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How Broken Does Health Care Have To Get?

Lissa Rankin's picture

I am a physician, grieving as I witness to the slow death of my profession.

First I read this article, which says that this year, the cost of insuring a family of four now exceeds $20,000/year. Who can afford that in these times? And what are they getting for all that money? 13 minutes with a frustrated, rushed, overworked doctor who doesn’t have time to listen?

Then I read this article that says that the United States spends more than any other country on health care but only has the eighth-lowest life expectancy. Japan, on the other hand, spends significantly less and has the longest life expectancy. More health care expenditure does not equal better health care. Period.

Then I read this article about how the Supreme Court may overturn President Obama’s far-from-perfect-because-its-not-universal-health-care reform policy. And it breaks my heart, because if that happens, after Obama sacrificed so much political capital to try to do something, the message to politicians will be “Don’t go there. You’ll never make change and you’ll ruin your career in the process.”  

Then I read this article about how 9 out of 10 doctors would not recommend becoming a doctor. And it's no wonder. Several of my full-of-integrity physician friends just declared bankruptcy because they insisted on spending time with their patients, rather than churning through 50 patients a day, and they couldn't even pay their overhead, much less pay themselves a salary.

My heart aches because we have officially lost our way.

What’s It Gonna Take?

It begs the question of how bad will it have to get? What will make us stop the madness? With all this political rhetoric, all these profit-hungry managed care insurance companies trying to suck every last dime out of consumers, doctors, and hospitals, every greedy pharmaceutical company trying to score the next Viagra so they can please their investors, all these ambulance-chasing malpractice attorneys driving up health care costs, all these third parties getting in the way of the sacredness of the doctor-patient relationship- how are we going to heal our health care system?

How far is rock bottom?

Will it take having health insurance premiums and pharmaceutical costs rise so high that only the elite can afford to be insured or take prescription drugs? Then, when all those uninsured people get sick and show up at hospitals unable to pay their bills, will the doctors and hospitals be forced to quit and close their doors because they’ll be unable to cover their overhead without insurance reimbursement? Will doctors start becoming baristas at Starbucks, warning young, idealistic, coffee-drinking pre-med students to steer far, far away from the practice of medicine, and if so, who will take care of us when we get sick? Will we wind up with a serious shortage of physicians? And then, when that happens and politicians, leaders of managed care insurance companies, pharmaceutical CEOs, and lawyers get sick and have to drive four hours to the one remaining hospital, where they’re forced to wait three days in order to be treated for their heart attack, will they finally call off the wolves in Washington and demand change?

Will health care go down like the real estate industry? Will it go down like the banking industry, when everybody just decided to stop paying their inflated mortgages? Will Washington then be forced to bail out the health care industry like they did Wall Street and Detroit?

How bad is this going to get before it gets better, before we remember that health care is not real estate or banking or auto sales? Health care is about life and death. It’s about quality of life. It’s about healing and wholeness. It’s about being spirits who live in bodies that sometimes get sick and need loving attention.

As a society, we've decided that while preventative health care is available only for those who can afford it, emergency health care is a right, not a privilege, so if any of the currently 46 million uninsured people show up in an ER having a heart attack, they'll get treatment. But Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia suggests that perhaps we need to rethink this agreement, that perhaps if someone uninsured comes into a hospital suffering, we just kick them out or watch them die.

Really Justice Scalia? Is modern medicine going to go the way of veterinary medicine - only those who can afford treatment get it and we just put everybody else to sleep?

Uh uh. Not if I have anything to do with it.

The Holiness Of Health Care

Health care is about a sacred doctor-patient relationship. After all, medicine is a spiritual practice. Illness is a spiritual journey.

You can’t legislate this stuff in Washington. Health care reform must be a grass roots effort. Doctors and patients must reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Corrupt politicians, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and lawyers aren't going to just set aside greed and the desire to win.  As a society, we have to lead the way. Patients and doctors must reclaim what is rightfully ours.

Health care is holy - or it’s supposed to be. Feeling whole and healthy is your birthright. 

What Can We Do?

As patients on a sinking ship, what can we do?

You can learn how to make the body ripe for miracles, as I'm writing about in my next book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House 2013) and as I spoke about in my TEDx talk. You can ask your body what it needs to heal - truly, deeply, at the root - and then be brave enough to take action and make healing changes in your life. You can resist the temptation to close your heart when you face serial heartbreak, as we all do, because keeping your heart open is preventative medicine and harboring resentment, anger, and unexpressed grief makes you sick. You can live in alignment with your truth, which not only prevents disease, it can cure it.

We can reclaim the lost heart of the doctor-patient relationship. We can make room for the sacred in medicine. We can stop making science our only God, which only drives up health care costs without making people more healthy. We can get back to the root of what it means to be in a healing relationship with someone who loves you and has your back.

When we do this, health care costs will go down. Doctors will feel more in touch with their callings, which will bring them more job satisfaction. Happier doctors will make happier patients, and happy patients will be less likely to sue someone who truly cares about them, even if they make a mistake.

Perhaps the answers don't lie in Washington. They lie within us.

What Do You Think?

I'd love your feedback. Please, dish!

Ever hopeful,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Don Beckett's picture

The so-called Alternatives

Lissa ---
Thank you sooo much for coming to this realization, and for working to awaken others to it! If our system of medical training and medical practice is to survive, it will have to move in this direction. The reason it's collapsing now is precisely because it is not based on Reality! A system that does not understand the cause of disease cannot possibly heal anything.

I work with Reiki, Jourei, and Macrobiotics -- just 3 of countless pathways to real healing -- and I greatly recommend them to others. My take on the "health care" crisis and how to solve it is summarized in this article (written when the current "health care" law was just being created).

Michelle Medina's picture

I think it's great that

I think it's great that you're hopeful Lissa!!! Honestly, I've just quit reading, quit listening. I want to be a well informed person whether it's voting or healthcare, but as someone who is beginning to learn how to move out of victimhood, my status is too shaky to keep reading about the 99% against the 1% and Obamacare possibly being thrown out and everything else. I've started turning over every rock in paranoia wondering whose here to victimize the 99% THIS TIME so I've unsubscribed from nearly all political newsletters and the only reason I read this post was because you wrote it. I prefer to stand outside the fence of victimization and being that I have a tenous hold on that I'm avoiding all the bs whether it's about big pharma, or pink slime, or gun control or anything else. It's just to bloody overwhelming!!!!
Hopefully the prophets are absolutely right and on target and by December 21st 2012 this will all be irrelevant because some giant shift of consciousness will have come along and swept us up into a frenzy of personal change and growth and we can all sing happily together high-stepping through the tulips and then we can start pulling all this together.

Katie's picture

Broken system

Having spent the last two+ years navigating the healthcare system to get the help I needed for bacterial meningitis and it's nasty after effects and dizzying array of specialists and red-tape, I'm over it. TOTALLY OVER IT! I decided that for me to thrive, I have to help myself - listen to my Intuition and do as much research as I can on my conditions and what will help them. I'm reading books written by women like you and finding that, wow hey! green juice makes me feel better. Imagine that. Doctors have been shoving pills on me, but I'm not willing to take them forever and have been slowly figuring out how to get off them, and it's working. And I'm feeling better all the time.

We must be our own advocates but also seek out empowering doctors that look beyond what the drug reps tell them to prescribe and want to heal and practice medicine, not just be part of the problem.

Thank you for being that kind of doctor, Lissa.

Ally's picture

Lissa, you have had the right of it for a long time

Now is no exception! I am one of those uninsured patients and have been for the past several years. What I've learned from that is this:

1) I alone am responsible for the state of my health. I now eat healthier foods, I exercise and I've given up most of my unhealthy vices. Sure I still indulge once in a while but I'm healthier and more fit at 50 than ever before in my life.

2) I don't worry about whether the insurance company is going to get involved in my health care, it's now between me and my dr. I pay her to assist me then I do the work with her guidance. I don't have to worry about paying premiums on insurance just to have them deny my claims and I end up paying the dr's out of my own pocket anyway because I feel they do deserve to get paid for their services.

3) I don't take the handful of pharmaceuticals I did when I had insurance. I don't have the awful side effects from the plethora of pills to worry about either. I am mindful what I put into my body and if it has a mother or comes from the ground I know it's a much better alternative than that which comes from big pharma.

That said, I now have people willing to ask me what I've done to make such a profound change to my health that people are saying to me "You look fantastic these days, what have you been doing to make such a huge change in your life?" They are now asking me to help them make positive changes in their lives and following my example. So, thank you for shining the light in the darkness and showing me the way to a better life.

You ROCK Lissa!

Shining brighter every day, Ally

Angela Horne's picture

Thank you for your

Thank you for your enlightened views.

I am grateful that I live in the UK where there is universal health care. It's not perfect but it is better than nothing.

I have learned in the past few years to take greater and greater responsibility for my health by following my own wisdom in nutrition and lifestyle despite prevailing media or government advice.

There are many doctors in my family and the wiser ones will readily admit that conventional medicine does not have all the answers.

It seems the US system of healthcare is poised for a rapid shift as medical professionals and patients awaken to the absurdity it has become.

You will find plenty of support!

Beth's picture

Thank You for Speaking Up About This!

I too have followed a path from working in conventional healthcare (on the operations/IT side) to Integrative Medicine (as a health and nutrition coach) and found myself not fitting into either world any longer. Im still working on listening to my inner guidance to find my best way to provide meaningful service and support my family.

Throughout this journey, I decided to take my health and well being into my own hands and to pay out of pocket for the spiritual and physical support I needed to be healthy and well.

All along I've struggled with whether or not I should have health insurance ... And after I got married and we decided we wanted to eventually have a family, I signed up for a plan with a high deductible, just in case I couldn't have the home birth I wanted.

Sadly I experienced two miscarriages and spent most of our savings on ER visits and tests and found myself unable to afford to work on my own and to try again for a healthy pregnancy without health insurance ... And it's not working well at all for us.

I often dream of a local wellness circle as an alternative to health insurance. One where you are rewarded and encouraged and supported to do the important things for health and well being: join a CSA, be a part of a positive, like minded community, be supported by practioners who are happy, thriving and who prioritize their self care, dance, laugh and have fun! Also midwifery services as it seems impossible to be supported well in pregnancy without tons of money or insurance/hospital birth these days. But also have the financial and communal/spiritual support needed should you need conventional health services one day. I have no idea how to help work towards making this dream a reality, but would love to find others who want to help bring it to fruition.

Thanks for all you do - it is important work and gives me hope that I can play a part in cocreating something that serves us all much better!

Nicole's picture

My new job in healthcare is depressing

Six weeks ago I started a new job at a cardiologist office. I still cannot believe that patients are scheduled every 10 minutes. No wonder the doctor's are always behind. 10 minutes is not long enough to spend with each patient. If I was one of the patients I would be so angry to spend more time waiting to see the doctor than actually speaking with them about my health. This job has shown me how ridiculous the American health care system is.

I have been pursuing a nursing degree but now am re-evaluating whether or not I want to become a member of this stupid system. There is no caring in it. It should be called: Patients Subsidizing Insurance Companies System. There a good doctors in office I work at, but everyday I see health care being delayed because of insurance company policies.

Judith's picture

Blame it on the Rockefellers

I believe it was the Rockefellers who decided that medicine should be a money game, and booted the chiropractors, the osteopaths and homeopaths off the island.

I agree with Lissa that we need a different model -- one based on patient care rather than $$$$$. Given how much the US spends on "healthcare" it's quite low on the totem pole of health. Other countries that spend less do much better. Not all the expensive technological wizardry that's being deployed is actually necessary. E.g., those shiny new robots used in prostate surgery don't perform better than surgeons, but cost more. And hey, all that prostate surgery the robots and the surgeons perform turns out not to be necessarily necessary either, but is being driven by a lot of testing that has been shown not to affect prostate cancer mortality = to be mostly useless.

Then we have medications that cost a lot and come with a list of side-effects as long as your arm and require a multitude of other medications with their own side effects to mitigate. Some of those medications actually kill people. And arguably most of them would not be necessary if people lived a healthier lifestyle and didn't consume so much pop and high fructose corn syrup. And so on and so on.

And it is the government that has to pay for this hoopla one way or another, and most of the money ends up in the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies.

Sorry to say, America is now officially insane. If we survive this, there will be a simpler future when kids will read about this in history books and ask their teacher "was this for real?"

Carz's picture

Not perfect but...

The more I read about the health care system in the USA the more I appreciate the universal health care we have here in Australia. It isn't perfect but at least I know that should my kids or I become ill we will receive top level care and not be encumbered with a huge debt to go with it.

Anonymous's picture

Broken Healthcare

What on earth is the USA public afraid of....is there something truly fearful about Obama's healthcare proposal? Canadian (depending upon the area) healthcare is not always free, but a workable solution compared to what I see when I travel on business, the USA healthcare system of Hospitals, HMO's etc. which I see as taking first born Sons and House and Home for the profit of those who don't really care....I am of USA and Canadian parentage and certainly feel that I am free to comment on my observations. Not impressed by the current system and am sorely afraid of becoming sick or injured while within the USA borders....now that's pretty scary if i am observing on an international level without any vested interest...is it not? Wake up America (USA)....oh and by the way, there is another whole continent South of the Equator.

Eileen's picture

broken health care

You go Girl...Guy! You Go!

Sprite's picture

Symptom or Cause??


I am so happy to be part of Owning Pink - and I would like to say that I had a wonderful Dr. once upon a time. He once asked me did I want him to treat the symptom or the cause. I looked at him and just waited for the shoe to drop. I was having all sorts of health issues at that point in my life. He then explained that he felt that my illnesses were my body trying to get me to slow down and to take better care of me. He put me on a prescription that slowed me down - and I immediately started feeling less threatened and I was able to walk without pain, I started enjoying family interactions again. I have taken his advice to heart, and whenever I am feeling out of sorts, I look for the cause - and that may be as simple as stress over bills, or not wanting to be where I am at the moment. Our minds are so much stronger than we think - AND - we have to learn to talk to that brain - or listen to it, when it throws us a symptom. If we can do that we can pretty much live a healthy life. Right now I am off to take a walk before a weather change. I need to move and breath. Have a blessed day.

Eileen's picture

health Ins.

YES!!!!! It is so refreshing and hopeful to have a Doctor say what you are saying!
My husband and I are self employed in Clearwater, Florida. We have a wonderful Doctor who sees us without insurance and will RX over the counter vitamins instead of expensive drugs when we need them.
We have never been without insurance (10K ded) until this past Sept....it was the house payment or the health insurance payment...since we are both relatively healthy it was a no brainer choice. We are only 5 years from retirement and have ZERO assets............7 years ago we had $500K in assets........it is insane!
This is the craziest part about all of this...............I take synthroid every day and since I have had NO insurance it is about 1/2 the price.......Now how does that happen? No we don't have Medicaid either.
We still have our business, a machine shop, and are paying off our debt, but refuse to purchase health insurance because it is so obviously not there for our benefit....can't wait for your book....I want this Hashimotos disease to disappear and something tells me that it can with the right tools.

Ele's picture

Support for my heart

Thank you for your words which have come at a time when I am searching for validation for what I feel in my heart is true. I have been living in the world of Chinese Medicine for the past 10 years, being an acupuncturist myself, and so look at the body in a very holistic way and practice preventative medicine. I have what I consider a "healthy" life because I love my practice and what I do. However I have just been diagnosed with a rather large ovarian cyst which looks "suspicious"... of course the only way for the doctors to determine if it is malignant is to remove my ovary, fallopian tube, and possibly the other ovary, uterus and appendix!! To me this seems shocking; the idea of cutting me up to check if I really need the surgery or not.

My whole being is so resistant to this, it feels like carnage.
When I sit and am still I know that this isn't going to solve anything, it is not going to "cure" me. I know the changes need to come from deep inside.
I live in UK so am very blessed to have the opportunity of free health care, which I am deeply appreciative for. But that does not take away the discussion of mind over medicine, taking responsibility for our own health in every way.
I know this, I encourage my clients every day, yet somehow I have been ignoring the whisperings of my own body. Thinking that what I was doing was enough to ignore the callings, the yearning of my soul.

There is so much fear around the word "cancer" that I am so afraid of having to defend my true knowing of how to proceed right now. I feel I need support and understanding of the way I view our beings, and hence the direction I will choose to take, so that I can focus all my energy on being, feeling, healing.
I need to connect with like minded people in order to have the courage to look deeply into where, and how, I can open myself up to be love in all that I do. To drop all the resistances I hold, the conflicts I choose, and to feel the connection with all.
Love ..... creates the space for healing. Love is healing.

I found encouragement in your blog and also your TED talk, so heartfelt thanks to you.

Sprite's picture

I had two different cysts in

I had two different cysts in the ovary and cervical area - but I have been taking turmeric or curcumin @ two 1000 mg capsules a day for ages. I credit this wonderful herb with keeping the polyps out of my colon (first colonoscopy netted three that were the size of golf balls) my gyno person thinks this may also be responsible for causing the other cysts to decrease in size to the point that I am now on just a wait and see list.

There are so many different remedies for what ails us and we just need to find the natural answers rather than paying for expensive drugs with some hefty side effects.

Ele's picture


Thank you for your comments Sprite. Again, it is this reassurance that you offer that we are powerful beings, our bodies are miraculous and do know how to heal themselves when we truly listen and align ourselves. Even though I know this, I find your words such a great inspiration and support . Thank you. I step into my day with an added boost and allow the fear to dissipate as I reconnect to the divine and all around me.
In reference to Lois comments, my thoughts are with you and your sister; sometimes I think it is even harder to watch a loved one go through healing as we have no control. But just being there when they need your support is a great gift to offer someone. We all need to know that we are supported fully in whatever choices we choose to make. 2012 is an interesting time... there are many changes occurring and opportunities for growth, to unfold into our true beings, to reach our highest potentials, to just be able to be ourselves fully in each moment, in every single way. Although it can appear challenging at the time, it is a wonderful opportunity to shed patterns/ behaviours that we carry around with us that no longer bring us value. And in the end we will recognise the gift that it really is as we transform our lives. (Might your sister be willing to try some therapies to help with her side affects? I know many people that choose conventional treatment but also take chinese herbs or acupuncture to support the body and suffer no side affects. Just a thought.)
Most don't take responsibility for our lives because we are not taught to. We are taught that the "white coat" knows more about our bodies than we do. We are not taught to trust ourselves, and so we waver between living to be true to ourselves or living to be accepted, to follow the norm. And so there is a fear in trusting ourselves. I believe this needs to be taught to children in school. We need to learn that we are responsible ultimately for our health, our happiness, our reality. We need to communicate with our bodies, learn to understand them ...and there are so many ways that our bodies show us where imbalances are occurring, so many different systems of looking at the body. Then our children will grow up empowered, knowing that they can truly affect their health. This is a passion of mine to be able to bring such classes into schools where children can learn to discover and know their bodies, where a basic understanding of the how the mind and body is connected is offered, where movements, acupressure points are shown, so that they are given tools and empowered to regulate themselves. Where they re reminded that love heals. It would become part of them and their habits in life. And they know all of this anyway... it just gets lost because generally it is not supported.

Lois Kubota's picture

Other options for medicine

Other options for taking care of yourself is the other half of the battle. We have so many MD's who don't believe in any of that "stuff" like chiropractic care, acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine. Our culture just wants to give us pills and do surgery and we don't even know how to listen to ourselves. I'm watching my sister go through chemotherapy right now for breast cancer. It scares me to watch her get a chemo therapy and then see a horrible allergic reaction. So the "experts" decide to give her another medication that can cause heart damage???? I'm really quote mortified about this.

But my real question, is why won't people take their health in their own hands.

Sprite's picture

Taking care of ourselves

The majority of us here in the US have been brainwashed into thinking that only a Doctor can cure us and that we must take expensive pills to be cured. We have gotten away from how our ancestors healed by using herbs or plants. We quit believing in ourselves. There are quite a few who are now studying and figuring out the wisdom that has been all but forgotten. I don't have medical anymore - so I have to go to the VA for my Dr's visits. I make sure that they know I would prefer not to take medications without good cause. I am 65 and the only thing I take is a thyroid replacement. I wasn't paying attention to my stress levels a couple of years ago and my body totally shut down my thyroid and adrenal system. It has been a labor to get myself functioning again.

I will think positive thoughts for your sister - I have friends that have gone thru chemo recently - it is tough - but hopefully it will take care of the cancer and she can be on the mend soon.


queenofspades's picture

exactly why I'm working on my premed/post bacc applications

I couldn't agree more Lissa. Which is why after 20 years in a career in the film industry I'm working on my applications to post bacc schools in order to go into medicine. We need doctors who not only care but who are able to navigate the politics and advocate for the rights of patients and for the very existence of HEALTHcare not DISEASEcare which is what it's become with our procedure-based payment system and emergency only care model in this country.

I grew up in the era of HIV/AIDS and women's healthcare activism in NYC during the late 80's and early 90's. This is the next chapter - this broken system AND the exponentially growing AUTOIMMUNE crisis that is looming and which will bring us to the brink of disaster in trying to address how to treat the estimated 25-50 million Americans already living with (read DIAGNOSED and 8:1 females) autoimmune diseases.

It's so much bigger than any one piece of the puzzle that it's hard for people to wrap their heads around the ideas that so many things are inter-related. I have hope that with more people involved, more doctors and caregivers who are out there speaking the truth and acting with integrity, we'll steer this ship off the rocks and into deeper, clearer waters of preventive care, health based models.

I think of my future as a doctor as a future of being an advocate, a teacher, a role-model, a researcher, a supporter, a networker (with other healers) and finally, also a healer. I can't wait!

It'll just take time and determination and all the support it can get (both my journey through med school and the US in our transition to a more health-focused system).

Looking forward to being part of the solution!

Erin's picture

You are right and we need to educate our communities

Last week, I attended a training on the Affordable Care Act and heard people say that healthcare is our lifeblood, or our vitality to be well, etc. I did not know how to redirect their ideas on this issue. Yes, healthcare is essential and we need to fight for it. We also need to start taking responsibility to educate ourselves and others on the difference between being well and preventative care. Our physical health is wholly connected to our total being. Healthcare access can fix the physical symptoms or aid, but if we don't address the connection to our mind and body, the symptoms will keep showing up. It is a tough lesson to learn that our physical health is connected without placing blame on ourselves, so how can we teach this lesson to others? How can we introduce such a concept of personal responsibility in a compassionate, gentle way that encourages people to start opening our eyes?

Anonymous's picture


I really feel for doctors. Notably, I'm a lawyer. Whereas we put in 3 years and change preparing for our careers, they put in 15 or so. The cost is unbelievable. I have a neurologist friend who earned his Ph.D. at Yale but cannot afford to teach. I don't know whether he has already paid his student loans, but he also has children he needs to raise. It seems to me that more is at stake than insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. The failure of the US to invest directly in the education of much needed professionals is also of the utmost concern. In Europe, persons receiving higher educations do not come away with exorbitant student loan debt and can focus on medicine (or law or science) without fear of bankruptcy.

Lois's picture

And a few more things

Well said, but just a few more things to add. In our country we pay our doctors more than other countries pay their doctors. But doctors in our country come out of medical school owing huge loans for school and then they have to spend huge amounts of money on malpractice insurance.
Next, we have the huge expenses of hospitals and their employees. Yes, nurses are very well paid at least in California.
I recommend a book called "The Healing of America" by T.R. Reid. He has looked at other countries, some successful with their healthcare system and some not so much, but all of them less expensive than ours.
We treat health care as a privalege in our country not a right. We have to stop thinking of healthcare as another business to make a profit. Insurance companies are not as profitable as other companies (like tobacco companies which are in the business to kill people WTF??). Most insurance carriers (at least in California) are non-profit companies, so I guess that's a start.
I don't think we have to throw out the baby with the bath water, but we have to change our way of thinking for sure.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for a really important

Thanks for a really important post. A family member served in Congress, voted yes on health care from a swing district, and lost his seat in 2010 in large part because voter turnout was too low. If a better health system matters to you, please, stay engaged and VOTE. It's so easy to become cynical and give up on our lawmakers, but if we give in to cynicism we also give up on those who do the right thing and are there to serve - not self-serve. We owe it to ourselves and our country to stay engaged in the political process at this critical time. Every vote truly does matter.

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