A new year and improving health care

A New Year: Where Do We Go From Here?

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One of the things I enjoy about the holiday season is that it usually includes some down time to reflect a bit on the past year and opportunities the new year brings.

As we start this new year, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) a wonderful year ahead, but it’s hard not to also recognize that there are many uncertainties at play in the larger world today.

I’ve been thinking lately about some of the lessons I’ve learned going through difficult times in the past. One of those lessons was recognizing that even when our world seems to be veering off course, there are things we can control. And those are the small and large (mostly small) choices we make and actions we take every day that add up to the kind of year we have and the life we live.

I recently read an excellent short book by Rebecca Solnit called “Hope in the Dark”. Solnit, a historian and activist, writes that it’s important to say first what hope is not–that it’s not a belief that everything is, or will be fine. She says this:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.

As we move into 2017, health care system changes that Congress is considering, and that could have serious consequences for many Americans, are dominating the news. This presents an opportunity to act, and let them know if we disagree with where they’re headed.

I think most people recognize that our health care system is evolving. Changes enacted in 2010 increased access to health care significantly for millions of Americans. Those changes were not intended nor expected to be the end of reform. More needs to be done and, certainly, after six years it seems reasonable to assess progress and make further improvements. But further reforms need to proceed with appropriate caution so that we are helping–not hurting–ourselves in the process.

In December, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a random survey of about 1,200 Americans concerning their views about health care issues. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that health care is among the top issues overall that Americans are concerned about right now. When asked about specific health care priorities, the issues people said were most important to them were lowering the out-of-pocket costs individuals pay for health care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and dealing with the prescription painkiller addiction epidemic. Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ranked lower down the priority list.

Another interesting finding: when they were asked specifically whether the ACA should be repealed, Americans were about evenly split, but only 20 percent wanted Congress to repeal the Act and work out details of a replacement later.

It’s reasonable to have dialogue and figure out how to address areas in need of attention in our health care system, including how to further improve affordability. But going backwards is not an answer. Taking away health care access for patients is not an answer. More people dying as a result of lack of access is not an answer.

So let’s tell them we want meaningful changes that will keep us moving forward and where there is solid evidence that the changes will actually benefit those of us needing medical care. And new initiatives to address the health care concerns that Americans have said are priorities.

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Photo Credit:  CHOATphotographer via Shutterstock


  1. Hi Lisa,
    That sounds like a good book to add to my reading list. Love that quote about hope. There is so much uncertainty ahead with our soon-to-be new president, and lately I’ve been struggling with even watching the news. I know that despair and inaction aren’t solutions to anything. I realize I need to come out of my funk, politically speaking, in other words, get my head out of the sand. As usual, your words are so well-articulated, and yes, calming. I feel better after reading this post. Thank you. And happy New Year, too, Lisa. Onward, right?

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I think you would enjoy the book. It’s excellent and a quick read. It was actually first published in 2003 around the time that the Iraq war started, and was reissued last year with some new material added. The author wants to encourage people who are working on causes and feeling discouraged that their efforts don’t seem to be producing results they can see. She tells some interesting stories about grassroots efforts around the world that are making an impact, even though these often don’t get much attention in the mainstream media. As always, thanks for your comments and Happy New Year!

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