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HCD: Healthcare Collapse Disorder

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Headlined to H4 3/19/09

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Public discourse about the healthcare crisis is, as usual with our popular media, filtered and depth-gauged beyond absurdity. Here is a useful way of approaching the problem that offers real if somewhat annoyingly simple and easy solutions.

In an attempt to shape our character as The Leaders Of The Twenty First Century, we've been bathed in insect metaphors all our lives. Cautionary ant-and-grasshopper tales exhorted us to buckle down, and knuckle under, and put our noses to the grindstone. "Consider the humble honeybee!" they extolled. "Each individual doing her part without complaint, selflessly devoted to the good of the Hive!" and so on, ad nauseam.

Well, how's that working out? It turns out the hard-working ants are screwed. The Humble Bees have lost their way home. The health care and perpetual war industries have bankrupted us. Now what? Just grilling the CEO's. isn't going to cut it, they are the wrong people to ask. Better we should ask Dracula to run the blood bank. It's time to look farther afield for real answers. Let's ask a beekeeper.

Everybody by now has heard of the mysterious disappearance of honeybees. One of the new threats to bees is a new parasite to our shores. This is not an illegal alien metaphor I'm working on here. The mites invaded us from afar, but honeybees themselves are not native to America. Seems we're all immigrants. Anyway, Varroa Mites lay their eggs in baby bee cells and grow up with them, sucking their blood, weakening and sometimes killing the young workers. They double their population each cycle, timed to the Queen's reproductive rhythm. It's cradle-to-grave parasitism.

"Hey! This is just exactly like what healthcare and drug companies do, isn't it?" you may well ask. And yes, it is.

"But what can we, the Humble Bees, do? They've got our number. They bite us in our diapers, and embed themselves in our lives. We Need Them!" Really?


The catastrophic disappearance of bees is now known as "Hive Collapse Disorder", or "HCD". It's a disease named after the symptoms, which is what we do when we have no idea what we're dealing with, like "Economic Downturn".

"But what can we do," you repeat? A lot, as it turns out.

Smaller, forward-thinking beekeepers have stopped trying to utterly destroy each and every parasite, microbe and predator that plagues their hives. As with chemotherapy, the old idea was that the parasite can't take quite as much deadly poison as the host, so you dose the patient just short of death, and then hope they recover faster than the parasites. Instead, the new thinking in beekeeping is to "manage" them. Live with them in harmony. And then make their lives a living Hell!

(Remember, keep thinking in terms of the insurance-and-drug-infested healthcare industry...)

So instead of trying to squash every last bug with toxins, we've taken to keeping track of levels. Levels of infestation and infection as revealed by counting the number of mites, and the numbers of dead bees, that fall out of the hive over a given period.

And we've found all sorts of ways of preventing them from reaching hive-threatening levels. For instance, instead of dousing the whole thing with a shotgun blast of antibiotics and insecticides calculated to kill the mites before killing all the bees, we douse the bees with powdered sugar, which makes them slippery so the mites fall off. We open the bottom of the hive so they can't just hitch another ride, and we can count them. The bees like to lick the sugar off each other, too, which encourages grooming behavior, which also annoys the parasites. There are lots of other strategies, like "splitting" a hive, which throws off the parasites' reproductive cycle.And in the long run, we get stronger bees out of all this, and weaker parasites.

Returning to the healthcare situation, does this suggest anything?

Just to be clear, in this analogy insurance and health-management companies that situate themselves between us and our doctors and medicines are NOT the benevolent and devoted beekeepers protecting us from the evil Mites; they ARE the Mites. Just like these parasites, all of these corporate entities harvest our money, Honey, in synch with the rhythm of birth, aging and death that is our lot. They know exactly how many of us will get sick with exactly which nasty disease each year, and exactly how much money we make, and price their products and "services" to yield a nice profit without, it was assumed until now, bringing down the host organism.

The Humble Bees have begun to evolve methods and strategies to deal with parasitic mites. For instance, some bees bite off the mites' legs, so the mites can't hang on. If we implement "Pest Management" properly, this behavior is encouraged by Darwin's famous selection principle, because the bees that do this kind of thing tend to live longer and preserve stronger parasite-resistant genes.

So what are we humans doing about health care? So far we all seem to believe that the bloated middlemen - that is, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the rest of the parasites sucking our blood - are necessary, legitimate, providing a service! Hello!? They're sucking the life out of us! We need to wake up to the fact that these are parasites. We don't actually need them at all! Life without them will be much, much better.

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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay tuned...
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well said peter, in australia we have universal co... by amicus curiae on Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 9:54:55 AM
Love the bee analogy, but i would point out that i... by BajaWind on Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 1:07:17 PM