A line started forming just after midnight Tuesday at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood, California by thousands of people hoping to get free medical, dental and vision services being offered courtesy of the non-profit group Remote Area Medical. The people in line were not just the uninsured, but also the insured whose deductibles and co-payments are too high for them to handle.
Whether we are one of the insured or uninsured, the debate over the American health care bill affects us.
I have been listening to the debate astounded by those who are opposing the possibility of health care for all of our citizens. Those who are opposing the bill seem to think that if we provide services for the uninsured, that we will somehow be taking away from them - or, as a number of the protesters have argued, "taking away their America." I find some irony in that argument. Isn't America a country that built itself on this premise: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." (Quoted on the Statue of Liberty).
I wonder if this you-or-me mentality is something that we are going to have to contend with for the upcoming decades, or if we can consider a shift in perspective to a you-and-me nation, and ultimately a you-and-me world?
"Just as blood in the body must flow to all parts of the body for health to be maintained, money is useful when it is moving and flowing, contributed and shared, directed and invested in that which is life affirming. When blood slows down and begins to stop or clot, the body becomes sick. When water slows down and becomes stagnant, it becomes toxic. Accumulating and holding large quantities of money can have the same toxic effect on our life." - Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money
I mention this quote because it seems to speak to the toxic meltdowns we have seen recently -- Bernie Madoff, AIG, Lehman Brothers -- and in particular the situation with the health insurance companies.
We've heard about those Americans rejected by health insurance companies for having a "pre-existing condition." I have been one of them. Getting that letter in the mail (twice) stung with a feeling that the insurance company's choice was never really about the well-being of people, but rather it was about more money in their pockets.
Well now the money has clotted in their bank accounts, and the toxicity has grown to infect our whole country. If things continue to go in the direction they have been, our "health care" system will turn into a "health chaos" system.
Luckily, there are companies like Remote Area Medical who believe in sharing time, talents, and resources to help those in need. "An infected tooth can't wait while Congress debates healthcare reform. We're taking care of people who need help now," says Don Manelli, Executive Producer of the week-long LA event.
I am not saying that doctors, health organizations, or health insurance companies should be offering their services for free. Of course not. What I am looking at is where the money is getting caught up, where it is losing its flow, and what can we do to change this?
As we continue in this health care debate, I wonder if it is possible to shift the very basis of the way we think - from one where we compete and fight for what seem like "scarce" resources, to one where we realize that there actually are enough resources and that we just need to look at how we allocate them so we can help one another.