Correlating the Cost of Health Care and Our Attitudes Toward Death
For those of us in the US, we just had a major health care cost event in the form of Obamacare. Growing up in Canada, I actually feel that there should be a government run single-payer system here too, just like there is in most civilized countries where there is more recognition of social equality. However, any movement toward that in theory is welcome by me, and Obamacare is a step in that direction by making healthcare available for everyone. However, how it is being financed is by a continuation of the inequality split in the money system.
I’ll use my family situation as an example. We have what is often called catastrophe insurance- a high deductible insurance. We made that choice because we mostly use alternative care, but want to have insurance in case of the need due to illness or accident. A large part of that decision is so that we don’t bankrupt ourselves with medical care costs, which is a real concern- one of the greatest causes of bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. With Obamacare, our health care insurance premiums doubled and so did our deductible. We have to pay about $13000 a year in premiums, which means that we have to pay that amount before we can spend one penny directly on any actual health care costs. And another $12000 in deductible before we are covered! Who can afford that? And we had no choice- all the companies in California had the same deal. And they are mostly for profit companies. In effect, it is a regressive tax on the middle class to pay for those who are coming into health care. A middle class who have already been burdened by debt, by a loss of real wages, by the loss of support of the circulation of money- all subjects I have spoken about in earlier blogs about issues in our money system such as Money as Circulation or The Devil Interest among others you can find if you review my blog archives. You could check these out. And in effect it is a tax by corporations! So this current state of health care is actually widening the gap even more between the 1% and the rest of us.
So how did our health care get so expensive? My proposal is that a major contributing factor is fear of death. I recently read that most people spend the last 10 years of their lives in the medical system. The medical establishment does everything it can to keep someone alive. The spiritual teacher Ram Dass says “This culture says, “Don’t go, don’t go” and the priests and rabbi’s say,”it’s okay to go.’ You need to stay in the middle. Don’t let your model of death interfere.”
So what does it mean to stay in the middle? I read in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper last week (Feb 2, 2014) a story that illustrates just how out of balance we are. The story entitled 2 Families Face the End of Life and See It very Differently was of two families whose brain-dead loved ones were kept on life support, and that, if not for this superhuman technology , they both would have died long ago. One was a family who don’t want to let their daughter go and the other a family who wanted to let their wife/daughter go, and in fact it was in her medical directive to not keep her alive in such a situation, but the legal complication was that she was pregnant. Imagine the extraordinary medical costs of these situations. The journalist on this story, Jessica Zitter concluded her story with “No good can come of prolonging the mechanical ticking of a dead bodies’ heart” and “Left unchanged, the current system will only bring more heart ache.” Another example we probably are all aware of from our personal experience is people who are dying of cancer, but continue to want to continue treatments, and often extraordinarily expensive treatments, in order to prolong their life as long as possible.
We have forgotten that death is part of life. Virtually no one on this planet will be around in 100 or so years. We have been hiding death in our western culture for decades. We don’t think we should suffer. Just like we take pills so we don’t have to face our feelings, we try and hide death out of the way- and the medical establishment has been obliging this propensity. I loved the depiction of the 50s and 60s in the TV show Madmen, and I remember a story that is relevant here: of one woman who was dying of cancer and her family and her doctors were keeping it from her! Imagine not being present for your own death! We don’t recognize that death is part of our journey of consciousness and not something to be avoided.
We are afraid of death because we have forgotten who we are. Many mystics have spoken about the inseparability of life and death. Below I have some quotes from two of my favorites.
The mystic Mario Mantese in his book What You Really Are says it like this: “Death belongs to the world, the thinking mind, the body and the perception of the senses. Death has never touched you, for you are formless, unborn, and deathless. Your true being is beyond the body. The body is temporal, an accumulation of stardust that will disperse and be scattered as stardust once again. But the essence, the foundation of being is not dust. Your true being is beyond the body.”
The mystic Osho has much to say on the subject of death. “People are not afraid of death, they are afraid of losing their separation, they are afraid of losing their ego. Once you start feeling separate from existence the fear of death arises because then death seems to be dangerous. You will no longer be separate; what will happen to your ego, your personality? And you have cultivated the personality with such care, with such great effort; you have polished it your whole life, and death will come and destroy it.
“And the greatest calamity that has happened to the human mind is that he is against death. Being against death means you will miss the greatest mystery. And being against death also means that you will miss life itself – because they are deeply involved into each other; they are not two. Life is growing, death is the flowering of it. The journey and the goal are not separate; the journey ends in the goal.”
Imagine if we did not fight death, but recognized it as the mystics see it, not as an end, but the culmination. Not as an enemy, but as a friend. Not as something to avoid (as if we could), but something to embrace. Then we might find that balance that Ram Dass was speaking to and not spend our precious end of life time in the medical system attempting to shore up that which we are not, but instead in the exploration of our consciousness, preparing for our transition. That change in attitude couldn’t help but impact our health care system and perhaps bring it also back into balance.