Healthcare in Transition

Shortly after the last post, my partner Christine entered her birthing time and 34 hours later we welcomed our sweet Cora Luna to the Earth.  We are very fortunate that we were able to welcome her in the comfort of our home, without the use of any unnecessary interventions, with the help of our midwife Pam and our doula Rachel.  If you are interested, you can read more of our birth story at These Light Footsteps.  Given the medicalization of birth over the last century, her birth creates the perfect segue into a discussion of our vision for healthcare in transition.

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Connected to the barrier of debt slavery is the fear of it, especially in the form of medical debt, which we conventionally assuage by buying outrageously-priced health insurance policies.  Therefore, the final element of the vision is to open a non-profit free holistic health clinic.  We envision this taking place over years, building gradually as we provide our unique blend of collaborative holistic and integrative as well as allopathic health and wellness services through various outlets, including for free through the gift economy, in exchange for time dollars through time banks, and on a donation basis through a nonprofit entity called Permintic Health & Wellness.

As dictated by demand for these services, which we anticipate will only grow as more and more people get sick (often literally) of being enslaved to the biomedical model of healthcare and increasingly desire to take control of their own health in partnership with a knowledgeable provider, we plan to eventually build a dedicated carbon-neutral building which will serve as a home for this free holistic health clinic.  Through donations, fundraising, and employment income, the clinic will grow to encompass a full array of services by a variety of alternative and conventional providers of health and wellness services and will include an in house lab for running a variety of basic blood tests as well as basic radiological tests, including X-Ray and ultrasound.  Ideally, as individuals make lifestyle changes, the need for these tests will be increasingly limited, but will be available nonetheless in order to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based diagnostics for individuals wishing to pursue evidence-based allopathic treatments.

Despite our best efforts, our stand-alone clinic would be limited in the services it could provide and the level of acuity at which treatment could be provided.  Therefore, we plan to build a network of providers from a variety of specialties, who are sympathetic to Permintic’s vision of healthcare as a right to which everyone is entitled and who are willing to forego billing for and collecting currency for the services they provide (whether directly, or through an insurance company) to participants in the alternative time bank currency system.  In addition, for those providers who are not yet willing or able to participate, Permintic can serve as a clinic to which sympathetic providers can refer their patients, especially those seeking integrative treatment who cannot afford services at a cash practice.

As a critical mass of individuals realize that through this alternative currency system they can get even their healthcare needs met by a growing network of qualified primary care, specialty, and integrative providers, we anticipate the numbers of participants to soar, thereby increasing the viability of a formal health insurance cooperative that could compete on the insurance exchange market established by the Affordable Care Act. The premiums charged would not only be competitive, but individuals could pay their premiums through their participation in the timebank.   Providers who choose to become cooperative members would easily pay their premiums by providing services to other members.

In partnership with a local community hospital, which would agree to provide acute care services to cooperative members, either on a “charity care” basis, or for a reasonable fee paid from a pool of currency contributed by members who chose to pay their premiums with currency, a full spectrum of healthcare services could be provided to members.  Although the services provided would necessarily limit the providers from whom members could receive their services, and may even require them to purchase travel insurance plans if they were planning on traveling too far out of the bioregion, the cooperative could also partner with other cooperatives across the country to close gaps in the safety net.   Besides, realistically, long-distance travel will most certainly become a thing of the past as we face up to the reality of natural resource limitations and our failure to develop truly sustainable alternatives to fossil-fueled transportation.  A bioregional health insurance cooperative may not be as much of a drawback in the near future as it would be today.

Ultimately one can see how this cooperative could alleviate some of the burdens of private practice providers, allowing many of them to abandon their need to waste energy on seeking reimbursement.  As they find themselves able to meet their own basic needs through the time bank and the gift economy their income requirements decline, and they find that direct donations from satisfied patients easily covers their overhead and eliminates their need to cram their day full of 10 minute office visits.  More time spent with patients translates into greater satisfaction with better healthcare, and more referrals and direct donations.  Word spreads to other providers, and as the network of providers increases, so broadens and increases the interest in the cooperative.  More plan members are attracted, many of whom may choose to pay their premiums with currency, increasing the financial viability of the cooperative.  But as many of the new members choose to pay through their participation in the time bank.  More time bank members translates into more services being provided through the time bank, and eventually into more members.  As the community of time bank members grows, the more people get to know each other and appreciate the intrinsic value of each member.  Friendships develop and then friends do as they normally do and give of their time and energy out of love and generosity, instead of demanding payment for their services.  Of course, some may never transition to the gift economy and may remain firmly rooted in trading their life energy for currency, occasionally dabbling in time bank exchanges.  Some may never move from the time bank to the gift economy and continue to need to keep track of their hours.  But the options will remain, and those who do wish to live their lives like the rest of Nature can choose to do so.

Regardless of whether or not we can create a health insurance cooperative that meets all of the rules of the ACA, this vision is ultimately aimed at helping people to transition back to the gift economy that governs the rest of Nature.  Or, perhaps even better-stated, our vision is aimed at helping people to realize that we are not separate from Nature, and that we cannot ultimately create systems that do not follow the rules and principles that the rest of Nature does.  Contrary to what we all tell ourselves, humans are not special, or in any other way separate from the rest of Nature.  Many of us are waking up to this fact and are desperately trying to change our lifestyles, but are finding ourselves enslaved by the monstrous system that we humans have squandered most of the readily accessible ancient sunlight to create.  We need a transitional system in order to disentangle ourselves from the current system and to start living our lives more in line with natural laws.  Creating those structures is what we are here to do.

In the end, humans may not make it as a species, but those of us who want to spend our life energy working on solutions and living in harmony with Natural laws, rather than continuing to contribute to the problems created by Western culture, should have the opportunity to do so.  By reducing the burden of barriers imposed by our system, and by creating opportunities for individuals and communities to exercise their creativity constructively towards the transition (without having to trade their life energy for valueless currency in order to meet their basic needs), we hope to do our small part on behalf of the Earth and  everything She supports (including humans).

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