[Addendum: Mama Liberty alerted me that the McCaughey essay that serves as the springboard for my rant may not be accurate. That tingled my spidey-sense, since as I was reading through the version of the bill available it seemed to me that the “new bureaucracy” McCaughey mentioned was already in place; so I checked into Mama’s allegation. Sure enough, The Washington Monthly has a post on it: Exposing a Lie on a Grander Scale. In that piece one is also directed to a Keith Olbermann vid on the subject.
I suppose I could try to persuade myself that I didn’t perpetuate the worst of the mistruths, since I hung my essay not on the “new bureaucracy”, but rather on a simple phrase in the version of the bill that I read. Similarly, decision-making has increasingly been removed from the patient’s and health-care providers’ hands via both government regulation and insurance mandates over the past decades; our brave new law may step that up, but it is not a new direction. But absolving myself in these ways feels very dodgy. I had suspicions about some of McCaughey’s assertions, and they later proved to be valid suspicions; yet in my haste while writing I did not bring any of it up. I apologize for that, and will do my best to be more careful.
While I’m eating this generous portion of crow, a comment by Wendy McElroy on this subject, in Socialized Medicine, merits attention:
BTW and IMO, Americans should stop focusing their wrath/fears on socialized medicine and realize that it is government control of medicine -- whatever form the control takes -- that's the problem. In some ways, medicine is more controlled by government in America than it is in Canada.
She named no names, nor pointed any links at anyone in her commentary, but one can clearly see why I suspect I’m one of the people she’s addressing. To my mind, our disagreement may be just semantics, because it is precisely overweening state intervention into both medicine and private insurance that is highly objectionable to me. That is coercive socialization, and I want no part of it. I am strongly interested in helping to form, and participating in mutual aid societies, as Jason mentions in the first comment on this post.
I haven’t altered my original essay in response to these findings. To read it, click on the “Read more” link below.]
I first read Betsy McCaughey’s commentary, Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan a couple of days ago; and again, in not wanting to focus overmuch on federal doings (nor wanting to turn this place into a wall of rantings) I refrained from commenting. But some of the stuff coming down the road is just too outrageous to let it pass by. Also, as someone who has tried to improve her health outside of the allopathic medical cartel, I may be a little ahead of others in this quest. (I cannot take credit for renaming the stimulus bill, however; I came across that moniker somewhere online and it tickled my fancy.)
Some context from McCaughey’s essay first (one link preserved below):
[N]o one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version [that is not a link to a PDF]).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Yowza! But is McCaughey scare-mongering here? I clicked through to try to find the relevant sections in the bill myself—and in the process, discovered that because it’s still being hammered out, the search results are frequently updated. Thus, I can’t provide a better link than the one in the quoted text above.
Anyway, she is not engaging in hyperbole, as the bill stands now. The current form—it has already changed once since I began this post—reads as follows (formatting not retained):
SEC. 3001. OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY.
(a) Establishment- There is established within the Department of Health and Human Services an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (referred to in this section as the `Office'). The Office shall be headed by a National Coordinator who shall be appointed by the Secretary and shall report directly to the Secretary.
(b) Purpose- The National Coordinator shall perform the duties under subsection (c) in a manner consistent with the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of information and that--
(1) ensures that each patient's health information is secure and protected, in accordance with applicable law;
(2) improves health care quality, reduces medical errors, and advances the delivery of patient-centered medical care;
(3) reduces health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information;
(4) provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care;
(5) ensures the inclusion of meaningful public input in such development of such infrastructure;
(6) improves the coordination of care and information among hospitals, laboratories, physician offices, and other entities through an effective infrastructure for the secure and authorized exchange of health care information;
(7) improves public health activities and facilitates the early identification and rapid response to public health threats and emergencies, including bioterror events and infectious disease outbreaks;
(8) facilitates health and clinical research and health care quality;
(9) promotes early detection, prevention, and management of chronic diseases;
(10) promotes a more effective marketplace, greater competition, greater systems analysis, increased consumer choice, and improved outcomes in health care services; and
(11) improves efforts to reduce health disparities.
(c) Duties of the National Coordinator-
(1) STANDARDS- The National Coordinator shall--
(A) review and determine whether to endorse each standard, implementation specification, and certification criterion for the electronic exchange and use of health information that is recommended by the HIT Standards Committee under section 3003 for purposes of adoption under section 3004;
(B) make such determinations under subparagraph (A), and report to the Secretary such determinations, not later than 45 days after the date the recommendation is received by the Coordinator;
(C) review Federal health information technology investments to ensure that Federal health information technology programs are meeting the objectives of the strategic plan published under paragraph (3); and
(D) provide comments and advice regarding specific Federal health information technology programs, at the request of the Office of Management and Budget.
First, out of all this gobbledygook, the phrase “health disparities” leapt out at me, and I just had to laugh. Given the uniqueness of each of us—uniqueness in health as well as illness—how the fuck do these healthocrats think they’re going to reduce disparities?
That one phrase is emblematic of the fundamental problem here: their solutions call for systematizing that which cannot be systematized. People are not interchangeable cogs; we do not respond uniformly to most things outside of some basics (such as oxygen or water; and it may be the case that our metabolic pathways may be somewhat unique even here), either in mind or in body. Medicine used to be considered part art and part science precisely for the same reason: helping someone heal requires attending to his unique situation as well as placing it (to some degree) into the broader context of accumulated knowledge.
The art has been undermined for decades, replaced by systems and institutions. And now the science is revealing its cracks, too, as it has narrowed in scope, become politicized and dogmatic, and allowed many of us to think its answers are more solid than they really are. I believe it was my spirited sister Wolfie, who commented recently that for all science’s explorations, relatively few bacteria have been identified, much less understood in the context of human health or unhealth. Yet to read news reports and science mags, one would think this stuff is all figured out. It may be to a high degree, in discrete little units of information, but those bits haven’t become integrated into bytes—there’s too little generalized understanding.
So the fedgov’s effort to herd us into neat little medical categories, and to dictate to doctors and other health care providers how we should be treated, is doomed to fail. It must, given how it’s set up. But it will cost millions, in dollars wasted, in hours of life and energy to no real purpose, and in lives unnecessarily shortened or snuffed by the medical manufacturers. This is not hyperbole—it is already happening, all around us. Too many of us—myself included, once upon a time—have ceded responsibility for our health to so-called experts who know far less than they let on, and whose biases help keep us in their grip, instead of taking responsibility ourselves. Too many of us have fallen for the seductive promise of definitive answers via scientific methods, requiring that we “understand” how something works before we’ll deign to try it. Tell me, does knowing that a pill is a beta agonist or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor really tell you what is going on in your body if you swallow it? It sounds like we know what’s going on, when we haven’t a fucking clue.
I have stated publicly that I will not cooperate with any mandatory health insurance ponzi scheme. Health insurance is not necessary to obtain health care. It is a wholly unnecessary part of the current medical institution, socializing health care and vastly inflating its cost. In keeping with my desire to keep my health under my control, I will do everything in my power to avoid any health care provider who cooperates with this vast socializing of medical care. In a world that is rapidly stripping away both privacy and dignity, I will resist. In fact, I have been for some time—but I have increased my efforts of late.
What can one person do? Refuse to believe the propaganda the medico–pharma complex pushes. Most of the pills they peddle control or mask symptoms, rather than curing the problem for which they’re pushed; and in so doing, they inevitably create another set of symptoms. Thus does the chain reaction of multiple pill-taking begin. Step out of the mindset that asserts sterile laboratory research relates well to your personal circumstances; at best it has tangential bearing upon your own personal health. Let go of the idea that manufactured foods and processed pills from natural origins are better than whole, natural food and medicine. We are barely beginning to understand the complementarity of micronutrients, for starters. Pay attention to your body, and do what you know is right for it: all foods in moderation (I like the No S diet approach); and exercise in moderation (most of us could stand to do more, I’d bet). Understand and fully embrace the truth that your path to wellness will be your own. Pay attention to your mind too: indulge in things that help it regain equilibrium and health; let go of negative energy, stress, and unreasonable judgments, expectations, or demands.
Others can help you find your path, of course. Mama Liberty helped me open up a world of healing, both physical and mental, with EFT. I know that it probably strikes many readers as “woo woo”; it still does to me, a little. But it works. I’m enormously thankful that Wolfie, via her blogroll, introduced me to the Handmaiden’s Kitchen. She focuses on natural health, from foraging as well as old-time lore; and best of all, she doesn’t appear to me to be dogmatic about it. She collects information and disseminates it in the hopes others will find it useful, and perhaps contribute their own experiences and ideas. From the Handmaiden I discovered Earth Clinic, an interactive site offering folk remedies and allowing people to report their experiences with them.
While it remains true that some things, such as appendicitis, require specific medical expertise, far too much of our ill health is caused or exacerbated by allopathic medicine. All the more reason, with this stimulus bill seemingly headed for passage, to remove oneself from its clutches sooner rather than later. For those who think they can’t do without their prescription meds, start investigating offshore pharmacies as a resource that will help you retain some medical privacy, and also will allow you to stockpile meds. I will share some of my experiences in that realm, but only with trusted individuals and only via encrypted email (here’s my PGP key). Start looking into natural remedies for your conditions—it might be that you’ll find something that works for you, and is downright tasty to boot. For example, garlic and onions are known to have many healthful properties ... as do cranberries ... blueberries ... apples ... walnuts ... coconut oil ... flat-leaf parsley ...
You can take greater control of your health. Lots of information is out there—and yes, some of it is confusing and contradictory. Some of it insists that you must buy their formulations or follow their process exactly. Ask yourself how our ancestors survived without these things, and you will find much of the dross will fall away. (Relatedly, look around to see how many of your ancestors are still among the living. No one escapes death [so far], so don’t let your quest transform into obsession. Enjoy your life—don’t become a slave to trying to stay alive.) You know how your doctor often engages in trial and error in tweaking your prescription med(s)? Well, if you accept that, why not give yourself the same power? Research your needs, ask questions if necessary, and engage in your own trial and error. Health and peace can be had outside the medical system: I submit that they are enduringly available only there.