Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

January 13th, 2011 3:43 PM

Oh, For Civil Healthcare in America

Ah, we must be more civil. No more taunts. No more tirades. No more gun crosshair targets, no matter how innocently placed on our graphics (though I am not sure gun crosshairs are ever really innocent in placement). We’ll be more civil in our discourse. In light of the tragedy in Tucson. Maybe.

But stand at the front desks in a hospital admissions area or a doctor’s office or at other providers’ offices and civility is the last thing we’ll know. We can be sick – shaking with fever, bending over in pain, bandaged for wounds, chest aching with unknown agony, and the questions and responses will be anything but civil. “What insurance do you have? Where’s your co-payment today? Is that a check, debit or credit card? Do you have a picture ID? Have you signed our legal forms and signed our privacy forms?”

And if you make it through all of that, you may still not receive the kind of care needed to make you feel better or even save your life. You may sit waiting for a doctor who may or may not treat you based on what an external organization or agency says you are entitled to receive. The doctor may be annoyed that you are in his or her care instead of farmed out to another specialist. If you do find yourself referred for a test or another doctors’ visit, you’ll start the process all over again from the beginning. Co-pay paid? Insurance in order? Credit or debit card? Picture ID?

Civility? Hell. No one has even helped with the symptoms that brought you or a loved one in for care.

In my more civil healthcare world, the first questions asked would relate to, well, civil sorts of patient-related questions. “How can I help you today? How are you feeling? Does that hurt? How can I make you more comfortable?” But until we transform this system, those questions are secondary, at best.

Even in our most crass and impersonal financial transactions, some polite interaction is programmed into the dialogue. But not in healthcare in America. It seems every time I seek care or take someone I love for care, I am treated like an annoyance or like the enemy – someone from whom the providers must be protected. The evil, non-cash-bearing patients, we are viewed by many as such.

So long as the motivation for profits and more profits and ever-increasing profits remain the primary motivator for those who dole out our care and our access to that care, I am not likely to see more civility but less. I half expect that within a short bit of time, I will carry with me a card that shows not only my medical history but also my credit score, my bank balance, my credit or debit card information, my next payday linked to a payday loan operation, my current insurance coverage and the status of my deductibles and out-of-pockets yet owing at the time of treatment and so on. It may even have my photo and maybe some biological security device to make sure I am the widget labeled on the card. If at any point in the process, I cannot pass from patient to insured patient to out-of-pocket expense paying patient to finally in the exam room patient, I’ll be let go. And it won’t be civil. All but the most exaggerated gaping and bleeding and gasping will wait until all financial systems are clear.

If we were civil in our healthcare delivery, we’d want what is the right and the best treatment for one another delivered at the most appropriate time in an appropriate way. We finance such a system through shared risk and shared cost-saving, and we’d minimize the wasted administrative expenses and the duplication of services now so costly and so un-civil.

I watch with hope when I see communities rally after tragedy. So why is our healthcare system so different then and why are our sick folks less deserving of our best caring and effort simply because their tragedies unfold more slowly, more methodically, and more quietly?

Bending the healthcare cost curve will only happen when we believe that creating a progressively financed, single-standard of high quality care for all is the most rational, civil course of action and we set about to make it happen. So far, allowing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens to suffer and die in a very uncivilized way while the care they needed was within our grasp has not compelled us to act decisively. Civility has not been the hallmark of healthcare in America.

We’ll watch next week as legislators argue the pros and cons of repealing the newest healthcare bill. They might even attempt to show a calmer tone while doing so. But whether they succeed in the political theatrics of the repeal effort or not, sick and hurting patients will keep standing at those front desks waiting to be cleared for care or sent away in shame. And no one will care much at all right now about the civility of that preventable suffering.

When we see good people harmed in unimaginable acts of violent outrage, I hope we’ll pause to remember those among us for whom quiet acts of unthinkable pain and illness are an on-going assault on any sense of human decency. When we finally have reached the point of shared realization that we’re responsible for one another and for our civil society as manifested not only in acts of occasional violence but also in our everyday ability to uplift one another for the common good, then we’ll be moving toward a sense of civility that will do more than change our words – it will change our lives.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles