What is worse than an unhealthy healthcare person? I am sure if you asked my current family, friends and acquaintances, the answer is a resounding “nothing!”
And thus, here I sit, some alleged “expert” on various healthcare topics, and all I can think is that no one ever felt so yucky as I currently do and that there is likely no positive intervention, not even time, that will address this, the illness di tutti illnesses: the common cold. Woe is me.
Ironic, isn’t it, that I and my colleagues spend 82.7% of our waking hours telling people how to fix the healthcare system and how important patient engagement is and what they should be doing to prevent illness and all that jazz, but when it comes to ourselves, or at least myself, not so much. My current level of patient engagement is sitting on the couch looking engagingly pathetic so someone will bring me more Kleenex and maybe some tea–is that too much to ask? Snort. Prevent illness? I am now in such a pathetic self-pitying state that I am hoping against hope to ward off the certain death that this cold is likely to cause, based on my current level of congestion. Did I mention, woe is me?
It was in this weakened state that I remembered an article I saw earlier this week drawing data from the January-March 2012 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. The article said that more than 67% of Americans rate their own health as excellent or very good. Say what? Maybe this is a stretch on my part, but there also has to be some relationship between those self-reported 67% great health people and the 50% of Americans who suffer from at least one chronic illness. Don’t get me started on the 25% who reportedly suffer from 2 or more such maladies.
And to go out on a limb even further, I am guessing there is some overlap here also between the healthy majority and the 56% of Americans who rated our healthcare system as fair or poor, with “poor” coming in at 26%, double what it was in 1998, in the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2012 Health Confidence Survey. In a nutshell, here is what Americans are saying,”Look at me-I am healthy despite our crappy healthcare system.”
Yes, yes, I understand the difference between health and the health system and how these surveys get muddled by question construction and all that other drama you are now going to throw at me in the comments section to tell me why I don’t know what I’m talking about (FYI-primary reason I don’t know what I’m talking about is that I am all hopped up on DayQuil). But I do think it is interesting that health and healthcare fall into the same category as Congress when we talk about humans’ capacity to rationalize away anything, particularly when , crappy healthcare system or no, we Americans aren’t exactly pegging the right end of the health-o-meter.
The gulf between what people personally experience and what they think they know for sure from remote observation also explains why 67% of people say they hate Congress and would like to see all or most members voted out yet 50% of people like their Congressperson and want to see them re-elected. It is also why you hear stories about people who hate the healthcare reform law and then complain about how they can’t get health insurance or that they can’t leave their job because they would lose such insurance for their pre-existing condition. It is also the same reason that people with chronic illnesses often fail to take the prescriptions that will extend their lives and make them feel better because they just don’t like taking medicine. Rationalization: it’s what’s for dinner.
The healthcare reform law, which is actually known as PPACA but can now be unjudgementally called ObamaCare since Obama himself now says he likes that term, is without a doubt a flawed piece of legislation, like most, loaded with positive and negative terms that will improve and sink the economy. It was somewhat surreal to watch the first Presidential debate and see the two candidates pussy-foot around the real issues. Obama neglects to talk about the costs that the law will likely add to the healthcare system and how this will affect government spending in an already stressed economy; Romney denies that ObamaCare is basically his original idea but in the same breath tells us he has now magically figured out how to give us the good parts without the taxes or regulations. It’s all just good old-fashioned American political BS, except it happens to affect us all in some pretty profound ways. And so we are each left to rationalize our own position out of the spin, unaided by the clarity of reliable analysis or trustworthy spokespeople.
In a brief moment of clarity between sneezes it occurs to me that the political science career I abandoned to go into healthcare has returned, Terminator-style, in the form of the merger of the two everywhere I look. I think I now have identified the answer to my original question: is anything worse than an unhealthy healthcare person? Answer: Yes; the cocktail of politics and healthcare we are currently being fed might actually be the cause of all of the same side effects listed on my DayQuil box: nervousness, dizziness, sleeplessness, headache… According to the box, these may be signs of a serious condition. The only known cure is to turn off the news, hide under a blanket and hope someone brings you a much better cocktail. Whatever you do, don’t call a doctor because they are hiding under the blanket next to you. Woe is me.