Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sickness management "reform?"

I listen to a lot of public radio, and let me tell you I am full up to my eyebrows with this whole health insurance reform thing. Everyone who possibly can has weighed in on what's right and wrong with the bill; every detail and nuance has been discussed ad nauseum. While there are some good things about the bill (obviously I am all for covering more people so that fewer have to lose their homes because they can't pay their medical bills) there is the giant elephant in the room that has not even been mentioned -- for the simple fact that addressing it would mean reduced profits for Big Ag, Big Pharma, the medical-industrial complex, the parasitic health insurance companies, and the processed food industry. Even advocates of a single-payer system (of which I am one) seem to refuse to face the fact that a system that works quite well in many other countries would perhaps not work here, for the simple fact that Americans are quite a lot sicker. At this point I believe we rank around #47 in lifetime expectancy, and quite low in overall happiness (so clearly our excess of advanced "health" care options and consumer goods is not giving us joy or longer lives), and I'm sure if someone out there has studied this they have found that of all the industrialized nations we are definitely the sickest. So the question at the heart of this issue is not actually about how we can get more people to participate regularly in the medical-industrial complex, but rather how can we stop needing so very much disease maintenance?

My answer, as you all know, has to do with better food, and a more localized, involved, sustainable, and traditional approach to eating and living. Time and again, research has proven that the lion's share of our "health" care needs are related to illnesses and conditions that are highly preventable by making different food and lifestyle choices. But the way things are now, with our tax dollars going to support the very industries that are poisoning us, we are not likely to see this type of change coming from the top down any time soon.

This all reminds me of the parasitic relationship of the industrial prison complex to communities: we need more and more criminals to be locked away to support the ravenous beast of the prison system because we need jobs for prison and justice system workers, but in reality it is private companies that are getting rich, and we are paying the cost of prison building and maintenance through our tax dollars (and of course the same arrangement plays out in the business of warfare). In a similar way, through our insatiable need for convenience foods and pills and legal addictive substances and ever more fossil fuels and coal we have concentrated power and control in the companies that have grown fat off of our buying decisions -- and then off of the resulting bad health, obesity, and misery these choices have purchased for us. Big Ag and Big Pharma are truly the most clever, most intertwined twin industries that have ever existed in the United States, with the energy companies, financial industry, medical-industrial complex, and mid-level processors and distributors taking the remaining slices of the pie.

It is disturbingly easy to forget or to ignore the fact that we as taxpayers and consumers are footing the bill for every problem the corporations have allegedly created. We are always going to foot the bill. When we buy cheap food thinking we're brilliant for saving money we are forgetting that our wallets are hemorrhaging many additional dollars each and every time in order to pay for the pollution, environmental degradation, and bad health that we just supported with our buying choices. Not to mention the fact that we will be paying down the road to manage the health conditions that are sure to come even if we are lucky enough to be getting by now. Already it seems at least 1 in 2 families is paying through the nose (either in time or money) for the inexplicable childhood diseases, back-to-back infections, rampant allergies, food intolerances, and behavioral and learning disorders that are commonplace among our children, most of whom have never had an authentic meal of real, nourishing food in their lives. (And while I'm on the topic, don't forget that the school lunch system is a clever way of charging taxpayers for the privilege of letting Big Ag use their children as waste disposals.)

As far as I'm concerned, I want no part of the whole thing. Give me good food and a longer life; I will happily pay more now instead of paying even more down the road. You can keep your "convenience" foods and your addictive beverages and your "preventive" flu shots and your big box stores and your painkillers and your antimicrobials and your garlic flown in from China (really, people -- garlic?!?!?!) and your assurances that I will be able to use as much managed care as I could possibly want. Because I know that I -- or my neighbor, or worse yet, my kids -- will pay for it in myriad ways.

1 comment:

  1. So, the composition instructor in me says, "this begs the question, what should we do as individuals? And what should the government do?" This is a genuine question, because it seems so challenging to reform our screwed up system when so many Americans are afraid of change, and afraid of the government over-regulating things (although I agree completely with you that things are just being regulated wrong!) It also seems challenging because many Americans (sorry to generalize) present themselves as individualists to the death (literally) rather than thinking about the collective good. If we re-framed our thinking to be a little more collective and community-centered, maybe this nation wouldn't be so sick as a whole... but people are afraid of the spectre of socialism... argh.. I am happy that the health care bill passed, and think some very good things could come of it, but like you, I feel like the system is so broke...