RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Time for Yet Another Debate on Health Care

Ever since the failure of Trumpcare, the East-Coast media have been giddy. Gleeful op-eds have pointed out, time and again and again and again, that the Rs have no experience, that strong-arm tactics might work in casinos but not in American politics and that demonizing Obama doesn’t change the fact that families under the Affordable Care Act are doing better than they did before.

But rarely have the pundits given credit to the real heroes of this story, and the heroes are YOU, dear readers, who made the phone calls, wrote the letters to editors, shared your stories with your neighbors and created the buzz that somehow broke through the haze over the Beltway and turned yes votes into nos.

The day after the failure of his bill, the Trumpster blamed Ds for wrecking his plan. Then somebody must have reminded him that the Rs have the majorities in Congress. So on Day 3 he started blaming Rs. But the problem, and maybe he’ll get this on about day 30, is that Trumpcare is a sham. Debate took 63 days but most of the arguments were anti-Obamacare. The Rs had no arguments to demonstrate why anyone should vote for it. The Ds found plenty to argue against.

Now I’m no fan of any health care plan. I see them all as tossing the problems caused by our life-is-chemistry industrial system into the bin of hospitalization. Way back in 2009, when Obamacare was just a grin on the face of some lawmakers, I wrote in The Progressive Populist that we need a national discussion. Here’s a quote:

“Pop quiz: You pull a muscle while working in the garden. In great pain, you call the following person: A) Your doctor; B) Your masseuse; C) Your chiropractor; D) Your faith healer.

While my doctor won’t agree, all four of those choices are perfectly legitimate to some perfectly nice and intelligent people. And if we think it’s hard to figure how to pay for the health care system, we ain’t seen nothing yet. When it comes to health care, personal choice must trump all the other issues.”

Yep. I said “trump,” way back then.

But my point was—and is—that the medical system has gotten increasingly complicated and expensive. In my opinion, and I am not a doctor, there is waaayyy too much interference with normal life. Here’s an illustration:

The pregnancy of a dear friend was pretty ordinary for most of the time. Then, during one bi-weekly appointment, the doctor discovered an anomaly. Something in a blood test.

Here I digress to say that bi-weekly appointments for a healthy pregnant woman are not (and never used to be) normal. But, today, the system demands micro-management to pay for all the machines that science has invented.

So, anomaly discovered, the doctor prescribed a little time in bed, and my friend went to the hospital for a few days of so-called routine observation.

Long story short, adding the missing chemical to her blood created a new problem. The situation went from observation to emergency and she was injected with more things, became unconscious, the baby was taken by Caesarian and put into an incubator in the neo-natal room which, in this hospital, has about 20 little beds for incredibly tiny human beings. And, when I visited, all the beds were in use. Mom quickly returned from unconsciousness, and today baby and mom are healthy. Obamacare, which the couple and baby still have, covered all the drama.

OK. I am not a health professional. And I do not want to see mothers or babies die. Nor do I want to see my friends succumb to cancer or my elderly friends suffer from bad knees and hips. But it is increasingly obvious to any kind of observer that this current system is too complicated, too invasive, too dependent on chemicals that too often create side affects. If you say that you know nobody that’s suffered from drug interactions, chemical mistakes or surgical mishaps I’ll tell you that you need to talk to your friends more.

I’ll end with another quote about what we once called “universal health care” from my 2009 column:

“One worry is that, under universal health care, treatments will be standardized and patients won’t be able to choose between A, B, C, and D. It is likely that standardization will be set by committees listening to lobbyists for various medical treatments.

We need to begin the debate immediately and on a national level. As much as we need to figure out coverage, we need to talk about what’s reasonable and what’s possible and what is the difference between the two. The how-to-pay questions are hard, but the nation needs to talk about what treatments the insurance will pay for. Will we teach people with diabetes to take insulin or to change their diet? Will we pay for organ transplants for old folks and babies alike? Will we keep people alive on respirators for years on end?

These are hard questions to answer and the answers won’t be acceptable to all, but we will have to make decisions based on age and general health. We can’t do it all. Let the debate begin.”

Margot Ford McMillen farms near Fulton, Mo., and co-hosts Farm and Fiddle on sustainable ag issues on KOPN 89.5 FM in Columbia, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2017

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