Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

A Plea from the Good Geeks

A Plea from the Good Geeks

Zach Weiner (now Zach Weinersmith) is the writer/artist behind the excellent webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (which, fortunately, comes out more often than just on Saturday mornings). He’s very geeky and relentlessly rational and skeptical, which means his work is filled not just with wry humor but also insightful commentaries on modern life. He and his wife Kelly, a professional biochemist, are the co-authors of another excellent work, the non-fiction book Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything.

Zach and Kelly are also small-business owners (as opposed to small business owners, the hyphenless version which provided the source of amusement in one episode of The Jeffersons), and they have a sad tale to tell about health-care coverage in 21st Century America. (Please click on that link to see it.)

Notice that I refer to health-care “coverage”, not a health-care “system”. That’s because we don’t have a system in the United States. A system is something that’s been designed, something to serve an intended purpose, with all its parts properly constructed to fit together smoothly to produce the desired result. If that were the case here in the US, the desired result would be proper health care for everybody. But it’s not. It’s stupendously excellent, world-class, cutting-edge health care for the privileged few, occasionally adequate and fitful health care for the bulk of people in the middle of the economic spectrum, sincere wishes of good luck for the people between jobs, bad nutrition and emergency-room visits for the poor, and “suck it up or please die quickly” for the desperate.

No, health care in America is like our measurement system. Not neat, orderly, consistent, and easy to learn and use like the metric system used by 95% of the world’s population. Instead it’s a cobbled-together patchwork of disparate profit centers like hospitals, pharmacies, independent medical practices, X-ray and lab-test providers, insurance companies, employee-benefit plans, lawyers, accountants, marketers, lobbyists, claims deniers, and of course corporate CEOs whose only joy greater than their annual 8-digit bonuses is being able to piss all over their competitors. The sole purpose of each of those independent components is not health care or patient sympathy but the ability to make a buck. And if there’s no money to be made, there’s no service.

That’s why, for example, you can get mail delivered to your front door 6 days a week for any address in the United States, or flip a switch and be assured that the lights will go on anywhere in America, but good luck if you need an emergency appendectomy in the northwoods of Wisconsin. No money in it, you know. And that’s Wisconsin. Imagine what it’s like in Appalachia. Or Alaska. Or ranch country in Wyoming. Or Indian reservations in the Southwest. Or even inner-city Los Angeles, with no public transportation.

We can do better than this. Congress needs to buckle down and give us a serious health-care SYSTEM, like every other industrialized democracy on Earth! Sorry to say, they apparently have higher priorities. Instead of health care, they’re focusing on wealth care. But my rant on big money in politics is a topic for another day.

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Health tip: If you can’t afford a doctor, go to an airport. You’ll get a free X-ray and a breast exam. And, if you mention al-Qaeda, they’ll throw in a free colonoscopy.

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