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Walk for Healthcare FAQs

Walk for Healthcare FAQs

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Published by ogangurel

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Published by: ogangurel on Jul 02, 2009
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The Walk For Healthcarehttp://walk4healthcare.org
Ogan Gurel, MD
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you have decided to devote a month of your life to this.
Well, I’m trained as a doctor (got my MD from Columbia in New York City) andcompleted surgical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Sincethen I’ve worked in a wide variety of roles including scientific research andinternational medical relief work. I’ve been a CEO of a small, publicly-tradedmedical device company. I’ve been a healthcare consultant to pharmaceuticalfirms, hospitals, healthcare insurance companies and health systems. I’vedone a fair bit of work in the media including writing about healthcare issues,a columnist for various internet newsletters and a host for several internet TVshows. I’ve also been a patient — both insured and uninsured. So, in short,I’ve been, as they say, “around the block” seeing all possible sides of healthcare. The goal in doing this walk, which you’ve noted will take a month, is toemphasize the collective effort we need to move forward real change—changefor everybody. This is about healthcare for all. We have many problems athand: a financial crisis, rising unemployment, collapsing industries. Beyondthe human rights issues involved, healthcare reform is a necessarycomponent to fixing these very significant economic and societal problems.Without healthcare reform, these problems will remain problems. What Imean to say is that healthcare for all is essential for maintaining our economicstrength through healthy workers, facilitating labor mobility and innovation byuntying healthcare insurance from employment status, reducing cost byeliminating wasteful administrative overhead that results from essentiallymonopolistic, for-profit private insurance. Progress in American is not possiblewithout a solution to the healthcare problem.Lastly, the
Walk For Healthcare
is especially important because it is not justa symbol but at each of the many towns and cities we stop by, we will behearing, sharing, and documenting the healthcare stories of real people.What is clearly happening now is that healthcare industry lobbyists andspecial interest groups are pushing the debate. Of course, nearly alllegislators have good intentions at heart, but the pressure by certain self-interested, and, yes, selfish, groups is relentless, focused (by definition),powerful. The voice of the people, the people that really matter, has beenlargely silent. Of course, most polls indicate that the majority of Americanswant some form of universal healthcare and certainly the supermajority wantchange. But in the face of powerful interests, polls can essentially be ignoredand swept away by enough money and influence. Polls are powerful but in theend they are faceless statistics. The
Walk For Healthcare
aims to bring aface, and real stories, to the forefront of this debate: where it belongs.
Why a walk for healthcare?
Basically, healthcare reform is the most important legislative initiative of ourgeneration. Perhaps the greatest challenge since the civil rights era. AsAbraham Lincoln once said, in a time that was full of great challenge andsocial division, “we must think anew and act anew.” Those who will make the final decisions on all this must realize that our lack of healthcare causes great individual hardship and suffering (which this Walk
 pg 1 of 4
aims to explore). Most of these leaders do not, and perhaps never have, dealtwith a lack of health insurance, a lack of healthcare, and the life and deathissues it raises. Of course, they talk to their constituents and are sympathetic.But sympathy is different from empathy, real feeling and it is a deeper feelingand understanding that leads to the right decisions.Lack of healthcare also makes our nation fall short of the greatness itrepresents and deserves. America is a great and unique country. But when asignificant number of its citizens literally die for lack of basic healthcare, thisis not great. Robert Kennedy once said something to the effect of “sometimesthe sharpest criticism comes from the most patriotric.” There is so muchgreat healthcare and medicine in America. World-class and in many casesworld-leading. So, it makes all this inequity even more troubling andunacceptable. Having seen all angles of our healthcare system I can say that Ihave a certain experience that substantiates my criticism. Though obviously Iam not alone in this. And this criticism is all about making America an evenbetter place for its citizens. Here are the specifics. Lack of healthcare makesAmerica less great, less powerful from an economic perspective. We becomeless competitive (witness GM being crushed by its healthcare costs). Ourlabor market is less flexible (because healthcare is tied to jobs). People fallshort of their potential because either they are not healthy or they choose jobs largely because of the imperative of keeping some healthcare insurance.And, of course, we are greater as a nation when basic human rights areupheld. This last point even has implications for our standing in theinternational community, our foreign policy, as we must certainly uphold theAmerican values which we often seek to represent to the wider world.
What would health care for all look like?
First of all, the
Walk For Healthcare
is not about any particular policies or topromote specific legislation. This is not a political walk. It is about bringing toa wider consciousness the voice of the people. In fact, healthcare, at its core,is not, and should not be, a political football.Now, everyone in America expects a common commitment to nationaldefense, public highways, and public education. Mind you, with each of these,the public investment in defense, highways, and education doesn’t mean thatwar will never happen or that soldiers will never die. Or, for that matter, thatthere’ll never be any traffic jams or every child eventually gets a graduatedegree. But with all of these—public highways, public education—it iscompletely understood that there are certain basic opportunities and benefitsavailable for everyone. The same should be, must be, with healthcare. Andnote that just as public education doesn’t make us a communist country, noneof these guarantees—guarantees of certain basic benefits—compromises oursystem of capitalism, free competition and innovation. In fact, it helps this.
How many miles is the entire walk and how many miles will you walk a day?
About 700 miles. It’ll be about twenty miles in Illinois, approximately 190 inIndiana, 230 in Ohio, six in West Virginia, 190 or so in Pennsylvania and about75 in Maryland. We’ll be walking 25 miles a day with a plan for 10 miles a daysplit into two five hour blocks. Of course, there’ll be flexibility around this aswe accommodate plans to meet people, join rallies, meet the media and soforth. But that’s the basic plan. 700 miles in one month.
 pg 2 of 4
Why are you choosing to walk?
 There are several reasons for a walk. First, while not common (rememberone must think anew and act anew”), there is precedent. In August of 2001,Pat Quinn (now Governor of Illinois) and his physician Dr. Quentin Young hiked167 miles around Illinois to promote healthcare for everyone. So, we haveprevious inspiration to build upon. Our walk will be a little different becausenow we can leverage social media technology (Facebook and Twitter, inparticular) to magnify and document the message.Now with walking in particular, you maximize the opportunity to meet people. This is less possible with driving and certainly impossible (except for yourseatmate, perhaps) when flying. Obviously walking is one of the best thingsto promote a healthy lifestyle. Healthcare is not just about receiving medicalbenefits but is really a whole package of lifestyle, prevention, and of coursemedical care.It’s important to note that the Walk will be along the Lincoln Highway (with theexception of the last segment in Maryland). The Lincoln Highway was the firsttranscontinental highway which was initially developed as a patchwork of private roads but, is now, of course, federalized. In fact, as you may know,the Eisenhower Interstate system was largely initiated during the height of theCold War when anything even remotely smelling of socialism or communismwould be frowned upon (or even worse thrown in jail). Nobody thought thatthe public interstate system was communist. In fact, it was key to winning theCold War. An efficient, fully available public highway system made us astronger nation. So, it’s a public good and the American people long agodecided that there should be good transportation for all. That must be thecase with healthcare.Let me say one more thing. Just like the interstate has made us freer. What ismore American, what is more emblematic of freedom than the Great AmericanRoadtrip? Healthcare for All will make us freer—as a nation and as individuals.
Do you think anyone will notice given our national obsession with cars, driving andtollways and speed?
Good question. The world moves very quickly. Even though healthcarereform is essential and must happen now, we actually need to stop, slow downand listen to people. This Walk will hopefully help to bring the eye on the realball. The concerns and fate of regular people.
As an M.D., what advice to you expect to give the people you meet along the way who arestruggling with physical pain, lack of insurance coverage and limited access to medicalprofessionals?
Quite frankly, as an MD, there’s not much I can do. It is very frustrating. It’sactually one reason I left clinical medicine. Its great to take care of individualpatients; there is, in a way, nothing more special than that but I wanted to dothings on the business and investment side and contribute to wider change.But to answer your question as best I can, the advice would be to encourage ahealthy lifestyle and get involved now in pushing for healthcare reform.Speak up and let your voice be heard. Help each other in small ways becausethat is what you are doing when healthcare finally becomes appreciated andunderstood as a public good.
 pg 3 of 4

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