Thank you to The Health Care Blog for this opportunity to share my patient’s
perspective on health care and how it has helped shape my new book, Original Faith: What Your Life Is Trying to Tell You. I should mention at the outset that the book speaks to human experiences and actions, not doctrine. It argues neither for nor against any form of religious belief.
My progressive illness began with the sudden onset of what was misdiagnosed for several years as Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Despite eleven years of research and medical travel, no diagnosis was ever reached. For the past several years I’ve been housebound, increasingly bedridden and essentially without access to medical care related to my condition, which includes severe peripheral neuropathy and osteoporosis, connective tissue degeneration, and special adaptive needs. My situation may be a good starting point for considering the cracks – or crevasses – in the system.
In an under-regulated health care environment where the only bottom line is the bottom line of increasing profit margins, those with long-term illnesses that are difficult to diagnosis or treat are literally not worth the extra time and effort. Here’s one example from my own experience; I could give many more.
When it was still thought that I had MPS, my insurer permanently terminated coverage for physical therapy, a mainstay of treatment. The doctor prescribing PT was one of the world’s foremost authorities on MPS. My insurer’s preferred-provider musculoskeletal specialist strongly and repeatedly objected to the termination in writing. Long story short: I had to leave my job for a new one to regain PT coverage under a different insurer.
The fundamental problem is that under-regulated, profit-driven health care has every incentive to make money at the expense of the health of the American public. It does so through a range of practices many of which now seem normative, given that we’ve had to live with them for decades. These include denying coverage for the sick – people with “pre-existing conditions” – charging them higher premiums, continually raising everyone’s premiums, and insurance policies whose fine print abounds in exclusions and grounds for denial of coverage that average citizens rarely notice until they become ill.
The obvious solution to this inequitable situation, in which Americans who happen to develop health problems are penalized in much the way that bad drivers are penalized for getting into car accidents, is a single-payer system where everyone pays premiums into the same pool and receives equal coverage. This won’t happen in the foreseeable future; the health care lobby’s influence on Washington is far too powerful. However, if you want health care to become even more profit driven than it is now, vote John McCain. Now for how my book relates to these matters…
“I have one major concern about the capacity of human life to fulfill its purpose on this planet: a certain self-selection process seems to come into play with regard to obtaining wealth and power. People with a large interest in these things are often attracted to them not for any wider good they hope to achieve, but because they have not developed any real interests beyond expanding the dimensions of their egos.”
This excerpt from the closing chapter of Original Faith highlights why I wrote the book. Our health care situation is part of a broader scenario of contemporary short-sightedness and self-absorption that’s become pervasive enough in American politics and business to have a negative impact on the well being of the nation and the world. It has begun to erode the possibilities that will be available to the children of us all.
That said, the passage I’ve quoted isn’t typical. Original Faith’s message is an overwhelmingly positive one that tries to help readers gain awareness of their own most powerful motivations by way of a writing style that is more often evocative and even literary than expository. The book is completely nonsectarian – it does not so much as assume or propound belief in God – and it contains no oversimplifications or false promises because I have no plans to run for president.