Sick: Your Own Dang Fault?

John Taylor: July 30, 20120 Comments

The words slash like a reckless razor. If you’re sick, it’s your vile lifestyle. If you’re fat, it’s because you swill six packs of Big Gulps and scarf down tortillas the size of Death Valley. If you’re jobless, it’s because you’re lazy or an illegal.

It’s hard to read any healthcare story – and particularly those about the healthcare reform law – without being engulfed with lists of readers’ online comments that are longer than the story and full of finger-in-your-eye accusations.

Problems, plenty. Finger-pointing, endless. Solutions, well, they often require mediation and education. But when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the red-flag word is, inevitably, “mandate.”

“Insurance is a concept based on fear,” one Oklahoma City resident, uninsured with failing kidneys, told the Washington Post in a story detailing why Oklahoma’s frontier mentality means it will have to be dragged spitting and screaming into the era of federally mandated health insurance. To emphasize the point, one-quarter of Oklahoma drivers apparently refuse to buy car insurance.

As a nation, not too long ago: There were no traffic lights, tail lights on cars, safety glass on car windows, laws mandating helmets for motorcyclists, a desire to test (or do so accurately) for drunken drivers, no mandatory vaccinations or agreement that cigarette smoking was bad (for years some MDs glowingly recommended tobacco, particularly the menthol flavored).

Now, what gets folks to a fast boil: When you say that people’s health may be affected by where they live – few grocers and doctors, way too much freeway and industrial pollution, and few safe means to get anywhere or recreate. Anything touching on privacy, personal liberty, free choice and subsidizing the have-not's.

What gets little traction these days: The impact of a person’s genes on his health. Holistic medicine. Cradle-to-grave education and raising of awareness of habits/consequences. What happens when sick workers routinely hack and sneeze through their jobs (including care-giving for seniors and kids, food service and driving trains/cabs) for lack of any other choice.

Histrionics aside, the coming years will be crammed with a focus on healthcare – who gets it, at what cost and with what limits. What remains to be seen is whether an archaic tool will re-enter the fray and successfully manage the chaos of change – civil dialogue.

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