Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Not To Get Controversial, But....

I don't normally talk a lot of politics here, because, well, let's face it, it can get controversial and for whatever reason, affect people's opinions of others. However, if I've learned one thing over the years, it's that listening to someone whose opinion or point of view may differ from mine, can be enlightening, educational and a good experience. So, I'm gonna go out on a limb here on this Super Tuesday.

People who are self employed, like farmers, are often doing so because they like the independence it gives them. The flexibility in schedule, the ability to choose their vendors, customers, hours (more or less), and the freedom to choose daily tasks – I mean, overall, being self employed is awesome. 

Now it also means I have to be available 24/7, 365 - basically, paid vacations are a fantasy, sick time is just that, sick time – while working. Being the bookkeeper, shopkeeper, housekeeper, animal steward and customer service department; all wrapped up in one. And I know a lot of people who would never choose to step out on their own and go into business for themselves because it's, in their mind, too risky. It takes all kinds of us to make the world go around and I love that!

But, choosing to be a small, independent business owner should NOT mean, they can't go to a doctor to have something checked out that might be bothering them or a kid; shouldn't avoid get routine dental cleanings, because it was too expensive, (like $500 expensive), to go each year and have them cleaned professionally, to avoid the level of problem that led to more expensive treatment like filling a small cavity; or stretch a contact lens or glasses prescription out for twice as long as it should be – because it's that or feed the animals and their kids each month. Buy a part for the tractor. Get the inspection sticker and registration for the truck. Feed their kids something besides beans and rice, ramen noodles and water.  Till somehow, something extra comes along. 

Here in the state of Texas, apparently the affordable care act fell short of being very affordable for many folks. I won't dig into the politics of why, there are many reasons and none of them we should be proud of, but suffice it to say that paying $300-$500 month, every single month, for health insurance, (not even CARE),  that wouldn't even cover eyes or teeth, is shameful. And, unaffordable for way too many people who work very hard, often at multiple jobs, but just don't make the kind of money to cover it, or work for an employer who helps pay for it.

Now, thankfully, I personally have found a local dentist here in town who believes preventative care for families is very important and prices her services accordingly. (you can get a full exam including panoramic and individual x rays AND a basic cleaning for under $100!) And, in Dallas we happen to have an amazing College of Dentistry downtown that accepts patients for their students to “practice” on. I even gave two of the student dentists my perspective on how important dental care is to the overall health of people because good teeth, or bad ones, determines what a person is able to eat. I know too many people who can not eat raw carrots, broccoli, or eat corn on the cob and don't have a juicer to suck them up through a straw instead. Fresh vegetables are imperative to a healthy diet - a healthy person. Being an affordable dentist, at least on the front end of prevention, can go a long way to helping the overall health of our country! I think I left them both with something to ponder.

But if someone can't afford to do anything but get a tooth yanked out, what can we expect as a society? And then yes, we all suffer because those who can't afford any medical care often end up in publicly funded facilities. Which is great, and I gladly pay my Parkland taxes every year and while I hope not to ever need their care, am grateful it is there for those who do. But what about those who don't have a Parkland nearby?

I am super lucky to have an MD and an ophthalmologist on my CSA roster, and they have pledged to take good care of their favorite farmer at a price I can afford. Both also operate in lower income areas and have rates that are substantially more affordable than what I used to pay elsewhere. But this kind of opportunity isn't available to everyone. 

And not everyone can get to these places – or even knows about them. I had no idea any dental office charged less than $300-$500 for a basic appointment and cleaning. I called around and gave up a decade ago.

Not all medical offices are set up where rent isn't super high or a good deal on a real estate purchase was found. I get that. Everyone has overhead. Maybe it's time we stop charging medical offices a higher tax rate than churches? Both provide services considered essential to the well-being of the people, right?

And who knows how much some independent offices are being raked over the coals for for medical supplies, etc because they can't buy in bulk like a huge corporate hospital or chain of physicians. 

I don't expect them to eat that cost, they have bills to pay, just like me. If I am forced to pay more for seed or equipment, I have to find a way to recover that cost so I'm still making a living. Doctors do, too.

Capitalism can be a great thing, I say that as an entrepreneur - until it gets greedy and goes unchecked. And my friends, I think it's fair to say it's gone unchecked for quite a few decades now. 

"Breaking up ma bell" was supposed to lead to cheaper phone bills - has it? Deregulation of utilities means we pay more for internet service than just about anywhere else in the world. Government granted monopolies means less competition of unregulated services - and we are left without options.

What would happen if all of the food growers and suppliers got together and decided people needed to actually pay for the cost of production instead of the deeply discounted food prices Americans have come to enjoy? You pay for the difference in gas prices with subsidies paid some corn growers whose product ends up in your gas tank. Or in the beef you ate. Or in the $1.99 gallon of milk or the 3 loaves for $5 bread. Do you really think that stuff is that cheap to make?

My point is that some parts of the medical industry in general seems to have lost sight of its objective and instead focus on profits, too often at the expense of people's health and well-being. I always thought it was to help keep people healthy, and to cure them when they're ill.

Kind of like farmers. My objective is to feed people healthy, nutritious food. No one is saying both professions should not be paid fairly for their work – both have bills to pay, of course. But if a farmer wanted to feel ok charging higher rates, I think they'd raise something people didn't require on a daily basis to survive - healthy food. 

They'd raise cotton or wool, or silk and it wouldn't be subsidized. You won't die if you don't wear it, but if you prefer natural fiber, is going to cost a bit more. Synthetic fabrics are available, and usually cost less. But there is no good substitute for REAL FOOD. We know that because obesity, diabetes and heart issues, not to mention cancer, is affecting the Western diet followers much more than others who eat fresh foods. But that's a different rant.

People in general who enter service oriented industries such as teaching, emergency services, health-care workers, agriculture, and medical services – generally, have their end customer's well being in mind. Not their pocketbook.That's what I'm trying to say.

And isn't it time we help take better care of those who take care of us by guaranteeing they can get the same kind of medical care someone fortunate enough to have a great medical insurance plan, or who works for the government (at just about any level), would afford his or her own family? Even sometimes there are doctors who can't afford services of some other doctors.

There's something wrong with this picture when we have friend after friend holding a “go-fund-me” drive to help pay for breast cancer, accident recovery, critical care for a child; because they're going broke and homeless otherwise. 

It's inhumane the same way it would be if people were turned away from food if they needed it and couldn't otherwise afford it. Most farmers I know would at the very least offer a "will work for food" opportunity or a sliding scale option for those in need. And so do many physicians. But what about higher up that food chain?

No one is saying medical care should be "free". Nothing is free. But if we all contribute according to our ability, we can do better for everyone in this country. Our friends, family and neighbors, as well as those we may never meet. 

And, we all know that even at our own local government levels, there are plenty of things we spend tax money on that is “fluff”. We know there is plenty of money that is spent on things we could do without so much of, and not jeopardize anything we've come to expect as US citizens. It's all a matter of priorities.

Somewhere we've lost sight of the importance in caring for the vulnerable and the ones who care for and do for others what many would not either like or be able to do for themselves. 

We who do those things and work for ourselves or those companies who aren't big enough to afford it for their employees, are no less worthy of medical care than someone who takes your call at a huge nationally owned corporate cable tv office, bags your groceries at a huge national supermarket chain, builds your cars, or your houses – someone who chooses to clock in and out each day, and works for a business who is able to offer some sort of health care to its employees. 

Small mom and pop local businesses who employ others, they're taking a hit, too. Paying both an employee's social security and medicare shared amount AND a health insurance premium employers share for its workers, is no small expense. Which is why fewer can afford to offer this “perk” and don't, or don't have employees. 

And millions go without medical care each year. Without their meds, preventative exams, dental cleanings, eye glasses, surgeries. We all see the posts on our social media feeds. This is a real problem for real people. I doubt, unless you live in a bubble, you don't know others who face these life and death issues. Some of them, every day.

We are a great place to live. I consider myself very lucky to have been born to parents who were born to parents who chose to come to the US for the opportunities it offers. We have some of the greatest engineers and ingenuity in the world. People love to invent, to develop and create, and get paid for it.

But, most people, I believe, want to help other people succeed, live better and be healthy. And many come here and can't understand this "live and let live" or "dog eat dog" philosophy that has seemed to take hold here. Where is our humanity?

We can do better by each other if we pull together, do what we do best and do it better than anywhere else, instead of looking at the worst of everywhere else and saying we can't do it here because "over there they have problem x, y or z".

Is there someone out there running for office who seems to have the well being of those who don't have a lot of pull in mind, and has been fighting for their rights for many, many decades? It's not all up to one person; I get that. But it's a mindset that gets voiced from a position of leadership that helps influence society. And then they're going to need the people behind them to make it happen.

So, all I'm asking is please, when you cast your votes this year, look at it from the perspective of someone else, too. Thanks. 

Now, Eat Your Food - Naturally! If you can. And if you can't, get a juicer or a blender at the thrift store and grind that stuff up because it's going to make you feel a LOT better than that heart attack in a bag that only costs a buck. Said with love, from your favorite, local, small, self employed farmer.