Don Sanderson: Wellness Insurance? [Local]


Doc Story brought me into the world in the midst of the depression, In coming years, he took out my tonsils, set a broken elbow and a collar bone, and dealt with one and other minor complaints. He was one of two doctors in my farm community; the other concentrated on older people and was wealthier.

The community consisted of maybe 4,000 residents scattered over an area twenty miles square. Doc’s house was large and old, but not otherwise exceptional except that he had constructed an emergency treatment room in the basement – the tiny local hospital didn’t have an emergency room. I don’t recall that he did house calls.

Doc’s main office was downtown. It consisted of a large waiting room with his individual office and treatment room in the rear. If someone needed to see him, they showed up in front and normally waited their turn. I don’t recall that he accepted appointments, but may have. My family was poor compared with most of you, as were nearly all of those living there. None had insurance. They paid what they could when they could and Doc didn’t refuse them. Of course, if you had something seriously wrong, you were sent to the University hospital 150 or so miles away.

My Mom’s family had lived in the area for about seventy years prior to my birth, so their death records were available. All but one pair of great, great grandparents and one pair of great, great, great grandparents died in the area. All lived at least well into their sixties, many into their seventies and eighties, and one great, great, grandfather into his nineties. Of their many children, I know of only one who died early – during childbirth. The medical care available to them was surely worse than during my time.

So, what of this medical care crisis over which all the politicians are pounding their fists? They are all focusing on Medicare, but it seems to me they are looking in the wrong direction. The ostensible problem is the medical delivery system in general: the corporate hospitals, corporately packed medical care, corporate pharmaceuticals, and corporate medical insurance. In each case, greed is the driver, which means the perceived need for ever more care, ever more expensive, and efficiently, by the number, delivered without heart. Our government “representatives” won’t touch any of that because a bit of the resulting excess profits end up in their pockets.

We’re not going to change the situation until we get a government change; that is just the way it will be. So of what value is it to constantly beat our breasts? Oh, yes, we may have longer life expectancies today simply because we are constantly and expensively sort-of patched back together – I picture those old pictures depicting a soldier leaving a battle, one arm in a sling, one leg gone and replaced with a crutch, and a bandage around his head covering one eye.

Alternately, can we take charge of our own healthcare? As I look back at my recent ancestors’ lives, a trend is evident. Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and other systemic disorders all radically increased. As this was happening, at least two other trends were evident: agriculture and other crafts were increasingly mechanized with labor saving equipment; the same time agribusiness’ supermarket fronts were opening.

On those old Depression and WWII era farms on which I was raised, any grain that wasn’t sold was fed to livestock. These animals provided us with meat, milk, and eggs, which were prominent at every meal. Large gardens and orchards were also maintained and any excess preserved. While it was true we had home-baked bread also at every meal and often potatoes, carbohydrates were usually a fraction of what we ate. Oh, we might occasionally celebrate especially with fruit pies and an rare cake. Low carb was the rule. As far as I can determine, this was the normal diet of my ancestors back as many generations as I have explored. It seems to me that good physical labor combined with these home-produced foods were a great part of the answer for my ancestors’ longevity.

Then, in the early fifties, a supermarket came to town. Shelves filled with stuff shipped in in big trucks from somewhere out there. My parents, for reasons that escape me, converted. No more chickens, no more gardens or orchards, no more milking, no more butchering. Instead, Mom got a job in town as the assistant county treasurer, surely one of the highest paying jobs in the county, and Dad worked winters as a tractor mechanic and otherwise as an assistant rural mail carrier. Farming was streamlined with fancy equipment. No more self-reliance, self-sufficiency. I much loved the old ways, but saw there was no future in this new farming for me.

Let me take you through the average grocery store, noting what is on its shelves. Lets start with the long bread isle, move on to cookies, crackers, and chips, cakes, cake and frosting mixes, puddings, sweetened canned fruit, fruit juices, and sodas, pizzas, ice creams, and cakes, pastas, flours, sugars, grains, and syrups, and candies. Of the food aisles, half or more are devoted to carbohydrates. Then we have the meat and dairy aisles featureing items that have resulted from feeding grains. Grain and soy producing agribusiness has come to dominate our food choices, all carefully processed and packaged to “preserve freshness”. We, surely, must add all those long aisles devoted to alcoholic beverages and shelves of vegetable oils to agribusiness’ credit. Somehow, this all appears really sick to me. In fact, there is copious evidence that here are the reasons we need so much expensive medical care.

Agribusiness isn’t just screwing up our personal wellbeing, it is doing so to the natural Earth as well. It is an oil hog that views farming as mining for maximum short-term profit.

Why is it that people aren’t taking responsibility for their own health and, as a result, that of their environment? To begin with, most appear to be snowed by those corporate promotions that constantly flood around them. Ignorance is rife. Add to this that so-called healthy foods are seen as too expensive. And, we so love sugar. Does anyone ever notice that all digestible carbohydrates are converted to sugar in the blood stream? So, we perpetually shoot ourselves in the feet because those groceries are cheap and convenient, which is as far as we can see. Then, we expect the medical system to save us, a medical system that has no interest in diets or the environment. Those are others’ specialties and we so believe in specialties.

Is there a solution? A good economy crash will do the trick. Those who connect the dots will survive, even thrive as did my ancestors. So sorry about those who will be still clinging to others, especially government and corporate others, to save them. So sorry for those who still believe they can convert governments and corporations into good citizens and who waste time thrashing around trying. There is no time.