We shouldn’t have to flatten the curve

I’m a healthy person. I have a healthy family. Only once in 10 years have we even come close to hitting our annual deductible.

Yet conservatively speaking, in premiums alone I’ve contributed over $125,000 to the healthcare system over those 10 years.

Now I’m sheltering in place, can’t see family and friends, can’t travel, can’t go out to bars, can’t watch soccer or basketball on TV, can’t imagine the horrors that my friends with small children are facing with school closed probably until the fall.

By now we all know why this is necessary: Flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm the medical system’s ability to treat people. I’m not an asshole; I don’t want people to die because they can’t be treated.

But it should not have to be a choice between hundreds of thousands of deaths and destroying the economy.

Look, Congress, I really appreciate that if I miss work because I get the virus, you’ll help me with 2 weeks of sick pay.

But what happened to my $125,000 from the last 10 years?

In America, we buy “health insurance.” But there’s a problem: the health insurance industry is not a healthcare industry; it’s in insurance industry. Insurance is about minimizing financial risk, which means eliminating anything that looks like unnecessary spend.

As President Trump famously said, “I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”

Health insurance is an insurance industry, not a health industry. It’s run by financial people, not health people. It squeezes the healthcare providers until what society gets is minimal acceptable capacity, at maximum allowable price. It squeezes out redundancies and contingency systems for catastrophes because at some level of catastrophe, insurance becomes untenable. It makes more sense for the insurance company to go bankrupt than pay out.

I always hoped I was getting more for my $125,000. I hoped those premiums were propping up the world’s best healthcare system, with the best equipment and staff… and the best capacity. I always thought I was getting something more like the green line:

Notice the area covered by the two curves is roughly equal. Social distancing, sheltering in place, and plunging America into a recession won’t stop people from getting infected. It’s all designed to keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed, which would lead to more deaths.

But where did my $125,000 go? And why did my 401(k) drop 30% in the last three weeks? And why are people I know getting laid off?

All because Americans have been frightened into believing the myth that government-paid healthcare will be inefficient and lead to unnecessary deaths, so a private insurance industry can keep their shareholders happy?

America, it’s time for a different system.

one afternoon – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

one afternoon

It rests in the rolling shallows,
this boat that once had a name
and a worthy purpose,
bumping against its crumbling dock
in the absent-minded rhythm
of the water’s eternal rise and fall.
Cracked and clouded windows
stare at us with a vacant scowl
like marbled eyes in the rest home
when other people’s grandchildren
tiptoe past the open door.

You and I meander the trampled grass,
reminisce around rocky inlets,
taste the spiced breeze of low tide.
We stroll along the polished train tracks,
their shiny new gravel peppered with
discarded, rust-crusted spikes.

stillness – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

stillness

The little purple rose,
petite petals gathered
in restrained propriety,
stares all day
out my bedroom window
like an old maid
with her plaid blanket
of rough Scottish wool
smoothed across her lap.

With the patience of generations,
she watches the changeless scene,
her gentle smile turning toward
the winter sun’s waning warmth.

All she asks is
a sip of water
a few kind words
and the rich taste
of her deep-rooted memories.

detaching – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

detaching

A snip, a slice–
One rose past its prime,
its petals turned sepia
and brittle
like parchment
left too near the hearth,
tips and tumbles
to thud in the dust
at my neighbor’s feet.

I watched her all morning
as she eyed the bush
not unlike the way a crow
inspects a squirrel carcass
squished on the street.

Three times her snips rose,
and thrice she relented,
retreating to survey the bush anew.

I finished two mugs of coffee
and one crossword puzzle
watching her seek
the perfect pruning position.

The bush, for its part, never flinched.

This warrior,
with her feints and posturing,
armored in her striped cloth gloves,
and flop-brimmed sun hat,
and flannel yard shirt,
glowered like crusaders of old,
the grim grime of eons
etched in wrinkles
on her face.

One snip.
One slice.
One step toward peace.

make or break – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Make or break

Stubborn,
snow clings
in the high branches
against the gales
pouring from stoic granite peaks.
A gray day.
Quiet. Tensed.
I twist tight my scarf,
turn my face to the winds.
Only in their sharpness
does clarity come.

If it comes at all.

I’ve walked
up this mountain
through hip-deep snow
for a dozen lifetimes,
and I will walk it
a dozen more,
building footprint stories
erased by time
and the failures
of memory.

Ever bright,
the lights of your cabin windows
gleam in the distance,
like a tiger’s eyes–
both curious
and disinterested.

As I plunge forward ,
I wonder
not for the first time
whether this climb
is truly
worth the effort.

epiphany – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Epiphany

As I walk
A rainbow shimmers
Ten hundred gleaming drops
In red, orange, green, indigo
Shaking and quaking
An ecstasy of color
A brilliance of joy

And when winter’s fingers
Flip the world topsy-turvy
And paint a silver mask
Over every color

I know

In the rhythm of my pulse
In the mists of my breath
In the scrape of my steps

That one day the gray
Will be shaken loose
And sent scattering
Like flies off the shiver
Of a horse’s back.

three paperclips – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

three paperclips

one brown candle squats
lonely in a cold corner
as gray autumn
begins slipping
into dark winter

three paperclips lie beside it
discarded
and I wonder
about the candle’s flame
now extinguished
about the absent papers
now unclipped

is there perhaps
a fourth paperclip
lifted from the abandoned jumble
to experience
the thrills of interoffice mail
or the long, lonely exile
of a government’s underground archives

or maybe
it was twisted and bent
to poke at a stubborn lock
or wrought with haste
into a circle of angles
by a young man without time
to buy an engagement ring
before his ship sailed to battle

if only I had some papers

if only I had a match

unsent letters – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

unsent letters

Umbrella-huddled blurs
trudge past the cafe window
in dripping grays and blacks
mottled and melted
like zombies
in an amateur painting
raised from the graveyard
of a suburban garage sale

If they were to look through
the rain-melted window
what would they think of me
and my cold, half-finished coffee
sitting across from
your empty chair
trying not to dissolve

Pages in a journal – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Pages in a journal

Leaves, yellowed and browned
in the cold winds
after a hot, dry summer,
cling to grayed, shivering twigs
that point skyward,
like the splayed fingers
of cracked and crooked wizards
summing stormclouds.

Raindrops slice down,
heavy and hard, soaking in
until the desperate branches sag
and the leaves tear off
one by one
to drop to the ground
where they will decay,
leaving behind an emptiness
where one day
the brightness of hope
will bring forth new buds
nourished by
the quiet tears of winter.

next time – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

next time

No one saw us dancing
at the party
as we glided
separately
from room
to crowded room
greeting old friends
and avoiding each other
with practiced precision
until at the end of the night
our embrace on the threshold
lasted an acceptable duration
and we expressed
our mutual regret
at not spending
more time
together