News & Media

Good Talks and Real Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform

July 17, 2012  |  Huffington Post Denver  |  Link to article

Many of us want to make a real difference in our world. So let's make a real difference in health care. Real health care reform is in our hands. It's between the patient and the doctor and the neighbor and family members. We are the key players. 

We need the help of Congress and the State Legislatures to leverage corporate health providers to change from the business of illness to the business of wellness, from profit over people to helping people be well. But in our neighborhoods, you and I are the real difference makers until health care becomes accessible and affordable. 

What does this look like?

Start with good talks. Engage in good talks within yourself and with family members and also good talks with the medical community. Consider two recent examples. 

First, IBM made more money for its stockholders by dramatically cutting its health care costs. How? IBM made two simple moves: adding good talks between the medical staff and the patient and getting IBM workers to exercise more. The good talks between patient and staff happen in primary care offices. After the patient has 10 to 15 minutes with the doctor, the patient sits down with other office staff to talk over understandings of drugs, procedures and life style [exercise, relaxation, friendships]. Exercise is not only encouraged at home, but through access to facilities and time during the workday. IBM health care costs were reduced dramatically and the health of the employees improved significantly.

Second, Medicare can be a healthy financial tool if two factors are in place. One, Medicare fraud is significant and this fraud must be addressed by stronger government attention. Two, more good talks. A huge segment of Medicare costs come during an older person's last few months of life. If doctors would have the courage to have better listening talks with patients and patients' families about choices of procedures and drugs and simpler comfort options, my 40 years of pastoral experience is that the majority of patients choose the simpler path of less procedures and more quiet peace with family at the end of life. To choose this path, patients not only need good listening talks with the doctor, reviewing the options, but also time to think about it, to make their own choices. And as more patients choose the simpler comfort path, less expensive procedures and drugs are ordered and Medicare costs are reduced significantly.

Both of my aging parents had good reflective self-talks through which they chose, on their own, the route of fewer procedures and drugs. In both cases, the attending doctors were upset... either because they have pressure to recommend procedures or because they were trained to keep people alive, when both my folks desired to live with fewer procedures and less drug discomfort even if for a shorter time. In an ER one night as my mother finally won the battle with the doctor, she chuckled as she rightly said: "My contribution to reducing Medicare costs."

Many have said: 'take charge of your health.' Ask questions. Listen to your own insights. Listen to the guidance of the medical community. Do your own research. Be open to the right steps and the wellness that is right there. Scripture from our faith traditions have a major focus on lives turned around through healings. Among other healers, Elijah and Jesus look deeply into the life and spirit of the one before them. They see in the person to be healed the individual choice, faith, longing, to pursue wellness, to be well!

My deepest hope and prayer is that across our country there will be more good talks among the players [family members, friends, medical staff] and more individuals taking charge of their heath. The result will be a healthy nation and lower health care costs.

- Rev Bill Calhoun,

Bill Calhoun is a retired minister of Montview Presbyterian Church in Denver, CO. He has been active in mission ministries across the world and has a strong passion for promoting interfaith dialogue around advocacy and social justice work. He is a lead healthcare advocate and leader with the PICO National Network and Together Colorado working on numerous campaigns across Colorado and the nation on affordable housing and healthcare reform. He lives to listen, loves to walk and has coached high school football for 23 years.