The Common Good

Medical Competition: A Satirical Op-Ed from the Future

I have the pleasure of starting us off. Allow me to jump into the future about 24 years. A freelance language artist, Langstyn Huse (one of several figments of my imagination), has a recently syndicated column, the Absurdity of Modernity. In brief, it's political satire related to the issues of the 2032 election. Enjoy...

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Melvin Bray is a language artist and a member of theGuild, along with Lisa Samson (novelist), Yaisha Harding (writer), Ercell Watson (comedian), Daniel Ra (singer-songwriter), Eugene Russell (singer-songwriter-rapper-actor), Russell Rathbun (storyteller), Daley Hake (photographer), Ed Sohn (multimedia artist), Prisca Kim (writer), and Claudia Burney (novelist). Learn more on theGuild's Facebook page.

Medical Competition: A Satirical Op-Ed from the Future

The conservative think tank Privileged Individuals for Increased Medical Profits released a study today that confirms what conservative pundits have been purporting for some time: America's healthcare system is languishing for lack of increased competition.

"Sick Americans are lazy and don't want to compete for the health services that they want," says Will Underhaul, chair of the recently formed MIOC (Medically Indifferent Obstacle Course) committee, which chose as its logo the Invisible Hand.

The first organized competition instituted was in honor of our soldiers-The Iraq Veterans Victory Lap. What better way to celebrate the inevitable victory of 30 years of globally antagonistic U.S. foreign policy. The Victory Lap is an orienteering challenge-complete with compasses, maps, and hidden flags (that are collected and later exchanged for increased face-to-face time with an actual doctor)-that really makes use of veterans' survival training. It involves both military and civilian bureaucracy trials. "Between the paperwork, runaround, and misinformation, it's a most grueling endeavor. A kind of boot camp for re-entry into civilian life," said the first finalist, now able to afford his full post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

Another prominent feature of the MIOC commission's Patient Elimination Process is the Asthmatics Endurance Challenge. It involves shuffling asthmatic children from one inflammatory environment to the next to see who can best ration their limited meds and stave off attack the longest. The winner gets "a month's supply" of new medication-proportioned, of course, according to their Endurance Challenge intake levels. "Knowing how little medication a child can get by on helps healthcare providers save, thus make, billions a year," offered one pharmaceutical rep who asked not to be identified.

A progressive business owner out to lunch commented, "It's despicable what the healthcare industry is doing in the name of their bottom line, which I would think should be health and care. Still you can't buy everything the neo-liberals are selling either. A market-based healthcare-for-all program would be filled with graft. I would much prefer a British NHS program or, at the very least, a U.S. congressional-style plan." His compassionate free-marketeer lunch partner countered, "Although I disagree somewhat with my friend, what we currently have is definitely all wrong. It's the healthcare companies that should be competing for the public's business, not the other way around. That's what would drive healthcare costs down. And if it takes the fed to manage the bargaining side of that, so be it."

Industry insiders question what incentive healthcare companies presently have to drive health premiums down. "Why not just keep scaring middle-class Americans into thinking their healthcare will diminish and that they will pay more in taxes than they currently collectively do in premiums if everyone is enrolled in the U.S. Congressional Healthcare plan. Americans are so nationally provincial. They don't know that the poor in many countries with publicly-funded medicine have better healthcare at better rates than middle-class Americans can individually afford. Besides, you can't forget the psychology of capital wealth: Those who can will unconsciously pay much more for something they know the poor can't afford (at least that's what my automaker friends tell me). As for turning the tables and demanding the sick compete for services, that's just fun!"

Despite the more than century-long trend of exponentially mounting healthcare costs, latest polls reveal that 77% of all Americans believe the healthcare market will eventually correct itself (a conclusion extrapolated from 2,500 Iowans polled). But how can the market correct itself when 90% of the power (wealth) needed to correct it rests in the hands of the 7% benefiting from the market's imbalance?

Some say improving healthcare is a simple question of political will, which it may be.  But isn't it first and foremost a question of imagination-or lack thereof? How long are we to believe the snake oil salesman who says that our real lack of imagination lies in our inability to grasp the rationale for buying more snake oil? How many times do we return to see the sideshow illusionist who convinces us that there's no other way to do healthcare while he makes Canada, Cuba, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand (yes, 55 nations) disappear from the globe of our consciousness? How often will we embrace economic double-talk from politicians, pundits, and other 7-percenters regarding the failures of healthcare-for-all systems over our own ingenuity and common sense to consider what other nations have and improve upon it?

Who knows? This is, after all, 2032, and Americans have been dancing around this issue for 100+ years (since Teddy Roosevelt). Imagination is a scarce commodity, I guess. But the truth of the matter is this isn't solely about healthcare, now is it?

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