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Friday, January 09, 2009

Health is a wonderful thing...

... and we tend to take it for granted when we have it. For the last 3-4 years I've been struggling with several health issues. Considering that I ride my bike 5000 miles or so a year and take long hiking trips, most people I meet think that I'm a picture of health, and indeed, my health issues (Sleep Apnea and Osteopenia) are by and large under control --- the latter through a change of lifestyle (I used to ride over 10000 miles a year, and had to cut back), and the former with the help of some brilliant doctors, including Dr. Tracy Kuo who managed to get me to adapt well to CPAP Therapy. The alternative would have been surgery, which was too horrible for me to contemplate, though others don't seem to have the same terror of surgery that I do.

So there I was at the start of the year feeling quite good about myself overall, and in general proud of over-coming what could have been serious illnesses and still in general enjoying life, but my first week back at work, and I have lunch with one person who tells me that the reason I didn't see her around (aside from me being in Germany) was because she was on leave for chemotherapy for cancer treatment. And then today I got news that an old classmate of mine from college is also undergoing cancer treatment. Compared to that, I had no health problems, and I'm really grateful to have what I have. These are just people I know. Add that to the deaths of Tanta and OldVet, people who post on blogs I read, and it's hard not to be overwhelmed (at least a little bit) by the sense that Cancer is everywhere.

But incidences like these make me want to go travel and see the world --- who knows how long each of us really have on this planet anyway? On the political front, while I've had to hold my nose to vote for Obama last year (mostly because of his healthcare positions), if he manages to pull off his health-care plan, then all is forgiven. I don't even care what else doesn't get done. I can stand increasing inequality, and I can stand nothing getting done on global warming (something I consider the most important problem mankind has to face), but from a personal point of view, the fact that I'm un-insurable (health-wise) as an individual (as explained by my earlier post on healthcare policy) is definitely something that has made me into a single issue voter.


md said...

Any idea what's causing the osteopenia?

Piaw Na said...

Sure. If you ride so much and sweat so much that your bike shorts are stained white after nearly every ride, you're probably sweating Calcium out of your bones. If you're so cycling-specialized that going for a 7 mile hike gets you sore for 3-4 days, you're probably better off cutting back on the bike and hiking more.

bawa said...

Piaw, I was fascinated by your earlier post, especially the little-publicised fact comparing GDP spending on Health Care.
I have to say that the Universal Health Care in place in so many European countries one of the main reasons why I think they are "wealthy" in real terms: as opposed to a % of the population in monetary terms. For me, real wealth lies not only in my own well-being, but in the fact that I do not have to have a guilty conscience (among other things) about people on different income levels from mine, because all their basic rights, esp. health, are being covered in equal terms as mine. So in fact, I would argue that even the most selfish person would benefit, in the sense that you do not feel you have to constantly protect yourself from those who are not able to access the same well-being as you.
I also read an article recently on Lord Beveridge, ex-LSE director and whose 1942 report on Health Care fired the NHS in the UK. And I was surprised that that and later accounting done by economists in the 50s also led to the conclusion that universal health care ended up costing less overall to the govt than all the piece-meal stuff.
The article in question is here
Link to the Beveridge report

Piaw Na said...

It's definitely true that ironically in the modern age, the Europeans have a system much less run by plutocrats (i.e., republicans) than the Americans. Part of it historically is racism --- while the Europeans emerged from World War II with a more or less homogeneous society making it an easier sell to go to universal healthcare, America had a large black population which together with rampant racism, made it harder to sell to white people that blacks (and non-whites) should also get good healthcare.

With the election of Barack Obama, it's my hope that we can overcome this historical artifact. If not, maybe this recession will get deep enough that even libertarians might want to be able to keep their health insurance as well.

bawa said...

I think such a move would lead to a fundamental change in society in the US, as it has done everywhere else it has been implemented.
Meanwhile, lets treasure our own more or less good health.

bawa said...

Piaw, I just heard that in recent times members of the future Obama administration have been visiting Spain in order to have a first-hand view of the national health care system (presume they have also visited other countries): both how it works and how it is financed.

So maybe things are moving??

Piaw Na said...

Things have been moving for a while, but I'm not holding my breath. Democrats have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.