I really like folding the laundry.
Why? A valid question. No, it's not due to an overwhelming appreciation for domesticity. But, when I fold the laundry once a week I listen to my favorite podcast - This American Life, which is a free radio program devoted to bringing to the public stories from, you guessed it, American life, that all relate to the week's theme. If you haven't checked it out, you should - simply for its sheer entertainment value alone: who doesn't love a few good stories? But it's also incredibly informative, thought provoking, funny and profound. And multitasking is so much easier with a podcast than the tv or internet! I like folding the laundry because it merges two of my favorite things: the satisfaction at seeing a task before you and efficiently completing it AND engaging with stories and current issues and really, our common humanity.
So, accordingly, today I listened to part 2 of a series on the health care industry in America. A few highlights: an economist from Princeton explaining from his perspective, contrary to conventional wisdom (and even economic theory) how more competition in the insurance marketplace actually raises costs for a lot of people within the current rules/laws of our system; an explanation on the rationale behind co-pays for prescription drugs and the ways big-pharma tries to fight them and a fascinating historical review of where our health care system (or muddled mess of unintended policies and structures is more like it) came from in the first place.
As I try to read the news and follow the health care debate from afar, it did help. If not to clarify issues completely, it did strengthen some previously held maxims, like: our health care system is a mess without any type of overarching unified planning; it's definitely more expensive than it has to be; we need to change it, no one can keep paying and prices will go up if things stay the same. (Not to mention the millions who aren't even included in those price deliberations because they can't afford any in the first place) And, summarily - that the best public systems are one in which the market works to garner efficiency, innovation and low prices and those markets are regulated in a way that prevents exclusion of segments of the population and otherwise vulnerable people being taken advantage of.
And the podcast also raised some new questions. For instance, I want to explore more what the proposed public option (which I see the need for on the sheer basis of fairness issues for the un- and under-insured and the debilitating costs of health care for small businesses, non profits and 'poor' 20-somethings and the seeming lack of the private insurance sector to do anything to address these issues) will do to the price of insurance premiums, or if the plans before the Senate and the House actually do also address the root causes of the way our system is structured so that more competition actually won't raise costs for most but actually lower them.
And finally, it encouraged me again - that it's worth it to actually try and wade through the proposals and figure out what's essential to help this important system change and hopefully take care of all Americans, for less cost, with less waste. This matters for people's lives. We - as a culture - have been given lots of resources, and lots of knowledge of how to care for sick people. People matter, and their bodies matter. Reforming health care is valuable, we as a society should use all that we've been given in a better way than the chaotic standstill we seem to find ourselves in now. But it won't do much if I just figure it out on my own, I should take action: call my representative, and my Senators and ask them to represent my views. You know, participate in democracy, and hopefully participate in a small way in making America a better place. Maybe living in the East has helped me see more clearly, that is valuable. (Now that I've written this - I'll have to do it!)