Medical Care: From Mayonnaise Jars to Mandates

Michael’s Moore’s latest movie, Sicko, has many in the nation considering, if not taking part in bringing about, a new medical paradigm in America. Moore, along with many growing grassroots organizations, is calling for no less than the full socialization of medicine in the United States of America.

The subject has been discussed and dismissed many times throughout our history, but never before in the atmosphere of spiraling medical costs, millions of uninsured, disillusionment with HMOs, and especially in the political atmosphere of the day.

One of the biggest differences in Moore’s movie, is how he is able to debunk or at least argue against many of the oldest die-hard arguments against socialized medicine. I especially like the analogy with fire services. Can you imagine your house burning down while firefighters stood by and watched because you didn’t have the right insurance or didn’t get pre-approval?

It seems as if Michael Moore has brought to light the fact that in America, every life and death critical service we require, is provided without question, except life and death. The one service that often determines whether we live or die, is the one service that is not guaranteed.

If your house is on fire, firemen will respond and put out the fire if possible, but if you have cancer, whether or not you get life-saving treatment, will be determined by whether you have insurance or not, whether you have money or not, and even if you have insurance, some bureaucrat decides whether or not they will cover the recommended treatment.

Living in very small communities all my life, I am all too familiar with the Mayonnaise-Jar medical system. This is, of course, the large one gallon mayonnaise-jars with a coin-slit crudely cut in the top and a homemade sign taped to it, usually with a photo of the “patient”.

The mayonnaise-jar is there to collect money from the local community to help an innocent child that needs an organ transplant and the family can’t afford it or to help a young man with three young children and cancer to have the surgery or treatment that would give him a chance at life.

I have seen these mayonnaise-jars in our local grocery stores my entire life. I have always found them sad and at the same time unsettling. I never could understand why mayonnaise-jars are necessary in the richest nation in the world, with the best potential medical care in the world just down the road from any American.

Despite all of this, I find myself torn over the current movement. Ten years ago I would have been out organizing my own community to join the movement. I had written about the mayonnaise-jar medical system nearly twenty years ago in my local newspaper.

Perhaps Hollywood movies are a seductive but somewhat dangerous field for this debate. The reason for my reticence is both very complex and very simple. In the last ten years, I have learned about another side of modern medicine — a very ugly and sinister side.

I have a child with Autism that was a direct and immediate result of vaccines. Following her reactions and subsequent diagnosis, we were denied insurance, care, services, a fair and appropriate education, and most of all, any recognition or admission to the obvious cause of her horrible regression.

As I started to see the hundreds and thousands of other families affected by the same disease and neglect, we experienced the failure of our federal agencies to admit to and deal with an exploding epidemic.

You might think that because of our experience, I would welcome the mandated coverage and care that we were denied because of an Autism ‘diagnosis’. Moore even mentions in his film that Autism is one of the diagnosis that can get you stricken from the roster of your insurance company or denied coverage.

Many in the Autism community have speculated or tried to guess why the Autism-Vaccine connection was left out of Moore’s new movie. We have heard that he was inundated with mail from parents of Autistic children, all telling the same stories.

Many believe that because the problem is so large and complex and the government’s role so sinister — if not illegal that he will have to do an entire movie dedicated to this issue. But, I fear he avoided the Vaccine-Autism issue because he sees the proverbial writing on the wall.

Some might argue that what has happened and what has been done by our federal agencies and the medical community in reaction to this epidemic, as well as what they refuse to do now, may be the best argument ever AGAINST socialized medicine. Taking up the autism cause could be bad for the socialized medicine cause.

I find myself thinking about this on a new and totally different level. I find myself looking for a far more careful deconstruction of this very serious problem. Will socialized medicine simply take us from mayonnaise-jar medicine to mandated medicine?

My fear is that many people in America would be no better off than we are today. Socialized medicine could very well mean “their way or the highway”. I used to think that the fight for medical choice and freedoms came down to what provider I selected, or the choice of using my own money to pay for care not authorized by my insurance provider.

But I now see choice as a much larger issue. It is the choice to use standard allopathic care, or what many term alternative medicine or practices such as homeopathy. I see choice as parents’ rights to choose whether to vaccinate their child or not. What I see occurring with a socialized system of medicine will be frighteningly like what the poor now experience with WIC and welfare, “Immunize or lose the help and services”.

If individuals or parents choose to go against the accepted beliefs of the day, will they be denied coverage, pretty much as they are now? Will doctors, such as DAN (Defeat Autism Now) physicians that are effectively treating children with Autism biomedically, be unable to practice for compensation, or at least practice as freely as they do now? Will they only be compensated or allowed to practice if they drug Autistic children with Ritalin or Risperdal, the acceptable allopathic treatment, rather than treating the underlying issues of Autism as they do now?

We are in a time of realization, of the incompetence of our federal alphabet agencies such as the FDA and the CDC to protect the American people, including children. We are realizing their levels of culpability in approving medicines, vaccines, aspartame, MSG, and more, without adequate testing or while their own documented studies tell them there are serious dangers and “acceptable levels of death” in doing so.

Is this then the time for yet another federally controlled system or agency mandated with the task of protecting the nation’s health? Can we demand a system without first deciding what we want that system to look like? Will alternative care and providers be covered and who will make that decision? Will patients still have rights of choice and refusal for certain treatments and procedures or will it be “all or nothing”?

Will the federal employees that run the system be required to be free of pharmaceutical industry influence, and will a system be put in place to avoid the revolving door employment between the agency and pharmaceutical companies? Will there be no political appointees in the top positions so that governance does not swing with the political winds?

Is Michael Moore stirring real debate, or simply redirecting the herd? Will they all gallop to the new trough and, then suffering the dysbiosis, wonder who to blame?

Call me a cynic, but I can only imagine the horrors of a system established without first answering these questions. We cannot simply push forward, without dialogue as to what this system will look like, or what it could become.

I can’t help but imagine a triad of incompetence between the FDA, CDC, and the new federal agency whatever its assigned letters of designation may be. If the last nine years of my life have taught me anything, it’s that a large dose of cynicism may be the best prescription for truly staying healthy.

There is no doubt that there are more than two troughs from which we may eat. And, if push comes to shove, I will take the mayonnaise-jars over mandates any day.

Kendra Pettengill is a single widowed mother of a child with autism, and veteran of the United States Air Force. She is annoyed that anyone would believe that there is not an epidemic in autism. Read other articles by Kendra, or visit Kendra's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Eric Patton said on August 16th, 2007 at 8:39am #

    The problem is not the U.S. health system. That’s just a symptom of the real problem, which is capitalism. The solution to both “problems” of health care as addressed by Moore’s movie, as well as “their way or the highway” socialized medicine, is an economic system that provides for self-management for workers and consumers.

    Participatory economics, or parecon, is just such an economy. In addition to fostering the self-management required to allow patients a say over their own care, parecon also fosters equity, solidarity, and diversity. In a parecon, everyone will have access to health care, and everyone (caregivers as well as patients) will have a say over decisions that affect them in proportion to how they’re affected.

    You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and support either “socialized medicine” (Moore), or “mayonnaise jars”. You can have your cake and eat it too. But to see that, you must first expand your field of vision. You have to aim higher. You have to stop thinking about reforms within the existing capitalist system, and instead think about transcending capitalism altogether — the technical term for which is “revolution.”

    It’s time for the left to become self-consciously and purposefully revolutionary. In the particular case of economics, it’s time for the left to reject capitalism, as well as the socialism of countries like the former Soviet Union, and instead aim for an economy-wide revolution in the form of participatory economics (while, of course, not neglecting issues of gender, race, or authority).

  2. rosemarie jackowski said on August 16th, 2007 at 2:04pm #

    I agree with Eric. The root of the the problem is Capitalism. Health care for profit causes 18,000 deaths every year. That is like having a 9/11 every 60 days. A single payer system can be any way that we want it. I favor giving parents the choice of what kind of medical treatment should be given to their children. The only role for the government is the collecting and dispursement of the funds. All medical decisions should be made by the parent or patient and the doctor or other medical provider.

  3. Max Shields said on August 17th, 2007 at 8:44am #

    “It’s time for the left to become self-consciously and purposefully revolutionary.”

    Yes, capitalism is a root cause, but much of what we see in the US is a combination of neglect, lack of purpose, and a legacy of stubborn belief in our “perfect system”.

    Americans have been fed the notion that “we” are the greatest nation, we have a system of near perfection, “given the choices”. On a practical level this has stunted our ability to consciously re-invent or transform.

    While Europe (EU) has a legacy which is not all together dissipated, it has transformed itself rather dramatically (due to their futile total wars of mutual aggression and endless empiral quagmires). Even developing nations are embracing innovative community systems, appropriate technologies, and there is a ground swell (in spite of the Thatcher narrative of TINA) of innovative economics.

    Health care is but a symptom – a vital one at that – but the issue is deep and cultural as well as economic (there is a symbiotic relationship, no doubt).

    I do have some issues with Parecon. The issue isn’t in all of the details, of which there are many; but with the notion of “blue print economics”. We’ve had our fatal fling with one-size-fits-all economic theories. They have been devastating. Many of the “components” of Parecon are being realized in Workers’ Cooperatives throughout South America. The latter are routed in decentralization and sustainable communities as opposed to the monolithic schemes of Marx and Smith (at least as applied by Lenin/Stalin and Keynes/M.Friedman) .

    Now, health care is certainly a mess. But while it is in large part do to capitalism’s profit demands, it is also do to the mindlessness with which the “system” was created. You could say it is the worst example of self-organizing, but it really isn’t self-organized. It was never about patients and wellness, but about benefit demands, and fee for service schemes. A self-organized health care system starts first with people.

    An end to end process view of US health care reveals a broken, no collapsed delivery, with poor outcomes, high costs, and limited access – in a word the worst “system” in the industrialized world – and in some cases developing world. Canada represents a single-payer system with a purpose (people). If you look at its history you’ll see that it was a grass-roots movement in Saskatchewan in the 50s gave “birth” to what we see as a relatively effective health care system. It spread to the other Provinces until by 1966 it became the Canadian system.

    My faith in the state has grown more and more weary and leery. Our health care is far more complex, inefficient, and than it needs to be, do to insurance and privatization. Rosemary, I like your thinking on patient choice.

  4. Enzo said on September 1st, 2007 at 7:46am #

    While agreeing with the tenor of this article, I would like to point out that : (A) homeopathy and alternative therapies are not credible alternatives to scientifically-evaluated treatments nor to proper health care – they are part of an industry, a bogus industry of worthless remedies that practices upon our gullibility and ignorance (cf. Quackwatch); and (B) there is a consilience of evidence that vaccination does NOT cause autism: e.g., A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism — Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen, M.D., et al; N Engl J Med 2003; 348:951-954. … “Of the 537,303 children in the cohort (representing 2,129,864 person-years), 440,655 (82.0 percent) had received the MMR vaccine. We identified 316 children with a diagnosis of autistic disorder and 422 with a diagnosis of other autistic-spectrum disorders. After adjustment for potential confounders, the relative risk of autistic disorder in the group of vaccinated children, as compared with the unvaccinated group, was 0.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24), and the relative risk of another autistic-spectrum disorder was 0.83 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.65 to 1.07). There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of autistic disorder. / Conclusions This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.”

    “Socialized” medicine here in Australia quite sensibly steers clear of the ‘alternative’ scene (so you won’t be getting chiropractic on Medicare) but does provide free high-quality emergency health care for a mere fraction of the USA-cost (per GDP).

  5. The Truth said on February 23rd, 2009 at 4:26pm #

    Kendra Pettengill is a pathological liar. 1. She is a single mother by choice. 2. She is not a widow. 3. Her daughter has never been vaccinated. 4. Her daughter is adopted.