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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Remedy for the American Health Care System

Universal health care.

I love natural remedies. Generally they are relatively inexpensive, and if selected wisely treat the underlying cause, not just the symptom.

I use natural remedies - vitamins, minerals, herbs, meditation, yoga, therapeutic massage, chiropractic care, aromatherapy, homeopathics - I consider them all to be natural remedies, and find them useful. I take about $200 worth of natural supplements and herbal remedies a month for my myriad ailments. And I pay $70 a month for an hour of therapeutic deep-tissue massage.

If I didn't feel squeezed for money lately, I'd also be spending $45 a month for a chiropractic adjustment. (I can't say why this is the one corner I cut, but it is. I certainly find it very helpful, and believe it can help prevent additional problems.) In spite of the expense - which is in addition to the $320 a month I pay to Blue Cross / Blue Shield - I feel the remedies help me. Duh, why else would I spend so much money on them?

Part of the reason I use natural remedies is that they can be safer than prescription medications. Homeopathics certainly are. It's hard to imagine aromatherapy causing me harm. I read reliable sources to learn the recommended amounts of various vitamins and minerals for particular problems, and know the limits that are considered safe and the symptoms of excess or overdose.

Yet for all my attention to taking good care of myself, one area is sorely lacking - quality medical care. I like my primary care practitioner, a physician's assistant who takes time to listen to me, explain certain things, and mull over options with me. I often take a half-hour of his time; nobody at the office ever tries to hurry me out. I have no complaints there.

My complaints come in as soon as anything requires an expensive test or the attention of a specialist. When my blood work was positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis, he asked if I wanted to see a specialist, although we both knew - and discussed - that the closest decent one was an hour away, and the best ones an hour and a half, and I don't like to drive (tension, pain, tendency to get drowsy even on short drives.) But I though it might be useful to see the local specialist. I was wrong. I cost me over $200 to learn absolutely nothing.

Now I may have a bladder infection. I think it would be a good idea to get tested just in case it isn't my interstitial cystitis acting up. But with current economic struggles (personal as well as the general economy) I hesitate to spend the $20 co-pay for a visit to the doctor. I can afford it, I'm just reluctant to spend it.

I hadn't really realized how much my daily life is affected by not feeling financially comfortable enough to seek proper medical care - especially a good and accurate diagnosis - for my chronic problems. I regularly discuss them with my primary care provider, but he doesn't have enough answers. He is, after all, a fairly traditional, though open-minded, medical person. He knows less than I do about alternatives. I only wish he knew more than me!!

Anyway, what got me to thinking about all this was watching Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko, tonight. Fortunately, I don't have any major health problems draining me of every dime. But I do worry about what would happen to me if something catastrophic did happen, either illness or accident.

My sister and her husband live in France, and because he is disabled and she is his caretaker, they get totally free medical care, even the little copays. I'd love to have the security of knowing that if something did happen, money concerns wouldn't add to the burden, or prevent my getting needed care.

What I saw tonight on Sicko made me want to move to a country with socialized medicine. It also made me laugh and cry and cheer. It was well-done and a real eye-opener on several issues.

So today's remedy is this excellent documentary. If you haven't seen it, please do. If you think socialized medicine is bad, frightening or un-American, watch it anyway. Perhaps your news sources have only been giving you one side of the story. Even if you're all for socialized medicine in America, you may learn things you didn't know, or be inspired to work toward making it a reality.

Personally, I don't think a for-profit medical system is a morally or spiritually responsible concept. A well-run socialized medical system, especially one that focuses on preventative medicine - truly preventative medicine - is both humane and cost-effective. And a good remedy for what ails the American health care system.

See Showtime's listings for Sicko. Don't get Showtime? Watch it at a friend's house, see if it's available at the library, rent it at a video store, or buy it at Amazon.Sicko DVD by Michael Moore

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