Two weeks ago, I had a medical procedure at a premier hospital in New York City. As I was being wheeled into the operating room, and before the anesthesia took effect, I looked around to see an array of technology to support the team of nurses and physicians that was like a scene from Star Wars. I was overwhelmed by the number of computer terminals, video monitors, probes and electrical connectors that I faced. Soon, the anesthesia took effect. I recall nothing of the procedure itself and, before I knew it, I was in the recovery room where hi-tech was replaced by compassionate, hi-touch, human-centered caring from the nursing team and staff. I left the hospital the next day and I’m doing fine.
But it occurred to me then—and recent headlines about the ongoing battle in Congress to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act—have rekindled these thoughts: what about those who do not have healthcare coverage? How do they ever afford such attention? I experienced my procedure without giving a second thought to how I would pay for this state-of-the-art care. I did not stress over the number of doctors that surrounded me in the operating room, the number of visits during my recovery or the prescriptions for medicine to aid my healing. As someone in his 70th year, and retired, I knew that Medicare would pay the bill and I could place my focus where it belonged: squarely upon my healing.
Media coverage of the battle for the new Republican health care proposal dwells on the politics of crafting a bill that will get to 50 votes in the Senate, its appeal to donors frustrated with lack of progress in Congress, those who trumpet state block grants as a better way to assess local health care needs and the desire to keep a seven-year political promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Far less energy (and air time) is devoted to those who are actually impacted by this bill: people with disabilities, poor people, children, the elderly, those who rely on rural hospitals who will lose Medicaid coverage. Virtually every major health care association is against this pending legislation, recently joined by leaders in the insurance industry who warn that premiums will rise to unsustainable levels because of uncertainties in insurance markets.
Weather emergencies in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean remind us that even healthy individuals face sudden, life-altering events laced with tragedy and trauma (what I call “comma events” in my new book). If health care uncertainties are layered on top of these emergencies, the additional levels of hardship and stress are incalculable.
My recent experience of being surrounded by competent, confident health care professionals and not having to worry if I could afford it, once again raised my awareness of the vital role that health care plays in our individual and corporate well-being. And I am again reminded of our combined responsibility to hold accountable those charged with leadership to do everything possible to make quality health care available and affordable for all.
NOTE: Two new confirmations for my “book tour” for Beyond the Comma have been confirmed for this fall: one in McLean, Virginia, at the home of Sam and Susan Simon on October 18; and one at the Palisades Free Library on October 25. The increasing number of events has prompted us to add a more robust “Events Page” to my web site. You can check it out, here, and follow it as future events develop. B