Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Health Care (12/20/10)
Why We Fear Telling What We Know
Congress did the right thing. Now men and women can fight and die for their country without fearing for their careers, and living to acknowledge the people they love.
Health care is another story.
Too many people are scared to tell anyone, especially their doctors, about their symptoms – also because of fear. They fear the costs. They fear symptoms going into their medical record that can harm their job security and perhaps ax their livelihood. They fear material going into insurance records that will leave them in the limbo of “pre-existing conditions” that the recent health care bill may, may somehow partially fix in four years.
And they’re really scared to find out what’s wrong with them.
Most of the rest of the industrial world has dealt with these issues by providing basic health care to their citizens as a right. And for other ulterior purposes as well – a healthy economy requires a healthy population. Public health measures are cheap and efficient, saving many lives and much money. Bismarck figured that out in the 1880’s when he wanted an Army that could fight and workers that could work.
In this country we still have not figured that out. Health care is a giant, unconscionable tax on the economy, which at phenomenal cost produces abysmal results. We rank 49th in lifespan according to the CIA.
But what do you do when you feel sick and you’re scared?
Level With Me
Denial may work for a while in national politics, but not with your body. If something’s wrong, your body will let you know, sooner or later – sometimes instantly and fatally. Until recently, one fifth of heart disease first presented itself as sudden death.
Yet going to the ER with a cut finger may cost you three thousand bucks you don’t have. Tests on tests on tests may lead to diagnoses that will scare the beejesus out of you and every future employer – and leave you wondering which is worse – bankruptcy or your future medical condition.
But you don’t want to make the internet your doctor. Internet chat sites are filled with as much misinformation as a Russian double-agent, and many official medical sites can only point you in certain directions, assuming they don’t confuse you more.
So try on these very, very rough guidelines:
1. Take chronic illnesses very seriously. Diabetes, congestive heart failure, COPD, all mean that little things may become big things faster than you know.
2. Generally, if symptoms persist, there’s a reason. Lots of people get upper respiratory infections, but headaches that don’t go away are a different animal.
3. Do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. Prevention for lots of us will now have to become the cure. Your body rebuilds itself on a vast and fast scale, and keeping that rebuilding going constitutes your health. Eat whole foods that are not industrial products; move around whenever you can; rest as needed because rest is regeneration and keeps you alive. You can put all this together as three letters, Food-Activity-Rest, or FAR, meaning eat, move, rest, and you’ve got a start to a healthy life. This doesn’t have to cost much money – remember – you control your body.
4. Level with your family – and with your doctor. Docs get sick, too, and generally hate becoming patients. They’re aware that the system is falling apart and people are living hand to mouth. They know lots of people without health insurance, and many are scared someday it won’t be there for them, either.
So tell your doc what you’ve got, both symptoms and your health care means, and then do what’s feasible. Though many politicians now fashionably say cruelty can be kind, when you’re poor and sick there are still agencies in this society that will try to help you. Many do the best they can.
The holidays are coming. As Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell’s repeal tells you, there really is hope.
Even for Washington – and for us.
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