How Boomers Can Change the Healthcare System

Wow…..that’s quite grandiose, eh?  That we as a generation could CHANGE the healthcare system as we know it?

It isn’t, and we can.  Here’s how.

I’ll start with the problem in the system that is within our control.  A big chunk of what’s wrong with healthcare is not being discussed: that too many doctors have long since abandoned quality care for quantity billable hours.  Here’s the result and how each one harms the system:

  • When we feel that our doctor cares less about us than his/her bottom line, we are more apt to sue when things go wrong – we believe they do not have our best interest/care at the core of their work, as a result it is much easier to believe malpractice, malicious or otherwise;
    Harms the healthcare system through higher levels of frivolous lawsuits
  • When doctors are not taking the time to truly listen, learn about us, automatically get our records from our other doctors and collaborate with them on our care, the result is the need to order tests and lots of them – when you work in a vacuum, you need to gather information to fill that void, information that often can be gleaned from other sources rather than more tests;
    Harms the system through needlessly perpetuating tests, not based on our tendency to sue, but their tendency to do too little discovery on their own, using their medical arts training
  • Speaking of working in a vacuum, doctors today take a full-blown silo approach, attending to only their tiny specialty piece of our personal health-needs puzzle, as though their part of the body is completely disconnected from the other parts (not to mention the emotional/psychological aspects of our physical health) – it isn’t – all of the body’s parts work in concert, and specialists need to consider other systems/parts that impact their specialty’s – but too few do;
    Harms the system by again creating the need to order batteries of tests; also lends to more misdiagnoses, the need to see more doctors until you find someone who might put the pieces together for you, and mistrust that fuels lawsuits
  • Overbooking is the medical mantra – thus doctors expect us to wait for sometimes an hour, before being seen for a pre-scheduled appointment; beyond the facts that if we ran our businesses like that we wouldn’t have one and the practice is clearly disrespectful to us (treat our time as far less valuable than theirs), the most important problem here is that the person making decisions about our healthcare issues is in such a rush, there is simply no way s/he can do a quality job;
    Harm to the system is increased misdiagnoses or no diagnoses (once the most obvious cause for your symptoms has been ruled out, the medical shoulders shrug and you’re left still not knowing what’s wrong with you…or you’re sent to yet another specialist) both of which increase our costs (more doctor visits/tests), and once again, increase the lawsuit tendency.

Now here’s what we can do to fix it because, as I mentioned above, this is within our control:

  • Insist on better care – do not accept poor quality medical practice, as the more we accept it, the more of it we’ll get; let any doctor you see know upfront what you expect from him/her, and be prepared to seek other practitioners if you don’t get it – do not settle for mediocrity as though you have no choice
  • Insist that your doctors talk to each other, that your records be shared, and that your doctor listen to all of your concerns and existing medical needs/issues, regardless of the body part you’re there to address – neither they nor you know what’s impacting what until you discuss it
  • Do not wait more than 15 minutes to be seen – unless the doctor has an emergency or they’re fitting you in on an emergency basis – let the scheduling person know this intention when you make your appointment, and make checking on the doctor’s timeliness a part of your doctor-choosing decision; then follow through if they do make you wait longer than the time you’ve agreed to wait – let them know you’re leaving, and give them one more chance to do it right by making another appointment (if you wish); usually your return visit will be handled much better…
  • Become a well informed consumer/partner in your care – go to your appointments prepared, understand as much about what’s happening to your body as you can rather than fully depending on the doctor whose only half-listening anyway, insist on explanations for their recommendations, benefits/down-sides, etc. rather than blindly accepting what they decide – I have provided my doctors with alternatives they’d not considered as a result of my due diligence
  • Do not agree to tests with which you don’t feel comfortable or, after some research you believe to be unnecessary – you’d be quite surprised by how many tests you’ll find are more about CYA for the doctor vs. your well-being, once you’re more fully informed

We Boomers have no problem asking for what we want, we are the best educated generation so our research skills are excellent, and we are unwilling to accept the “status quo” (these are just 3 of our generational characteristics that come in handy, here) – much more so than any other generation, including our childrens’.  We can use these abilities to change the expectations we have of the medical professionals in our lives, thus changing the way our own doctors work with us.  By using only those doctors who meet all the above criteria, we are putting our dollars to work supporting best medical practice, not worst.  

And with 78 million of us, that will have a huge impact.  Over time, those with the best practice approaches will thrive, the rest will not. 

The resulting reductions in lawsuits, unneeded tests, and additional doctor visits as one specialist no longer automatically sends you to another before doing all s/he can to diagnose your problem him/herself, will make a nice dent in our healthcare costs.

Make cents?

Do We Owe Our Progeny an Apology?

According to some featured graduation speakers as reported by the Wall Street journal (& commented on by Rita Robinson of the Seattle Press -reprinted here), we most assuredly do:

“Is it necessary for baby boomers to apologize to younger generations for their excesses?

When I was reading The Boomer Blog, I found an article in The Wall Street Journal called “Boomers to This Year’s Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry.”

These are among the quotes in the article:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been ‘self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish.’

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was ‘the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.’

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk ‘because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents’ example.’

The article said the collective advice of the speakers for the class of 2009: Don’t be like us.

What do you think of these apologies?”

I’m glad to hear ’em – and my hope is we’ve just begun, at last, to recognize the damage we’ve done as a generation over the last 25 years, when we started with such promise.  Remember when we fought against “the man” and all his excesses, his polluting ways, his corporate greed, and his disdain for anything but his own bottom line?  So we changed the world for the better w/civil rights, environmental controls, and the uncovering of corporate shenanigans?  We were good!  Then we went bad….

Robin goes on to say that Gen Y/X experience their share of excesses, so it’s not just us…but gee, who raised them?  She states that there were/are those of our parents’ generation who have as well lived lives of excess….in contrast to ours, they were in the minority – and it was not a generational past-time to live beyond their means & consider themselves worthy only if they had more things, as it was ours.

Finally she says: “I know boomers who are environmentalists and live a simple lifestyle. Not all boomers practiced instant gratification.”  Yep… all three of them.

Then, there’s this from Harry Dent of the Miami based HSDent research firm as reported in the Newark Star Ledger, about how Boomers are the prime cause of this recession (as he predicted would be the case back in the ’80’s) – but this time for the opposite reason of the apology:

“Q: You said years ago that the spending habits of the Baby Boomers will eventually cause the economy to crash. Why?

A: This Baby Boomer generation is massive — the largest we’ve seen in a couple hundred years, probably since the American Revolution. They’ve been entering the work force, getting married, raising families, buying houses and earning more money since the early ’80s.

…We said 20 years ago, “Hey, there will be an end to this.” They’ll peak in their spending cycle after they buy houses, raise their kids, get them into college and all that good stuff.

Now, they’re just doing predictable things as they age. In other words, they’ll become savers, not spenders. They don’t need a bigger house. They don’t need more cars. The kids are gone. That’s what happening. They’re going to spend less and the economy’s going to get slower and slower.”

To Mr. Dent I say…”yeah…right…apparently you’ve not been keeping up with your fellow Boomers spending habits…”  We may down-size some things like our home space (although many are actually up-sizing as they “retire in place” and make room for children and/or parents to move in w/them), but we are not down-sizing our willingness to spend for things that keep us feeling good about ourselves. From ultra-expensive “cosmeceuticals” to high-end vacations, our penchant for instant gratification and determination to halt the aging process will well make up for any “savings” we embrace in other areas. 

And please prove me wrong, my fellow Boomers, but once this econonic crisis passes, and our portfolios make a come-back, too many of us will go back to our old ways.  We will be the first generation to leave less for our children (inheritance) than we spent on ourselves.

But all is not lost, says she who has so far filled this post with a quite curmudgeonly “bad Boomers!” diatribe.

I always have faith in my generation, it is faith in ourselves that I fear we lack.  We still don’t recognize the enormous power (for good or ill) we wield (lost track of that once we moved from our youth to becoming “the man” in adulthood), and the immense changes for the better of which we are capable if we put our collective will to it.

If we make driving small, fuel efficient cars the thing to do, they will sell like pork-barrel projects in Washington!  If we make it a priority to hold our legislators accountable for their behavior, we will have far better government leadership.  As the current corporate leadership, if we move from an emphasis on gluttony to one of benevolent leadership (as we demanded of those in this same position in our youth), we will change the face of corporate America.

So, Boomers, as has been the case for the past 40 years, the proverbial ball is in our court.  Will we use our collective might to fix what’s wrong today, and leave a legacy perhaps not equal to but near that of our parents’, or will be continue to ignore our power and by doing so remain destructive?

You tell me.

 

7 Tips for Getting Your Boomer Mojo On!

Peace signThese are seven easy things we can do to reinvigorate our Boomerness – combining what made us great back in the day, with what makes us great now – for SUPERGREATNESS! (add the echo for full effect):

  1. We started the “caring about the environment” movement – and we are needed again.  We kinda got lost on this front, and have actually over the last 20 years lead the way for ultra-consumption and environmental carelessness just so we could feel  important/valuable (the 2-3 homes, the BMW, the power-boat, all the trappings of looking successful that are environmental killers..!).  So, to get going on this one, pick just one thing – make it a big one – to change from environmentally hazardous to “clean and green”.  By big, I mean trade that gas-guzzling car for one that gets at least 1/3 greater mileage (a standard “luxury” vehicle gets about 17 city/22 highway at best – a really fun to drive and surprisingly ample Honda Civic Coupe gets 30 city and anywhere from 35-45 highway depending on manual or automatic); trade that way too big vacation home for a much smaller but still lovely town-house or condo.
  2. We were the first generation to rebel against a “trumped up war” – and of course history has shown the Vietnam conflict to have been just that.  This step is not about war per se, but staying on top of what your elected officials are doing, why they’re doing it, and not letting them get away with bad behavior, poor decisions, and shoddy leadership simply because they can count on us not paying attention….or worse yet, not caring.  Get reconnected to your belief in what’s right, and hold accountable those who decide what happens in your life – START PAYING ATTENTION.
  3. Which leads to the obvious next step….VOTING….  We spent lots of time in our youth “dropping out” as a form of rebellion, and we’re still doing it…but in the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons.  It doesn’t work when it comes to electing those people who will vastly influence our lives for years to come.  Someone will be voted in – by not making your voice heard, someone else’s will be – it’s that simple.  So goofus down the street is choosing your Senator for you.  Not a pretty picture.  And if you need further convincing, the extreme closeness of so many elections literally shows that every single vote can make the difference between a win or loss.  OK, you hate all the candidates?  Another excuse – pick the lesser of to weevils – better a half-wit than Beelzebub.  P.S. – we’re being completely out Boomered by our kids…
  4. Back to “dropping out” – here’s where it is the right strategy, therefore tip #4.  The time to NOT do things for a huge impact is when you “vote with your wallet”!  Don’t buy from places that are known for poor human resource practices, for exploiting third world labor or natural resources (Chevron ravaging people’s farms without providing them compensation for their loss of income) without actually providing a benefit to that country or it’s people (very different from just paying “low wages” by US standards…), don’t buy from huge conglomerates when you have a local merchant struggling to survive, and don’t buy items that aren’t environmentally friendly (whenever possible).  Now that’s dropping out smartly!
  5. Contrary to popular belief from the Boomer myths swirling around, the extraordinary changes we created were not from our Pollyanna-like optimism.  In fact, it was from our pessimism and lack of faith in everything from “the man” to all the accepted institutions (like marriage, big business, and anything that required shoes…).  So, let’s use that pessimism that still lives within us!  Actually, now it’s more a healthy cynicism and an unwillingness to just believe everything we hear/see without getting all the facts behind it.  So that’s tip #5 – refuse to “do what you’re told” whether it’s by a doctor or the media.  Stay in charge of all you think, believe, and therefore act upon.
  6. We Boomers were famous for insisting people “tell it like it is!”  And we stopped doing just that.  We keep “should’ing all over ourselves and everyone else.  In fact, should shouldn’t be in the dictionary.  It’s a conditional verb, which begs the question, “conditional on what??”  Well, that’s the thing.  Conditional on whether you/they “will” or “won’t” – “can” or “can’t” – so, just say what you really mean!  When you say “should” you set everyone up for a lose-lose – your expectations are not clear, they can’t possibly live up to something that’s not well defined…and everyone’s unhappy.  When you stop should’ing, you at last know where you really stand – and you are much more powerful!
  7. Think “and/both” not “either/or”.  #6 notwithstanding, you will be much better able to find solutions to problems when you don’t back yourself into a fabricated corner.  You can have screwed up your new eating habits (notice I didn’t say the “d” word) and get back on it tomorrow.  Your spouse can be clueless about your favorite whatever and still love you immensely.  Bottom line, when you get in the habit of seeing all the options not just the ones in black and white, you’ll be oh so much happier – and accomplished.