There is something about the way the rich and well connected announce their battle with a health issue that catches my attention. They often say something like they have a great medical team to help them fight the disease as hard as they can. They sometimes mention specifics about the treatment they receive or medicines that made a big difference in their survival or recovery.
It is all done for the best of reasons. It kind of hits you sideways, however, when you stop and think about it.
These aren’t shout outs we all get to make because most of us don’t have a team of doctors, nurses and medical professionals working on our case using the latest equipment, therapies and medicines.
Even those of us with so-called good insurance find that using it is often so complicated or inconvenient that we don’t get the full advantage of the services we are paying a hefty price for each month. Most people I know don’t have a long standing relationship with a primary doctor. Most of us fear getting prescribed medication that may solve our health issue, or may lead to new issues. Most certainly it will make a serious dent in our budget.
Imagine for a moment if everyone had access to basic, quality healthcare. What could that look like? I’m no policy wonk, but let’s lay it out everyman style as a “just suppose.”
Just suppose preventative care was a default part of our life. From the moment you are born you are able to go into a general physician or specialist at least twice a year to get a general overview physical, including all the lab work and accompanying tests like mammograms or cholesterol checks. Suppose vaccines were free and available to all. What if we included supplements and various herbal and “non-traditional” remedies and techniques under the umbrella of covered treatments?
Just suppose it was as easy as calling to make an appointment when trying to manage or mitigate the seriousness of a longstanding or chronic health issue.
What if instead of letting these issues fester because we can’t afford the treatments necessary to fix them, or if instead of self-diagnosing and self-medicating we could see all the doctors and specialists and therapists needed to follow a course of treatment all the way through? What if the lifestyle changes and dietary needs that could solve our health issues were able to be prescribed and covered just like the synthetic medication that often just leads to more medication?
Just suppose when we receive the devastating news of a crisis diagnosis our first thoughts could be on finding the mental and spiritual strength to fight rather than wondering if we can afford to even try and launch an attack against the disease attacking us.
What if we could draw hope from knowing that there are scientists working to find new therapeutics and even cures for some of our most ravenous diseases, not just for the wealthy or well connected but for anyone who needs it?
What if, after we have done all we can do to fight and we have no more options, we could focus on passing peacefully, without pain, with people who care about us rather than thinking about the burden our health crisis will leave for our loved ones to deal with after we are gone?
Just suppose we all knew that in our final days we would be able to count on quality care either in our own home, in the home of a family member, or in a facility designed to care for the elderly? What comfort would it provide to know that at the very least you won’t have to suffer needlessly in your last days or die alone, uncared for and in unfit conditions but rather could live out all the rest of our days in comfort and dignity?
Think about the freedom that could be gained if we had comprehensive reproductive healthcare access. Being able to have greater control of your ability to have, or not have, children is a literal game changer for most people.
Think about how many physical health issues could be avoided if we had more comprehensive coverage for mental health care?
What if we spent more money and time on researching and implementing ways to be more inclusive for people with disabilities?
When you have access, funds and support, tackling health issues is a different journey. You are able to focus all your strength, will, determination, faith, focus, desire and energy into coming up with a plan and following that plan to optimum health. You have the option of catching your diseases early enough to have a chance at a successful course of treatment. You can think about getting better and not about how much it is going to cost, or if you will lose your job, your home, your quality of life.
Being rich is no guarantee that you will be healthy, or that you will survive every health issue that you face. It helps a lot, though, and that is the problem. We need leaders who have more than thoughts and prayers when it comes to healthcare but have plans and legislation designed to make it work better for more of us.
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.