After years in the waiting and making, I am proud to announce the inaugural show of my public health radio show, Just for the Health of It, on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo (ToledoRadio.org). Just for the Health of It brings you new perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health. Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It. My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.
You can listen here for this show about Medicare For All and coverage of Toledo’s Democracy Day. You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.
Here is the script for the show for the week of March 18, 1019:
Welcome to the inaugural show of Just for the Health of It. Normally, the planned format for this show is to do a public health news and research roundup, provide useful health information for you and your loved ones, and interview a local guest to speak to critical public health issues in Toledo. The eventual format will be an hour long; but, until we get the regular studio up and running, I will be doing a shorter half hour version without the interview portion – broadcasting from an undisclosed location which is eerily similar to my den.
Today, we have special coverage of the 3rd annual Toledo Democracy Day public hearings.
If you are wondering what public health has to do with democracy, stay tuned!
Democracy Day was established through citizen’s initiative and approved by Toledo voters in 2016. It functions as an annual public hearing on the influence of money on our politicians that the Mayor and city council must attend. All members of the public are encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the importance of democracy and the corrupting influence of large donors on the political process.
By law, after each Democracy Day, the Mayor must send a letter to our Congressional representatives urging them to support a Constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and political donations are not free speech. Enacting such a Constitutional amendment is the primary purpose of Move to Amend – a national organization with chapters all across the United States. For more information, you can check out movetoamend.org
So, went to City Council chambers, or, as I like to say, where democracy goes to die. And, among other wonderful testimony, several citizens spoke to the need for a universal health program. This included myself. Or, at least I thought. I spent many hours in order to prepare 8 minutes of testimony, ending with a call for the passage of the Medicare For All Act of 2019. However, when I got to the public hearing, I found out that they were limiting testimony to 3 minutes. In previous years they asked citizens to keep their testimony to about 5 minutes, and they loosely enforced this time-frame. There was no way for me to cut my testimony in half on the spot, so I expressed my frustration about not being allowed to present my full testimony. I read most of the last paragraph, with my call to action. To further express my deep disappointment with their bass ackward and absurd limits when required by law to listen to citizens’ testimony on substantive issues, I used the remaining minute of my time to read the last paragraph of my testimony backwards. Sometimes the only commensurate response to absurdity is absurdity. And sometimes Toledo just seems like a backwards town. As it happens, they ended a half hour ahead of time. Having ended with plenty of time remaining, I asked to present my full testimony. I was refused.
I must admit, I felt a little bit of democracy die within me. But, I will just add it to my heap of progressive disillusionment…and if you are going to be disillusioned, please make it progressive.
The good news is that democracy need not be limited to the wood-paneled coffin of democracy we call City Council chambers, or limited to the marble lobbies of Government Center. There are other venues, and this is one of them.
So, I will present my full testimony here today.
Though, make sure to stay tuned to the whole show, as at the end of the show, I will bestow the first Just for the Health of It award, in honor of Toledo’s Democracy Day.
But back to my testimony: here goes:
Toledo’s Democracy Day is rooted in the reality that, in America, corporate personhood often trumps human personhood, and that profit is routinely treated as more important than human need or human rights. This battle courses through American life and our body politic. However, there is perhaps no other facet of American life where this battle is so palpable and endemic as health care. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diagnosed, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Hi, my name is Dan Rutt. I have a master’s degree in public health. I am the former health planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. I am a past president of the Ohio Public Health Association. However, perhaps my most important qualification for speaking today about health care is similar to most of the people in this room: I have witnessed personally multiple health care horror stories. Is there anyone in America that doesn’t have a health care horror story? I’ve passed out in the so-called “emergency room” waiting for medical triage, slipping into anaphylactic shock – though they did have plenty of time to take my billing information. Three times I’ve gone to the same “emergency” room for severe reactions to bee stings; each time, I’ve been left alone, untreated and unsupervised – once in the waiting room, once in an exam room, once on a gurney in the hallway. To protect the guilty, I won’t divulge the name – Saint something or other . . . probably “other.” The last time I was in there, I had used my expired “Epi-pen” after refusing to re-fill my prescription after they jacked the price up to $600. I told the nurse that if I die, I want them to throw my dead body on the lawn of Mylan Pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters. I could go on; and I have, despite shocking and inhumane so-called “health care.” I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, but I have a long litany of health care horror stories. I’ll leave for another time the cautionary tale about getting a vasectomy from the lowest bidder when I had no health insurance.
Today, about 30 million people in America still have no health insurance whatsoever. For Toledo, that’s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Toledoans. About 45,000 Americans will die this year due to being uninsured. Some might even dare call it a national emergency. If you might consider that designation a close call, consider that even having “health insurance” in the U.S. is no guarantee of being able to pay for needed care. An additional 85 million Americans are “underinsured,” meaning that out-of-pocket costs of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance puts them at risk for financial catastrophe if they seek care. In short, more than one in three Americans have precarious protection against health crises, all topped off with looming financial ruin when they are at their most vulnerable.
Health care is the leading cause of financial terrorism, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and the leading candidate for our nation’s moral bankruptcy. We kowtow to health care syndicates as they hold unparalleled control over our community’s finances and even our very lives. We are held hostage, and in a Kafkaesque fatal twist, we are expected to accept as normal community-wide Stockholm Syndrome, an irrational sympathy for our captors. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of the universal health care of those residing in Stockholm.
Health care in the U.S. is about $11,000 per capita, about twice as expensive per person as health care in other industrialized countries. Health care consumes about 18 of every 100 dollars spent in America. This might be worth it if we were healthier; instead we are sicker, and more likely to die. We chronically drag along the bottom of health outcomes among industrialized countries. If the business of health care is quality care at a reasonable cost, then American health care qualifies as a gargantuan business scam, sucking something on the order of two trillion dollars of value out of our economy – that’s 2,000 billions of dollars, year after year; that’s billions of value sucked out of Toledoans, year after year after year. Would it be undemocratic to demand a better deal? Is the business of American health care a gigantic cash toilet too big to succeed at delivering quality health care at a reasonable cost? I hope not.
We live in the wealthiest nation in human history and we do a frighteningly poor job of producing health. Tragically, this is at an even more dumbfounding financial and human cost. I dare you to find a nation where they get less for their health care dollar than America. If we have any notion of running health care as a reputable business, then we should start firing the heads of those businesses, not rewarding them with huge profits and deferential prestige. If nothing else, at the prices we are paying, we shouldn’t have to fear sending our parents, grandparents, kids or neighbors, into a system that wreaks unnecessary stress when they are most vulnerable.
Further, if you think that America’s health care system is high quality, consider this: health care kills more people than lack of health insurance. So-called “medical errors” kill about 250,000 Americans every year. Medical errors can be considered the third leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease as number one and cancer as number two.
Our addiction to health care as a product to be marketed and sold rather than as a human right, has locked us into a system of perverse incentives that distort the meeting of human need due to corporate greed. This has produced the worst of both worlds: overutilization of expensive and ineffective health care, and underutilization of cost effective care. This is all topped off with unparalleled administrative costs and corporate profits.
There is a way out. A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Dingell, and over 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019. This Act will improve and expand the overwhelmingly successful and popular Medicare program, so that every person living in the United States has guaranteed access to healthcare with comprehensive benefits. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, even dental and vision. With one standard of care covering essential services, no American need gamble their health with substandard insurance to eke out financial viability. This legislation embodies true community, where everybody is in; nobody is out. We need not leave anyone behind. Money saved with administrative streamlining will cover expanded care for over 100 million Americans with no insurance or substandard insurance. This Medicare For All Act will integrate the multitude of health care payment systems and simplify the current labyrinth of administrative requirements for both providers and patients. This will allow for a quantum leap in realigning financial stewardship with patient outcomes rather than mere profitability.
Fortunately, the leap is not that far. About 75% of health care in America is already paid for by taxes, primarily for Medicare, which, serving an elderly population, has the bulk of our nation’s health care costs, and secondarily through Medicaid and military/veteran’s health care. Most simply, expanding Medicare for all will transfer the remaining 25% of private insurance funded health care into the existing Medicare payroll tax. Premiums paid by individuals and businesses will disappear. The generations-long experiment with for-profit health care has failed. We can profit from the generations-long successes of other nations in assuring the health of their people.
The time is now. I call upon Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, each of our local health care conglomerates, and any other interested parties, to join together in efforts to pass the Medicare For All Act of 2019 or similar legislation. I ask that each party provide the staff and resources necessary for such a collaboration to assure the urgent passage of such a national health program. To this end, I ask that ProMedica and Mercy Health devote one-thousandth of their revenue for such a bold and transformative venture. My testimony today will be featured on my inaugural public health radio show on WAKT, 106.1 FM, Toledo’s activist, noncommercial community radio station, the latest in Toledo’s burgeoning democracy. I will be monitoring and reporting on your efforts. May our community lead the way for a shared health care system that will benefit every community across our nation. If not us, who? If not now, when? Thank you.
There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?
Now, Just for the Health It is about offering fresh perspectives, and I’d like to highlight three fresh perspectives today:
#1: Health care kills more people than having no health insurance – 250,000 deaths versus 45,000 deaths. As I like to say: a hospital is no place for a sick person. Now, of course, health care saves lots of lives as well. Still, health care is an often dangerous undertaking for our lives and an overtaking for our money. Prevention not only saves us from disease, prevention saves us from health care.
The good news is that while health care’s medical errors can be considered a cause of death exceeded only by heart disease and cancer, if we look at other underlying causes of death, we find there are lifestyle factors that are more important in preserving and promoting our health. For instance, smoking kills about 600,000 Americans each year; and diet kills even more Americans prematurely than smoking. Lifestyle factors such as these are more in our control, and much less pricey, than health care. Other key lifestyle factors include physical activity and adequate sleep. Good news for all.
And now for a word from our lack of sponsors…
PR Medica and Merciless Health are rated in the top 100 in clinical excellence in some category that hopefully covers the health care you might be able to access. Warning: such excellence may be severely limited by being delivered in the least effective and most expensive sick care system among the so-called advanced economies. While you may be privileged enough, or lucky enough, to get access to excellent care, your community overall is poorly served. Any such clinical excellence is best taken with a double dose of advocacy for universal health care.
This program is not sponsored by PR Medica or Merciless Health. PR Medica and Merciless Health are unholy owned subsidiaries of Tourette’s Industries, insuring that you will swear by them, whether you like it or not.
Now, back to your irregular programming…
Welcome back to Just for the Health of It, the people’s school of public health, where the people’s health is not academic. You are listening to WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo, your source for local, anti-commercial, activist radio.
The second fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today is regarding ideological battles over socialism and capitalism. Health care is not your typical product or service which might be conducive to efficiencies of market competition. Just finding out what health care costs is nearly impossible. In many cases, often the most expensive cases, health care cannot be planned for, even if we wanted to. Only the richest people can afford to pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket. The need to rely on health insurance because of the great variability and unpredictability of health care needs insulates us from the item by item expenses of health care. Plus, the complexity and technical nature of health care is so great that we typically must rely heavily on expert opinions of doctors. Health care is so expensive to deliver, and adding new services in the marketplace is so costly, that rather than lowering cost through competition, we often end up with duplicative services beyond the capacity needed, the total system costs rise, and prices ultimately rise more. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s hard to provide all the health care facilities and services that people need, let alone two to choose from. Everyone needs health care. Cut-rate health care is inhumane. Decent health care for all is something that we really need to work out collectively. Health care might better be viewed in the same way that we regulate public utilities. Public utilities are a fine example of socialism. Imagine two water lines coming into your home, so you would have a choice of which service to use. Double the infrastructure, double the costs – the height of inefficiency. Imagine two sets of roads to compete, two separate trash services…you get the picture. Well, this is modern American health care – except that there is so much more money involved that many more careers and fortunes are made in gaming the system, jacking up costs. In such cases, capitalism is costly to all but a very few. Lastly, ideological battles over socialism and capitalism often revolve around the trope of taxes. Some people feel better about getting the bill from some corporation than the government. We pay twice as much for health care than in countries where health care is treated as a public good, and regulated akin to a public utility. At about 18% of our economy, that’s about 9% of our economy wasted on health care inefficiency and duplication. In essence, it’s like already having a 9% tax on everything, except we are getting nothing for it – actually less than nothing, our health outcomes are worse. This sounds eerily similar to the nightmare that tax hawks fear, with insinuations of government inefficiency – except that it is brought to us by health care capitalism. Health care capitalism is wreaking havoc on our economy and our people. Whatever difficulties a more socialist approach may bring, it is difficult to imagine making our current state of affairs in health care worse than having profit drive health care decisions.
For the third fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today, I’m going to switch it up a bit. I’m talking about the direct link between health and democracy. Why should public health and health care advocates talk about democracy? The clearest reason is that dead people don’t vote – well, except perhaps in Chicago. The reality is that inequalities in premature death directly affect elections. For example, the excess deaths that Blacks suffer over Whites results in over a million missing Black votes nationwide. If you include excess deaths of other people of color and poor whites, this results in millions more missing voters. Clearly this skews election results in favor of wealthier, healthier and whiter populations, reinforcing existing inequalities. This dynamic reinforces health and wealth gaps across generations. For instance, Whites can expect to draw on social security about 44% longer than Blacks, simply by Blacks dying off prematurely. Blacks contribute social security over the span of their whole working lives, but the grim reaper cuts short their reaping a full span of benefits. While I love a good metaphor as much as the next person, we must realize that for tens of millions of Americans, democracy and justice means literally fighting for their lives. Health justice is directly tied to a healthy democracy that truly represents all of its people.
Now that we’ve established the direct connection between public health and democracy, I offer a bonus testimony from the first Toledo Democracy Day, my testimony in response to a 5 minute limit on citizen testimony, entitled “Five minutes of Democracy.”
Here it goes, Just for the Health of It:
[See TESTIMONY -“Five minutes of Democracy”]
And now…what you’ve all been waiting for, a WAKT first, the Just for the Health of It, 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award:
By the powers infested by me, I do hereby confer upon Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives, the 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY. After being confronted with over three hours of democracy during the 2018 Democracy Day, Mr. Komives, with heroic efficiency, scheduled only two hours for the 2019 Democracy Day, and ingeniously combining this with a three-minute limit on public testimony, succeeded in City Council only having to listen to 90 minutes of citizen testimony, thus, empowering Toledo citizens to truly declare: “Democracy Day, now with 50% less democracy.” Should Mr. Komives, in all humility, consider that he doesn’t deserve this award, then may he share this with all others who have made democracy in Toledo passable. In any case, may Mr. Komives find within him the moral fiber to relieve himself of this distinction.
I will deliver a signed, framed copy of this award to Mr. Komives.
Lastly, in regards to Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives’ expert shepherding of our citizenry, on behalf of all us sheep scattered across Toledo, I just want to say, “Baaaad democracy, Baaaad democracy.”
If you have feedback or ideas for this show, please feel free to email me at: WAKT@TopPun.com
You can listen to this show here.
You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.