Robert J. Winn's Blog
We’re always so well-meaning when we say it. “Cheer up;” “Shake it off;” or, my personal favorite, “Man up!” Despite an increasing awareness of the importance of treating mental illness as, well, illness, I often encounter patients and family members who downplay the validity of mental health concerns and scoff at the very idea of treatment. We bury the problem into invisibility – pushing it so far out of sight and mind that we leave ourselves utterly unprepared for when it re-emerges as a critical concern. As a primary care physician, I’ve seen this trend impact those across age brackets and professions; however, I particularly worry for the veterans who enter my office.
October 6 fell on a Friday this year, and the events of the day kicked off the weekend on a low note. Midway through the morning, women across the country lost their guarantee to cost-free birth control as the Trump administration announced that privately held and publicly traded companies, as well as insurers, would no longer be required to provide the women in their employ with insurance plans covering their contraceptive needs. For those on the far-right, the day marked a win for religious liberty – and for others, it stood as a damaging infringement on women’s rights and further opened the door to legalizing discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community. As a healthcare professional with decades of experience working in family health, I’m inclined to believe the latter.
Consider this. A young woman is prescribed opioids to manage the chronic pain she faces after a particularly painful car crash. Then, her prescription runs out. This could be due to her doctor wanting her to move onto a different pain management plan, or perhaps to changes in her insurance. But for whatever reason, she finds herself left without the medication she’s become addicted to. So, what does she do? After trying and failing to get a new prescription, she turns to the more dangerous, illegal option: heroin.
Today, drug-related overdose stands as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years of age and is projected to continue as such. The question is, why?
Let’s hop across the pond to France for a moment. Widely accepted as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, France requires its citizens to enroll in government-funded insurance, but also allows them the option to purchase complementary plans out-of-pocket. All French residents are safely covered and pay reasonable rates for their medical expenses in addition to having more options for insurance plans. So, how can it be that their national spending on healthcare is lower than that in America, where the government doesn’t require enrollment?
Health care reform is a hot-button issue, and heated discussion immediately erupts whenever someone suggests implementing a universal health care system for Americans. Personally, I wholeheartedly believe that we should have a universal framework for our medical care – but there are others that just as vehemently oppose it. Let’s consider the issue.
Let me be frank: the Better Care Act was the policy equivalent of Wile E. Coyote sprinting determinedly over the edge of a metaphorical cliff – and the American people would have been the ones to suffer the fall.