Lisa’s Turn: Want Real Healthcare Reform? Look In The Mirror!

So this is what it’s come to, and SOUL SHERPA® is sick over it.  We’re one day away from open enrollment for those in need of decent medical insurance coverage.  (That this required legislation is a pathetic commentary on our society.)  The government is on the verge of a shutdown because of cynical politics being played at our expense.  Most of the population is confused about President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Existing individual medical insurance premiums have skyrocketed.  Several quality hospitals are refusing to accept new insurance policies sold by state exchanges beginning tomorrow.  Many physicians have opted for concierge practices (accepting no insurance at all.)

Whether you’re in the market for a new medical insurance policy or already have one, SOUL SHERPA® has concluded the best remedy for healthcare reform is YOU.  If ever there was a time for consumers to become educated and act, it’s now.  NOW because your well being, and that of your loved ones, is at stake.  It’s difficult to know who you can turn to for protection.  Politicians who battle over party ideology rather than the health of their citizens?  Public relations campaigns that paint universal healthcare coverage options in simplistic, insulting, tidbits of part-information/part-misinformation?  Medical insurance companies insisting on protecting their hefty profits?  Hospitals and doctors placing their well-cushioned bottom lines over the ill and ailing?  Succeeding in our country is wonderfully the American way, but when is enough success really enough?  And when successful means it’s permissible for Americans to suffer (and even die) it’s enough to make a thoughtful, discerning citizen develop a migraine capable of causing one’s mind to explode.

It’s also enough for SOUL SHERPA® to conclude that if anyone is left out there in our country who believes one can be passive and assume the system “will work itself out” is twelve eggs short of a dozen.  It’s time for things to work themselves out alright, and it’s up to us, the medical consumer, to make it happen.  SOUL SHERPA® knows most Americans cannot afford to hire a patient healthcare advocate.  As a result, the company has engaged in as much pro bono work as possible.  But what has been possible as a one-on-one effort is now too small to combat what’s about to hit all of us, insured or not, regardless of when coverage is bound.   The only way to protect scores of ourselves is to become educated and find someone willing and aware to serve as our healthcare advocate, and vice versa.  If we wait for dueling politicians, a single source of complete accurate information, or empathy-driven hospitals and physicians, we’ll be lacking.  Lacking badly, perhaps even dangerously.

Where to start?  Access your own medical insurance coverage.  If you’ve got it, read your policy.  All of it.  If you’re deciding whether to buy an exchange policy beginning tomorrow, be sure to ask what it covers and specifically what providers (hospitals, labs, and physicians, for starters) will accept that coverage.  Assess your health.  None of us is perfect.  List any medical conditions you have, along with all medications and supplements you are taking, on a card for placement in your wallet.  Make a copy and be sure the person who you’ve designated (and who has accepted your nomination) to be your healthcare agent (formally known as your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare) has it in his/her wallet as well.

If you haven’t starting keeping your own medical file, holding information regarding doctors’ notes, medical tests, blood test results, anything medically related to you, START NOW.  If you haven’t already, fill out an advance healthcare directive, HIPAA release, and POLST.  Incomplete planning is half-complete planning, and we all know where “almost” will get you.  The more proactive you can be before requiring medical attention, the better your changes at getting well faster and at less cost to you and the healthcare system.  Herein lies the greatest irony:  By being educated and proactive, not only will we fare better physically and emotionally, but we will save the healthcare system tremendously.  You’d think it’d be obvious we could all work together on such an important win-win on both sides, but it appears antagonism has won this debate as far as any cooperative effort making headway.

There are so many of us getting older and living longer.  The demands this group will place on our healthcare system will be huge, regardless of whether healthcare reform formally existed or not.  Whether you’re a fan or a critic of President Obama, the truth is regardless of his intentions to provide universal healthcare coverage for all Americans, we, as a country, would have found ourselves in this situation of watered-down healthcare eventually simply due to the ever-increasing demands on our healthcare system.

It’s time for all of us to stop blaming some incompetent person involved in our healthcare reform nightmare (and there are countless who fit into that category.)  Incompetency is something that will always exist in every arena.  Now, more than ever, it’s time for us, as consumers of healthcare, to arm ourselves with knowledge and a reliable healthcare buddy.  Every step a patient takes now can potentially hold the possibility for a mistake, and we must be protected.  SOUL SHERPA® is disheartened, to say the least, to see current events unfolding in hospitals, physicians’ offices, insurance billing centers, insurance policy underwriters offices, and even at pharmacies (wait, wait, wait.)  It’s time to get smart, get tough, get informed.  On behalf of yourself and a buddy, it’s time to proactively set up your medical navigation game plan.  No one should go through our new healthcare reality alone.  It’s essential to pair up with a friend or family member.  Never go to a doctor’s appointment, hospital, test, or consultation alone.  Bring paper and a pen.  Ask questions.  Don’t sign anything unless you know what it means, and always get a copy.

If there’s something you’re not certain of, ask.  If you can’t get a straight answer, go to one of the many speakers or classes being offered at little or no cost to learn what you need to know.  Your life may depend on it.  Healthcare has changed.  If you don’t keep up with its changes, you and your loved ones are exposing yourselves to tremendous potential risk in the event one of you requires medical care.  Take charge.  Take charge now, September 30th, one day before healthcare services and the philosophies of its providers officially become all about the bottom line and political jockeying. Become smarter than the new system before you or a loved one needs to use it.  You will greatly increase your odds of a better health outcome and likely achieve more in medical cost savings.

For all the hype concerning technology-friendly consumer healthcare advances, remember that no device is able to take the place of someone who cares about you, and remains present with you during a medical test, physician visit, or hospital stay.  Technological advances are extremely helpful, but none has any emotional capacity to focus on a patient’s back, mind, and heart.  Ask the elderly man using a walker I saw earlier this week at CVS, sitting and waiting for a prescription for over 45 minutes.  Alone and frustrated, no technology was capable of addressing his vulnerabilities and serving the vital role of a connected buddy to assist him.  I asked if I could help him, but he lowered his head and shook it “no,” resigned to wait it out.

SOUL SHERPA® wishes everyone the best in their quest to secure and utilize quality healthcare coverage.   Please contact us with your questions, concerns, and problems.  We are steps ahead with our proactive educational outreach efforts to inform the public and promote a healthcare landscape filled with aware patients and savvy advocate buddies.   Let us know if we can help you.

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