sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters


In Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 at 10:20 am

One of the email lists I’m on is currently engaged in a raging debate about healthcare reform. It’s not a surprise, really: we’re a group of strongly convicted people with a shared commitment to good, honest communication. But the debate has gotten sour and nasty. As always seems to happen in these things on lists, someone posted to say that they were unsubscribing.

But then an interesting thing happened: no one said, “Wait! Don’t go!”

The person going was a valued part of the list. The person going was not an outsider, outlier, or otherwise undesirable. But they made a choice, and the list respected it. Someone else posted and called us all back to the loving community principles that we generally try to embrace–not by making people bad or wrong, but by naming what we have chosen, what we hold in common. The energy of the conversation shifted instantly. The energy of the list shifted instantly. One powerful comment, one powerful statement, and we were all back where we wanted to be, not fighting to keep someone in the room when they clearly wanted to be going, not feeling bad because we had done something wrong, not dwelling in the struggle, not denying the struggle, but moving through it.

It so happens that the person who pulled that trick out of his hat is a life and leadership coach. Boy, do I want to get to know him better. I’m proud to have him as a colleague. What an incredible use of skill, perspective, training. I almost got sucked in by the debate. Fortunately, I’ve been busy. He saw what was happening in terms of system dynamics and pulled the group right out of it. I am in awe.

That’s what good health care is like: proactive, good perspective, treats the system with the end goal in sight. And it’s worth paying for. I lived in Canada for two years, and for two years saw how brilliantly the socialized medicine system supports the whole culture. It’s good care, no question. AND it means that people can do the work they love, even if it means being self-employed or having three part-time jobs. No one is tied to a corporation because they can go to the doctor. No one is making money off of someone else’s misery that way. Could the system be better? Sure it could. This is our chance to make a better system. But in order to do that we have to give up the idea that independence is always better than interdependence, that our individual need is always superior to our community need, that what happens to one does not affect us all.

Good people pay good coaches good money for their skills. There’s no shame in paying well for quality care. Our medical system should be quality care. I would pay much higher taxes for the privilege of knowing I had health care no matter what, and for knowing that everyone else did too.

In Maine there are a lot of us who are partly or wholly self-employed. We are the backbone of the state’s economy. And most of us don’t have health insurance at all. This year I will be paying out of pocket, $400/month–and that’s cheap. My friends who fish, who own B&B’s, who are contractors and artisans and counselors–all rely on being married (if they can legally be married) to someone with healthcare. If they are the sole income provider, they are out of luck. If they are already sick: depression, cancer, diabetes–they probably can’t get insurance at any price, which means they pay higher prices for spotty care.

This is a human rights issue. This is a human life issue. Why is there a debate at all? What on earth are we thinking?

What principles are at our center, at our core? What is most important? When we move past fear and anger, what else is there?


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