Tuesday, April 4, 2017

By William J. Skinner
Almost everyone knows healthcare cannot be provided for free; but many people assume or believe healthcare is their right.  Many people are being pulled in this little red wagon and fewer people are making the payments.  Meanwhile politicians promise to take more from wage earners and pass it along to others who will not work or are unqualified for available jobs to get votes.  Americans are a generous people, but there are limits.

            Can we get more folks to participate in controlling the need for healthcare?  Chronic diseases are very often caused by lifestyle choices – over eating, drinking unhealthy beverages, eating the wrong foods, and failure to exercise.  Generally taking good care of oneself would be a good start to health.  Good health is ignored by not washing the produce before eating it, neglecting to wash hands, and not knowing how to recognize common medical conditions or symptoms.  Medical costs are driven up by going to the emergency room (ER) to get colds, sore throats, cuts, bruises and rashes treated.  And because we over exercise our petition rights too much to make laws, Americans now need help at the ER for over eating marijuana cookies.

             Not all people ignore practicing good habits to stay healthy, but many do not know what to do and let their personal health situation get out of control.  This ends up costing other people – the taxpayers – an ever increasing amount of out of control tax increases.

             We have now, in 2017, had seven years of experience in trying to pay for health insurance for 40 million uninsured plus millions of illegal immigrants with the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.   The plan was passed because of the “stupidity” of American voters according to Obamacare expert MIT professor Gruber.   The ACA has proven to be unsuccessful in getting young healthy people to pay for the care of old, sick people and others.

             The threat of fines and taxes did not convince enough people to pay the premiums for ACA- defined “universal” insurance.  Deductibles went up, the insurance exchanges were abandoned by profit losing insurance companies and the ACA proved it was poorly planned to be sustainable.

             We have more recently had a hard time determining what to do to get support for a new American Health Care Act.  We know the structure of ACA will not work, but so far we insist on reproducing a lite version of ACA under another name. 

            One of our problems is we do not have all of the people with skin in the game or a dog in the hunt, as politicians say.   If it is not too late to get our elected representatives to address this critical factor, we could still get more people in the fight to bring down health care costs. We need to try to achieve the attention of every American, young and old, in the next plan.  How can we do that?   Start by thinking outside of the traditional box and use our human resources is one way to describe our solutions to this effort.  Those who have read Alexis de Tocqueville may remember he wrote: “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”  He did not say by government run health programs.

Use the Education Techniques and Resources of Voluntary Associations

Youth Organizations

            Some of the most obvious providers of health education are youth organizations and disease organizations.  In the area of youth, for example, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) incorporates first aid and health education throughout its program for boys from ages six to 18 and beyond. Each rank advancement has some health component as a requirement for an award.   There are specific individual requirements, like using a tourniquet, and there are groups of issues combined in Merit Badges for many areas, like First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, Personal Fitness, and many others.

            Special provisions will be needed for those who prove to be too lazy or adamant about doing nothing to improve their personal situation.  Some will be mentally or physically challenged and will not be able to participate in such programs, but this is a small number that most Americans will be ready to help because of their situation.  Waivers or equivalent certifications can be granted by government bureaucrats after the standards are written into law and regulations are properly promulgated using the Administrative Procedures Act to allow the population to learn about the program.  But the basic idea is that if you have not earned First Aid Merit Badge or the equivalent, you cannot get ER soap and water with bandages applied.
            This is not a time for government to start dictating how voluntary youth organizations should operate, but only a time for government to get some assistance from what Americans have always done – they help each other.  This is not a time to assign the task to government run schools and throw money at the problem so that politicians can have something else to control.  America for several years has been spending more and more on government/union schools and its students are fast losing rankings in educational levels among other nations of the world.

            I was personally involved in the BSA from 1948 through 2014 – a period of 66 years and the only time I was paid was the few weeks I worked on a camp staff during three summers in my high school and college years.  Thousands of volunteers would be willing to gear up to help other youth and adults learn what they need to know to improve their health care.

             The Girl Scouts, 4H Clubs, Campfire, some youth organizations sponsored by religious groups like YMCAs, and a variety of charitable youth organizations could be interested in becoming involved. 

 Disease and Disaster Associations

            The American Heart Association does a great job teaching adults and youth about cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), they even do it with an online program.  AHA has an instructor program already in operation and could take on larger groups that need such training.   AHA is a leader in resuscitation science, education, and training, and publisher of the official AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC.  More than 10 types of instructional programs are offered, and many of these would be useful for affected individuals and families to learn about.

            Specific disease associations that specialize in diabetes, lungs, kidneys, cancer, feet, skin, and you name it often have educational programs for professionals, family members and individuals. Use their programs to help educate patients and families how to care for their illnesses.  Some of these voluntary associations have magazines offering advice and information.  These groups could develop certification programs to qualify for eligibility for taxpayer funded health care.

             The American Red Cross offers courses for instructors and individuals in five basic areas:

             The AP/LTP area has training with specific courses on Aquatics, Blood borne Pathogens Training / Babysitter’s Training, Professional Rescuers and Healthcare Providers, Responding to Emergencies, Lay Responder and Wilderness and Remote First Aid / Preparedness.

             Some disease foundations have set up patient support web sites that can be used to reduce patient costs on government funds, e.g. taxpayer funds.

 Underused Health Professionals

            Pharmacists should be consulted for advice about the use of prescription drugs, vaccines, drug interactions and side effects, over the counter drugs, health resources, and devices.   If pharmacists were reimbursed for their time, patients would learn more about their health needs from this easy to reach professional resource in every American town.

            Many patient disease-related support groups have participating social workers, physical therapists, and other health professionals.  For example diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders, weight management and other conditions often have support groups available to orient patients and family care givers.

What To Do Now

            Everyone receiving taxpayer funded healthcare should be encouraged to participate in these various volunteer certification programs to show they understand what they can do to help themselves.  Let your state and federal legislators know how you feel about this general idea.  Urge them to consider it.  Think about how these kind of programs could help you with your health care or that of a family member or friend.  Let us work together to solve these problems.  Do not give up and just ride in the little red wagon.