurance companies. In order to pay those huge bills, the insurance companies have to charge their customers or policy-holders outrageous sums. So now our fingers start pointing toward doctors, hospital bureaucrats, lawyers, pharmaceutical companies, and so on. But again, these folks are like second-tier scapegoats. There are forces deeper-down compelling them.

So why do all these players in the health CARE field charge so much money for their products and services? Mainly because the healthcare business is part of America's market economy in which the economic health and well-being of each business is gauged by its growing profits. By law, publicly traded corporations in America (including most drug companies and hospital corporations) have to do whatever they can to maximize profits for their shareholders. The result: ever-growing health care costs.

So our fingers start moving toward capitalist democracy, a political-economic system in which relatively free businesses compete with each other throughout American society with the primary aim of maximizing their profits. Modern capitalism can be traced back to Adam Smith's booklet "Wealth of Nations," which suggested that a free market economy is the most productive society and provides the greatest benefits to the people. It's fitting that it was published in 1776, the same year that the US declared its independence from Britain, since the Smith philosophy has been the cornerstone of American-style capitalist democracy ever since.

By definition, capitalist democracies rate freedom high and equality low (as opposed to communist countries which rate freedom low and equality high), so one of the inherent weaknesses of capitalism is its tendency toward inequity—a growing chasm between the rich and poor.

It's that gap in American society today, which is becoming more an more noticeable in difficult economic times, that seems to be close to the core of the healthcare crisis. The wealthier Americans can afford excellent healthcare, while the poorer Americans get almost no healthcare whatsoever. The have's and the have-not's scenario is an ever-present possibility in a capitalist democracy.

So, we're close to the core of the problem now, but we're not quite there.

Capitalist democracy is also based loosely on the idea of "survival of the fittest (or most adaptable)." That concept was developed by naturalist Charles Darwin and socioeconomic philosopher Herbert Spencer some 150 years ago to observe that living systems (and social systems) compete in the terrestrial ecosystem, and those most adaptable to environmental change survive… and those unwilling or unable to adapt, perish.

We do indeed live in a world in which life not only competes with life to survive; life on Earth kills and consumes life on Earth to survive. And it's only when we trace to the beginning of THAT situation here on Earth that we come across the core of the problem.

If you've read my new book, The Project, or watched my video clips on the subject, you know what I think: We have a noble side and a savage side tracing back to ancient cross-breeding between superhuman Edenites stranded on Earth, and the animalistic humans of this planet.

The genetic engineering that happened long, long ago… THAT is really at the core of the healthcare debate today. It's basically a battle between our noble side (which wants to make sure that everyone is taken care of with such policies as a public health care option) and our savage side (driven largely by our fears that controlling forces like government will tend to strip away our freedoms to take care of ourselves in this unpredictable environment).

Until we can come to grips with our savage side and reshape society so that our noble side can flourish free from fear, we'll continue to experience dramas like today's healthcare crisis in America.