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Health Care Cooperatives August 19, 2009

Are you a member of a cooperative of any sort? Here in our region of the Ozarks, our electricity is provided by a utility cooperative. This type of ‘member owned electric coop’ origniated back in the 1940s or thereabouts, with government backing to assist people in rural communities to get plugged-in to the grid. To help them ‘catch up’ modern-convenience-wise with those who resided in urban communities where women like my uptown grandma were using electic washing machines and vacuum cleaners, and listening to the radio while her country cousins were still hauling laundry to the creek, or boiling it over open fires in big tubs in the backyard.

And it wasn’t that the country folks didn’t want the electric service. The problem was that the for-profit electricity generation & delivery industry was unwilling to bite the bullet to install the infrastructure to deliver the product because the investment/payback ratio didn’t serve the company’s profit margins. Thus the government, by and thru a process of awarding grants and making very low interest loans, made the installation of the conductive infrastructure possible by and thru the enabling of (a lot of) ‘member owned electric cooperatives’ which, at inception at least, seemed to be a very good thing.

Today however, and I base this upcoming opinion on my own personal experience with our local energy cooperative of which I have been a member in good standing for 20 years, our ‘member owned cooperative’ is little more than a localized mouthpiece for mandating multi-national ‘for profit’ energy policy which seeks NOT to deliver the ‘highest quality product at the lowest possible cost’ (which is the overarching mandate of every cooperative enterprise), but panders directly to (you guessed it) the dollar-driven bottom line.

Which is not to dismiss the potential for cooperatives to be ‘good things’ or to diminish the significance of money… which itself at botton line is simply a representative form of ‘energy’ with which I may purchase creative professional service or product from you, limited only by the amount of money/energy I have to trade. A statement of fact which itself goes to the heart of the whole health care reform issue: That at those times when folks are most requiring a significant infusion of ‘energy’ from health care professionals, it is generally at the same time that their own storehouses of energy at a low ebb and/or they are impaired in their ability to generate more. 

Thus in terms of setting up health care cooperatives and in spite of the way our local electric cooperative now operates, the altruistic Pollyanna in me thinks that the system of egalitarian cooperation line-itemed for ‘cooperatives’ would be idyllic and sublime if applied to the health care paradigm. I as a member, by and thru payment of my dues, would be entitled to a certain range of health care services which would be purchased thru the cooperative at ‘the best possible’ price. My dues, combined with those of other members, could fund a full-time clinic and trauma center where members would be seen on an emergency, walk-in and appointment basis and either treated as outpatients or referred to a cooperative-owned hospital for specialist treatment and inpatient care — all the while knowing that there would be no gargantuan debt hanging over their heads when they were well enough to go back to work and hopefully pick-up life as at least no worse-off than they were before they got injured or sick.

Yet the real-world rational thinker portion of my intellect reasons that this would only work if the cooperative was unanimously nationalized, ie: the ONLY way for anyone to get health care and the only way for a doctor to practice medicine… because this is the only way to eliminate the ‘class structure’ which now regulates our health care system, wherein if one has sufficient of money one may purchase any manner of health care available in the world, but if one does not have monetary means the ‘for-profit death panel’ has already passed judgement. 

Frankly, if we are to behave like full-fledged members of the cooperative society we all deserve to share (and that religiously many of us profess supplication to the ‘do unto others’ tenets thereof), then we as individuals must (not insure, but) ensure by and thru our own independent actions that each person in every community is able to get excellent, expedient and appropriate health care all of the time.

Respectfully, it is our own congnitive comprehension of the ovararching objective that must change: We must be unwilling to settle for anything less than the finest of the best for everyone as this is the ONLY way to guarantee that we get equal treatment ourselves.