17 September 2012

Amerika: America with a "k"

If you read my last post, you may be wondering why I spell America with a "k" (Amerika). This is two fold; I am inspired by Abbie Hoffman and I seek to call attention to the mainstream culture's perception of the United States and what I see as the reality.

Abbie Hoffman

A few years ago I read about Abbie Hoffman; writer and activist. It was within the pages of Steal This Dream that I learned about Hoffman and his choice to spell America as Amerika. From page 239 of the book, Never again will I spell America with a "c," for in the eyes of Amerika we have all been declared outlaws.

Was he wrong to think that? Perhaps I'd like to think of myself as a counter-culture-status-is-not-quo type of person but look around you, there is inequality in the United States (and world) and it certainly does not have to be that way.

Let Amerika Be America Again

Then while reading another book (The People's History of the United States) I saw an excerpt of a poem written by Langston Hughes.

... I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-
And finding only the same old stupid plan.
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak... .
O, let America be America again-
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine-the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America! . . .

Then it hit me; America may not have ever been the greatest nation on the planet. The America of the thirties was a place where cultural barriers were institutionalized and inequality was justified. Prove me wrong: build a time machine, go back to 1930's US, walk up to the first non-white male you see, and ask them if they think America is the land of opportunity.

All of the flag waving rhetoric is depressing to me because on a daily basis, as a society, we turn our backs on our neighbors in need, persecuting those that are different, waging war in the name of self-defense, taking no action to address legitimate issues such as educational attainment and environmental degredation.

That isn't my America.

Amerika can be America

In time, with work, I believe that we can become the nation that we claim to be, a truly global world power; a nation that has stellar education for each and every citizen; a nation that believes in and practices the spirit of community; a nation where not one person goes hungry or without shelter; a nation that seeks to advance the human species well into the future; a nation with nothing to fear from its neighbors because its neighbors have nothing to fear from it.

And so, until our communities can stop playing our zero-sum games, and move forward to a future that we can all proud of, I will spell America with a k.

I am hopeful, that I will not need to wait long because I was born here, and I have a dream of an America that I can be proud of.

Further reading

Hughes, Langston. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed. Arnold Rampersad. Vintage, 1995. Print.
Sloman, Larry. Steal This Dream: Abbie Hoffman and the Counterculture Revolution in America. Doubleday, 1998. Print.
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1995. Print.

10 September 2012

Health Care in America: a vision of what it should be

Today I wanted to write about my vision for health care in America.

Health care in America: what it is

To be depressingly honest with you, it is a mess. Health insurance companies profit from illness; people are denied care or are told which physicians they can and cannot seek services from; physicians must pay absurd amounts in malpractice and liability insurance. This has created a culture of sickness and mistrust. But I'm not the expert here. There are others, physicians, that have first hand experience of what health care in America is like. Here is a brief summary from Physicians for a National Health Program:

Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($8,160 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 51 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.
The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

Now that we have a better idea of where we are, here is where I would like us to be.

Health care in America: what it should be

My vision for health care in America is very simple. People that need health care should receive it and it should not be a crippling financial burden for them. How many horror stories have you heard of where people that had to seek care for a serious illness were bankrupted from their medical bills. This is not at all fair. I make a modest salary but I would be very happy to pay a tax that would go to help people receive medical care.

Actually, I think that we can do much more for our communities than merely providing them with access to affordable health care of the highest quality. I think we can invest in health and wellness and promote a better quality of life that has a greatly reduced prevalence of chronic disease. This is my dream.

I know that others share this vision because there are thousands of university students studying community health and wellness each year, working to create communities that are respectful of individual health and wellness and promote optimal well being.

One of the first steps is to create a health care system in America that can meet our medical needs today.

Single-Payer Health care

I'm going to share the best explanation of single-payer health care that I can find. It is from Physicians for a National Health Program.

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.
Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
Physicians would be paid fee-for-service according to a negotiated formulary or receive salary from a hospital or nonprofit HMO / group practice. Hospitals would receive a global budget for operating expenses. Health facilities and expensive equipment purchases would be managed by regional health planning boards.
A single-payer system would be financed by eliminating private insurers and recapturing their administrative waste. Modest new taxes would replace premiums and out-of-pocket payments currently paid by individuals and business. Costs would be controlled through negotiated fees, global budgeting and bulk purchasing.

This is what I think we should do with our health care system here in the United States. This makes sense to me.

Two resources for reading more about single-payer health care and health care in America:

Health care in America today is a mess. It has become an issue of ideology and political rhetoric. Meanwhile, there are people suffering. It doesn't have to be that way. We can make subtle changes that can be implemented in a very short amount of time to make a realistic impact. That is what I believe.

I'm sure that you have an opinion or a story of your own to share. What is your vision for health care in America?