Healing Needed for the Heart and Soul of Health Care Financing

The heart and soul of any profession includes service, truth and consciousness. It’s hard to see that heart and soul today in the health insurance industry, while our country seeks a way out of the current health care financing mess.

Right now, far too many people “go naked” (industry terminology for people without health insurance). Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee would have us believe that ½ of all people who “go naked … just take the chance of getting sick. They end up in the emergency room costing you and me a whole lot more money.” The Congressman also believes that the attempt to extend health care to all is “almost a fast march to socialism.

There may be huge philosophical differences between those who believe access to health care is a right and those who think it is a privilege. There’s no way I see to settle that argument without getting past industry lies that are mouthed by politicians and reported extensively by “the news.”

Here’s one truth: the Amish and some other groups don’t buy insurance because they don’t believe in it. Instead, the Amish care well for each other through richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. A few people do gamble on health. But most people without health insurance simply can’t afford it and/or can’t get it because they have pre-existing conditions.

A huge insurance industry lie is that government-run programs (like Medicare) are the worst things that could happen to us.

Former insurance company executive Wendell Potter reports that the industry has used scare tactics for many years to get us to distrust government-run programs. “If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.”

Michael Moore’s 2006 film “Sicko” hit the nail right on the head, says Potter. Yet the insurance industry warned Congressional members that if they talked about or endorsed the film, “we can make things tough for you … by running ads, commercials in your home district when you’re running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.”

Personally, qualifying for Medicare by turning 65 is one of the best things that has happened to me and my husband. The only thing between us and high quality care (even for pre-existing conditions) is a telephone call or e-mail as needed among us, our doctors and other providers, like the labs or pharmacy. Cost of a recent visit, including 4 knee x-rays after a fall: $20 co-pay to the doctor; another $20 for x-rays. Waiting time: a few minutes. Approval or paperwork required: none.

Our experience is common for people with good Medicare choices and in England, Canada or other countries with government-run healthcare. That belies the insurance industry’s horrifying pictures of government interference, while glossing over the fact that for too many people, insurance company paperwork and denials of care are huge barriers between patient and doctor.

Business lies can be very difficult to unmask, because they are so rooted in unconsciousness and distortions.

As an insurance industry V.P., Potter was insulated. “I knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but … what you think about are the numbers … and whether or not you’re going to meet Wall Street’s expectations. …[you can only] stay there, if you don’t really think that you’re talking about and dealing with real human beings.”

Potter’s wakeup call came when he went home to Tennessee and visited an occasional offering of free medical care at the fair grounds in Wise, VA. He talked there to people who had come from at least 6 states as they waited in long lines for care in horse stalls and other improvised clinics. “They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road from me. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.”

Potter returned to corporate headquarters, trying to process it all. One book that helped him get clarity and leave his job was President John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.

On June 24, 2009, Potter testified to the U.S. Senate that as a senior executive at health insurance companies, “I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick – all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.”

All of us are called to help create affordable health care.

Please join me in a movement to shoulder more personal responsibility for our own health care. Maybe you’re not so lucky as I am to have free access to a gym and buddies to help get past resistance to working out, but you can get your workout somehow, even if your workout weights are just cans filled with tomatoes. And you can certainly find some live or on-line buddies to help you eat better.

Whatever your political persuasion, please follow the links above to Potter’s interview by Moyers (including the links there to the insurance industry’s attempts to discredit “Sicko”), and to Potter’s Congressional testimony.

I don’t pretend to know the best health care financing strategy. But I know the best thing we can do to create divine care for ourselves and others is to begin with prayer. Then, as we hear the truth in our own hearts, it’s time to share the truth as we see it with others, including our legislators.

As always, many blessings, Pat McHenry Sullivan