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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I'd love your feedback. Please, dish!
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational 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.
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