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You might wonder what healthcare, Obama and my Volvo wagon have to do with each other. Well, I think they’re connected, and I’ll tell you why.
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Healthcare, Obama and My Volvo Wagon

A couple of years ago, round about infamous tax time, I noted that my trusty Volvo 240 (affectionately called Wilhelmina, “Willi” for short) was getting far better healthcare than its owner, and a lot cheaper too.  Now, as you will guess from the model number, Willi is not a new, flashy, multi thousand $$ plastic model. She is over 18 years old (over 70 in human years, as Dave says), a nice, solid Swedish box. It doesn’t matter whereabouts in the US we are, when it’s time, she always comes back to Dave at Swedish Motors for her checkups and work. She smiles as she drives, and rightly so: she has great healthcare, thanks to “Dr. Dave” and his team at Swedish Motors in Boulder, CO.pete and willy

Willi has been serviced and looked after by Dave’s team for several years and it’s got to the stage that we both thoroughly trust him and his team. They are always on the ball for preventative care, and when they say you need to do something, fix this, take better care of that, you’d better do it, even when it means digging deep in the pockets. On the infrequent occasions when I have foolishly resisted, Dave has this iron cold stare that he turns on me to let me know I’m considering doing something that is just not in Willi’s best interests and I’d better reconsider. Well, what can I say? Dave’s team cares, and we have a trusting relationship that works.

Now Willi’s owners are not as lucky as she is. We (my wife and moi) are in our sixties — no spring chickens. We’re not health-nuts but we like to be active, walk and swim, and generally take pretty good care of ourselves. Knock on wood, we've never had any major illnesses. Living in Boulder as we do, we have used “alternative medicine” with great success. Now for the zinger: we were both self employed for decades and to put it frankly our health insurance was crap. We paid $400 a month for catastrophic coverage which gave us one cursory check up, no preventive care and, to add insult to injury, our deductible was around 2,500 bucks. In the last 10 years we have probably seen more different doctors between us for primary care than we can remember. The good ones, the ones we liked, eventually became so disgusted with the system they just retired. Three of our good friends are in the health care business and two have flat out refused to deal with any federal, state or private insurance companies, so if you want their care, which is damn good, it’s cash on the barrel only. Sadly, both will be retiring in the next few years.

Which brings me to my thesis: the big problem with health care as an entitlement, with easy insurance should we get it, is: it’s absolutely worthless without the great medical equivalent of thousands of Swedish Volvo teams—and where are they going to get and train these people? I can tell you, they sure do not exist today.  I have lived on several continents where  public healthcare is the norm, and I will simply say that you get what you pay for, period. Cheap = cheap, and the consequences of doing things on the cheap become expensive real quick. If you like the Canadian, British and French systems where it’s standard to wait forever for simple visits to see overworked healthcare people, more power to you. My view is, it’s nuts, and besides that, it doesn’t work. And I can tell you, no way is Willi ever going near any federal program for her care!

The biggest problem with any huge federal program is that they never work like they are meant to, because the basic prerequisites (like training and supplying good doctors and nurses) get lost in the rhetoric, and someone always gets hurt in the political brouhaha. To promote healthcare as a free entitlement, where the patient has no responsibility, is a zero sum game that leads to 10 percent of the patients eating up 60 percent of the care dollars to deal with problems that often could have been avoided with lifestyle changes. Just like Dave’s team makes me a part of the program and responsible for Willi’s health, I should be expected to be actively involved in my own health maintenance and lifestyle choices. It sure would be nice, but I've yet to find a conventional healthcare practice or a doctor who felt this way and wanted to work with us. No piece of paper drawn up and voted on by anyone will change that until the real problem is addressed: we need good, available doctors who can make a decent living by working in tandem with patients to help them take responsibility for their own better health.