Over the years, I have seen the influence doctors and healthcare professionals have in getting the public to write and call legislators and get something they want codified into law.  Why do you think some 20-odd states have enacted tort reform laws?  Doctors wanted it, and they told their patients that if they didn’t get it, the insurance companies would almost certainly put the practice out of business, and patients pressured their state legislatures and doctors got tort reform.  

I have been part of such mobilizations of healthcare workers.  

It was early 2005 in Kansas City, and our newly-elected republican governor, Matt Blunt, came into office slashing huge holes in the social safety net, and Missouri has never been known for being overly generous.  A hundred thousand people, about half of them children, were kicked off of Medicaid. Cancer patients were kicked off chemo, charity clinics in all the hospitals were overwhelmed.  Children who still had Medicaid coverage had no access to eyeglasses or hearing aids, and when the batteries died on electric wheelchairs, if the disabled person didn’t have several hundred dollars to replace them, they would just have to stay put when the chair came to rest.

My coworkers and I were pissed.  

We threw ourselves behind a county wide referendum on the April ballot that would assess a significant property tax levy, but fund our public health system.  The levy passed and the Truman system, a true teaching hospital that renders excellent care to the uninsured and the uninsurable, was able to expand their clinics and programs to take in a whole lot of new patients and implement wellness programs.  It isn’t just the homeless and truly indigent who never see a bill from Truman.  A lot of self-employed people and independent contractors and their families get healthcare either free or significantly discounted because the people in Jackson County, Missouri, in response to a republican running riot and destroying the social safety net, voted to increase their taxes so no one in this county has to go without healthcare, and expanding access beyond what was taken away.  

And when I say healthcare, I mean health care – as in keep you healthy.  As in keep you well and prevent you from getting sick.  

It is a system that I choose to use because I once had to be trained, too – and the doctors and other medical educators who trained me were up on the latest everything –  and they conveyed it to us.  This practice has not changed.  Medical educators know the latest advances far before the GP in the 30 doctor practice does.  They also aren’t beholden to the drug companies.  When you get a prescription from a doctor in a true teaching hospital, the chances are practically nil that there is any quid pro quo or flat-out bribe in place from the company that manufactures the medication.  And best of all…I have one chart that follows me to whatever clinic I am seen in.  No doctor ever prescribes something that is contraindicated with another medication because every doctor I see looks at the same med sheet.  They all see the same lab results.  They can all look at the same films.  

THAT is peace of mind, so far as I am concerned.

Now, I have had government healthcare all my life.  I merely got my ID card from a different branch of the military when I got married.  I never had any personal experience with private insurance until my husband’s military career was over, and when I tried it, I was horrified by the lack of continuity of care.  When I challenged my GP on something I had just read in a professional journal, he fired me for being a noncompliant patient (before I could fire him) and I went back to my healthcare comfort zone – the public option that has been there for me since the cradle and will be there all the way to my grave.   The prodigal daughter returned and will never again go seeking elsewhere what she has better at home.  I could go anywhere and be covered.  I choose KC’s public health system because, in my personal opinion, and speaking as a highly trained and competent medical professional for over two decades, that is where I get the best care for my healthcare dollar.

I have frankly been flummoxed that no one has bothered to ask those of us who actually use the government-administered systems what we think of the care we receive.  If anyone did, they would get an earful about how we don’t recognize the horrors the right is describing.  

And remember – that system I am so fond of – that “Public Option” I exercise by choice, operates so well because the people in this county went to the polls and voted to raise our own taxes to fund it.  We had to decide what kind of people we wanted to be, and I am so, so proud of the conclusion we reached.

But that vote went the way it did because all over the county, healthcare professionals got behind it and spread information and talked to anyone who would listen.  I myself spent a lot of blustery days off outside the Sun Fresh dressed in scrubs and a lab coat, holding a clipboard and asking everyone who made eye contact if they were a registered voter in Jackson County.  If they said yes, I asked them if they were aware of the health levy that was on the ballot, and explained that it was necessary to offset the drastic cuts Matt Blunt had made to healthcare funding at the state level, then I gave them a pamphlet that had been printed at my own expense.  And I was not the only one.  I had a LOT of really, really good company.

People listened to us because there is an inherent trust people have with the professionals with whom they have their most intimate relationships.  Let’s face it – if your lawyer or your accountant tells you to take your clothes off, it’s time to find a new lawyer or accountant.  The level of trust that is intrinsic between patients and healthcare providers is, by it’s very nature, unmatched by any other client-professional relationship.  

And that is why it matters that 62.9% of the physicians who took the time to respond to a survey sent out by the New England Journal of Medicine favored a public option, while 10% more want single payer, bringing the percentage of doctors who want government involvement at some level to 72.9% – more than seven in ten!

Let me tell you how this is working.  Doctors and staff members are talking. They are talking amongst themselves and they are talking to their patients – a significant number of whom represent the 299,930,000 Americans who are not insane and didn’t march on Washington unarmed (this time) to express unfocused rage and scream that their liberties were being infringed by the attempt to fix a broken system that is wrecking our economy.  

And trust me – there are no tea parties going on in exam rooms.  

The heat of August is gone, and September is here, bringing cooler heads with the cooler weather, and a backlash appears to be brewing among people who were appalled by the hatred and vitriol that they witnessed in August.

And speaking of the tea partiers:  I might be able to take them seriously if they could produce some video of themselves in the streets a year ago when Bush was bailing out the banks. If they had been out in the streets with their signs and anger and threatening rhetoric and assault rifles last September, that would mean something.  Because the dude who was president then? Yeah, he really did infringe your freedoms.  Not only did he listen to your phone calls and read your emails, people were arrested for wearing the wrong fucking t-shirt within too close proximity of him, including Gold Star Mothers, whose children died in the war he lied to get started.  So pardon the fuck out of me if
I don’t give them any ground at all.  By definition, so long as you can assemble and act ridiculous and embarrass the classier members of your community, your fucking freedoms are just fine – and while you are at it, you ought to thank the ACLU for protecting that right for you, you ingrate fucking douche nozzle.

And for the record, here in Kansas City, where we have healthcare access for all legal residents of Jackson county, as well as a significant presence of both ACORN and the SEIU, not one person has been shipped off to a reeducation camp, no one has been implanted with a microchip, not a single death panel has convened and not one solitary Grandma has been unplugged because someone in the comptrollers office made that call.  It’s been four and a half years now since we went socialist, and none of that scary stuff has happened.  

What has happened is we are no longer the fattest city in America.  We used to have the zip code with the highest incidence of diabetes in the entire country. Now some other city has that dubious honor.  And our kids are getting healthier, too, with fewer children suffering from asthma and childhood obesity.  

If Kansas City is a microcosm and we are once again a bellwether, and the price that must be paid for healthcare reform is a population with less obesity and attendant metabolic disorders and healthier kids…Why exactly is anyone opposed to that again?