Health Care: Free, Simple, Self Reliant

av_rm2The health care debate at present has moved into the realm of fantasy, a very dark fantasy. Besides ridiculous misrepresentations of what each side intends, cross accusations of wrong doing, sloppy thinking and name calling on the level of kindergarten there’s a problem no one mentions. This problem, pandemic to modern culture–particularly in America–is the persistent misrepresentation that money equals quality health care and vice versa.

Nothing could be further from the truth and, in fact, it’s a sad day when a nation acclaimed for its “know-how” equates health care with pocketbooks. But let’s be frank, health care is shifting from an honest attempt to help people to strictly a money game. Insurance companies dictate doctors’ fees, legal departments compel malpractice rates, insurers routinely refuse to pay claims just to see who will go away.

And then there’s the national shame for what some people believe to be a great health care system. There has never been a proper encouragement of preventative care. The action-oriented, antagonistic, results-craving mentality finds it hard to comprehend that the best approach to any illness is to not let it happen in the first place. So little effort and money is spent on preventative medicine—not the prejudiced studies, mind you, but the medicine—that any health care model must always resolve itself into a major obsession with who gets the pie instead of how good the pie is.

Enter Qigong and other practices like Tai Chi. Even if Chinese medical terminology seems confusing, or the theory strikes you as mystical, these practices have fundamental strengths to recommend them. Take Tai Chi example, an exercise partly designed by a doctor. Its great benefits come from the fact it is slow, careful, strength building, rhythmic, calming, highly efficient, posturally correct, pleasant, age and sex suitable, engaging and, with slight modifications, can even be aerobic. It requires no equipment and, once learned can be practiced for the length of one’s life. Qigong is the same with the added advantage of having a modularity which allows you to learn very small exercises one at a time rather than memorizing the more intricate and complex routines of Tai Chi.

Once learned the cost of either is exactly nothing. The movements are very safe, encouraging good respiration and reducing stress at the same time. It can be communal or solitary; requires no special area to be built, like a stadium or a court; it encourages an efficiency and grace that is expressed in everyday life.

And there’s another bonus which could be huge. Qigong encourages people to reflect on themselves, to take a bit more responsibility for their own health. One of the most disappointing things about the health care debate is its top-down, condescending, hierarchical, money-dominated orientation. The people are left wondering which “provider” to bow to (forgetting that, according to some of their own beliefs, there is only one health care provider ultimately). It certainly doesn’t encourage the kind of self-reliance so many people pride themselves on but which crumbles like a dirt tower when it comes to the topic of health. We are, instead, encouraged by this system to be dependent, about something so fundamentally ours as our own health and well-being. We have become a nation of people afraid of self-examination, unfamiliar with our own bodies, only capable of asking the doctor which pills go in which combination.

Don’t expect anyone to pick up this noble banner soon, though. In this scheme there’s no one except a few underpaid Qigong instructors to make any money and, like they say, if cars were free and ran on water instead of gasoline we’d still be riding bicycles.

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