Trying to fix America's health care problem is confusing, frustrating and hard to figure out. Consider the intricacies of the paperwork, the red tape and the circuitous phone calls back and forth with insurance companies about what medical procedures are covered when desperately needed. The stress, terror and despondency that this can create are enough to make anyone sick.
When I was a teenager, I remember trying to help my grandmother and mother (who speak limited English) figure out their health care benefits. Breast cancer claimed my Aunt Hong's life 10 years ago. I remember she was more worried about what her insurance would or would not cover, more than the cancer itself. I remember my heart beating fast, palms sweaty, as I tried to decipher the legalese and medical jargon on the forms for my family members. It's as if the paperwork was made to confuse applicants. I could just imagine the frustration of my elders and how helpless they felt relying on a kid to do the paperwork, so they can get the medical care they so desperately needed. I've had my personal tug-of-wars with my previous dental insurance provider when I was in pain during finals my third year in college and the insurance company denied my root canal.
I'm not here to make a statement about America's health care system or air my grievances about those who have done me wrong. As a matter of fact, I've had some pretty pleasant encounters with my HMO's and PPO's. Rather, I'm here to share an inspirational story of a doctor whom I recently met through my friends at CharityFocus. A doctor with a prescription on how she can fix America's health care boo boos.
Amidst the ongoing health care debate in America, one doctor, out of Oakland, Calif. has a simple solution: just give it away.
"We give, no strings attached." Dr. Aumatma Shah says with a big smile. Dr. Shah co-founded Karma Clinic in Oakland April 2009. She decided to volunteer her services full-time about four months ago and doesn't get paid a single penny. Yep, that's right, she doesn't get a paycheck. Patients don't have to pay for her services. She gives the gift of health care.
Why would anyone do such a thing, especially when Naturopathic doctors can charge $50-300 an hour? GoInspireGo.com made an appointment with Dr. Shah to find out what inspired her to gift health care, how she sustains the clinic and how she pays her bills without a paycheck or hidden savings.
Dr. Shah is a naturopathic doctor, meaning she uses natural remedies to heal. She received her Naturopathic Medicine Degree and her master's degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and got her bachelor's degree in Biology from Rutgers University. Even though she excelled in the pre-med program at Rutgers, Dr. Shah found her calling through naturopathy, because it connects the mind, body, and spirit.
The concept is simple: "We wish to give the gift of health care." She says. "Our current health care system is broken and is in shambles, the reform really doesn't address the root cause. Even with the at-best option for single payer, the health care system would not address the problem of disconnectedness that people so commonly feel from their practitioners." Dr. Shah believes that the universe will sustain the cost operating the clinic and her basic needs. "All I need is food and shelter," she says with another smile. Anonymous donations have miraculously sustained her since the clinic opened its doors.
Oh, and I must mention, the quality of time spent with patients. After they make an appointment online, Dr. Shah sends patients a long, in-depth questionnaire, with questions that reach deep within, such as the patients' perspective on life and their responsibility to heal, before she meets with them. The first appointment is about two hours long. Along with no payment due at the end of the visit, patients don't have to wait in line and get a unique one-on-one medical experience that has many patients leaving transformed -- with a renewed outlook on their health and their lives. On top of the deep connection, the attention and quality time with Dr. Shah, patients leave with the gift of a smile card that reminds you to "smile" and pay this gift forward in an anonymous way -- a gift, a shift and an experience that money can't buy.
This experiment is about to face its biggest test yet -- Dr. Shah's medical school loans will be due next month. Still, she trusts that if the loans need to be paid, the money will come. The universe will provide.
When I tell people about Karma Clinic and explain what Dr. Shah is doing, I could literally see people's minds churning -- people ask, how could this be? How does she pay her bills? Blank and discombobulated facial expressions ensue. Some people I've come across, while producing this story, have called me credulous, others were skeptical of naturopathy and exactly how and why Dr. Shah does what she does. I'm not insinuating that naturopathy will work for you; everyone has the right to think and choose the path of healing they believe in.
Whether you're a skeptic or a supporter, I hope this story inspires you to think about what you can do for others.
Through our work at Go Inspire Go, we hope to help people discover their "power" and use it to help others. Through our videos, we hope that you will discover your power (resources, talents, gifts) to give back. You don't have to take drastic measures, sell your home or quit your job -- I hope to inspire you to think about what you're capable of doing to help others, in your scope, in your comfort level, on your own time.
When I think about my Aunt Hong, who died in her 40's, and everyone who is battling illnesses and insurance companies, I can't help but think about what Dr. Shah said that will always continue to resonate and inspire me: "We give the patients the respect that they deserve, regardless of whether they have money or not, because they're human beings." Isn't that the way health care should be? Beyond that, what would this world be like if we gave others the respect and dignity we hope for? Isn't this the way we should treat others, no matter what resources or gifts we have to offer? No matter how much you have in your bank account, what title you do or do not have, I truly believe that everyone has the power to help others. For some, the power is yet to be discovered. And for those of you who know what gifts you possess, I ask you this simple question: What can YOU do?