I think most people have seen that a woman named Sue Lowden, who is running to challenge Harry Reid's Senate seat from Nevada, has suggested that it would be perfectly reasonable to pay for medical care using the barter system and that people used to give doctors chickens for services rendered.
According to this clip I’m posting (see below) from "The Ed Show," someone else is jumping on the barter bandwagon, a Tennessee state representative, who thinks it would be great if people would pay with vegetables. (Yes, I said PAY, not 'play.') The guy seems to think that we'd all be better off if we lived like Mennonites, who he says are very healthy people. I live in an area where there are a lot of Mennonites, and I respectfully decline to live like a Mennonite. I don't look good in a bonnet. Or those below-the-knee dresses. And Peter Pan collars are just gross. I also disagree about their overall health to some extent, and more about that in a moment.
This is laughable in so many ways. First of all, Lowden talks about the "olden days" when people took a chicken to the doctor. Yeah, she's right on that. I know that my grandparents did what they had to do in order to provide for their family, and sometimes that included doing jobs for services. My Dad's parents had a farm, and my Grandpa also worked as a blacksmith, barn builder, and any other job he needed to do in order to get by. But the "olden days" that Lowden talks so lovingly about? That would be the fucking DEPRESSION, people, and my Dad's family probably had it better than most folks because they DID live on a farm. I know it wasn't easy for them, but they could grow a lot of their own things, they raised hogs so they always had meat, and even if their meals sometimes consisted of nothing more than beans, they got by and Dad said they never went hungry. Well, not too hungry.
However, there also wasn't a whole lot of health care going on at that time. Kids died all the time from infectious diseases that we've learned to inoculate against, and part of being a farmer involves the possibility of serious accidents. One of my great-uncles died of diphtheria; another one got his arm lopped off in a farming accident. Your yearning and nostalgia for the "olden days" is just so much bullshit, Ms. Lowden.
As for the Mennonites, they and the Amish do pretty much make their own way in life, and don't rely much upon government programs. However, they often don't vaccinate their kids against preventable infections, and I've seen several outbreaks among such populations. Just speaking from my own perspective, I can tell you that such outbreaks result in strains on laboratories like the one where I worked and on county and state health departments. Such outbreaks need to be investigated and tracked, and although I understand that there needs to be a respect for religious beliefs, I also know that those kids probably don't have a choice in whether or not they get a vaccine, and that, to me, is religious indoctrination.
But I digress.
My point here is that people like Lowden and that Tennessee legislator seem to think that it's a really nifty idea to go back to how we lived a century ago. Not only have we managed to progress just a skosh since then, they seem to conveniently forget that not everyone lives in a place where they can raise chickens, for Chrissakes! I don't know the demographics for sure, but I'm guessing that a lot of the uninsured are those living in urban areas, and you don't just erect a chicken coop on the roof of the building where you live in the inner city. Same goes for raising a vegetable garden. People are getting creative about community and rooftop gardens, and I think that's wonderful, but not everyone lives where they can do that, and not everyone has the skill to do carpentry or handyman work.
I'm also guessing that not every doctor would be thrilled about getting a bushel of zucchini in payment for that Pap smear he or she gave you last week. Have you ever grown zucchini? Do you know how prolific they are? Everyone I know who grows it ends up giving some of it away to friends or family, because no matter how many recipes you have for zucchini bread, zucchini crisp, zucchini chocolate cake, stuffed zucchini, and on and on and on...you sometimes cannot use up all that damned zucchini. If I were a doctor and some patient gave me a bushel of zucchini in payment for service, I'd be like, "What in the holy hell do you expect me to do with all this goddamn zucchini?! Seriously!"
Not to mention, when I can get zucchini on sale for three for a dollar, how many damn zucchini am I going to have to haul to the doctor to pay for the mammogram I've got coming up in May? Thanks to the Lowden Plan Chicken Calculator, I did find that my mammogram will cost me 18 chickens. I've got some work to do between now and May 6.
If the barter system is the best that they can come up with for how to pay for health care, these people are fucking idiots. It's time to tell it like it is.
I also think there is a deeper, more insidious, and more troubling aspect to this. There is an incredible disconnect between these people and those who are uninsured. They can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that not only is health care much more expensive than it used to be in the "olden days," it is much more sophisticated. It is no longer a matter of a doctor checking out your throat, thinking it looks red and inflamed and seeing plaques on your tonsils and being reasonably certain that you have Strep throat, so gargle with salt water and get some rest (oh, and hope you don't get rheumatic fever because I can't treat you with antibiotics since they aren't available yet). Beyond that, there seems to be a certain condescension there, a matter of "Oh, you'll be okay if you just use common sense, live a healthy lifestyle, and pay that doc with a chicken." Well, no. There are tests for such things now, and those result in costs for the doctor's office, the lab, and the pharmacy. Those costs are a hell of a lot more than a chicken, I assure you.
I see it as yet another instance of "I've got mine, screw all of the rest of you." I don’t know at this point if it’s the legislators imparting this attitude onto the teabaggers or vice versa. Whatever way it’s happening, I see it as shortsighted and showing a serious lack of compassion for those who cannot obtain even the most basic health care.