One of the most valuable outcomes of running this site has been the people that we’ve met via or as a result of it. I recall a distant time when the people surrounding me were mostly pathologically boring, ignorant of the fact and even less interested in changing it.
We certainly have no such “problem” afflicting us now. To prove that point, while in Mongolia last year Mark and I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman, Joe, a reader who came to our Meet Up in Ulaanbaatar. To say that Joe is merely interesting is an injustice of the highest order.
He made the trek to Mongolia all the way from the southern US. This was no small feat for Joe, who according to his own account is far closer to the “box” than most reality-TV-watching, lottery hopeful, 50-something bipeds. Regardless of his age, his intellect is certainly a pleasure to engage with.
Our favourite curmudgeon, as we call him, has spent much of his time on this rock as a real life “spook” in the heady days of the cold war. Kidnappings, murders, high stakes politics…these were discussion topics I was fortunate enough to have engaged him in long into the night. Topics he had personal knowledge and experience with, some of it much more “fun” than others.
He was also the project director of the Energy Committee and deputy director general of the Atlantic Council. In that capacity he co-authored a few books, including U.S. Energy Policy and U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1980’s, and Energy Supply and Use in Developing Countries. He is also a very talented fiction writer…a true renaissance man to this day!
Joe recently sent through the following story which I share with you (mostly) unedited…
Guys, a great story, one of my favorites, for you and your readers.
Israeli healthcare costs were always disproportionately high, first because it tends to be a socialistic society, but more importantly because the elderly cohort of the population is skewed, being both the largest and the fastest growing segment as Jews escaped the Eastern Europe and Russia bloc following the collapse of Soviet control. Care for the immobile elderly became increasingly costly, and the elderly just kept coming. Soon the country was running out of doctors, nurses, hospital rooms, and money, Something had to give.
What gave was the military. Every Sabra, every Israeli-born young man and woman, must train and serve in the military. Over the protests of the generals, alternative service was introduced. Young Sabra who did not feel like training in hand-to-hand combat, knife wielding and machine gunning could now train in para-geriatric care. They were assigned to care for the immobile aged, who were so far as possible relegated to their own homes or government-provided apartments.
Two years later Israel assessed its solution. Not good. The immobile aged could not identify with their caretakers — and vice versa — first because the caretakers were two or even three generations removed, but even more importantly the caretakers spoke only Hebrew, while the old diaspora folks spoke Russian, or German, or Yiddish, or Polish, or Hungarian, or anything but Hebrew. The young Sabra hated the work, and the high turnover kept the training costs high, employing more doctors and nurses longer than originally envisioned. The military was furious because they were losing bright, young, able-bodied Sabra to a social experiment that did nothing for the defense of the country. And worst of all, Israel found that the health of their elderly was deteriorating seriously.
So Israel put their best minds to work on developing a plan C. There appeared to be no Capitalist solution to the problem. There was simply no money to be made. The problem was not only lack of money, but in fact lack of all necessary resources: money, medical care, medical facilities, medications, hospital capacity, government-subsidized apartments, and government patience with the burgeoning problem. Still, Israel remained a magnet for the elderly. They arrived on its shores much faster than they left for a happier hunting ground.
Here’s what they did. They sent all the mobile elderly postcards asking them to show-up at neighborhood meetings on a date certain, and letting them know that their government support was dependent on their joyous participation. Having nothing better to do, curious as to this command performance, and not willing to risk their subventions, they showed. Smiling officials greeted them and congratulated them on their new “job”. They would be taking care of the immobile elderly. Doctors and nurses were present to begin their training, which would continue for eight weeks, every other day, with refresher courses every six months. All they had to do was work three hours a day every other day caring for someone in their neighborhood. And they would receive modest payments for their services, enough to help with the groceries.
The response of the assembled old Jews was the response of a people who had received centuries of news, mostly bad, and knew how to roll with the punches. They looked at each other and collectively shrugged, as if to say, it could have been worse.
And here’s what happened. Two years later Israel assessed plan C. The mobile aged actually found the training a challenge. Rather than working three hours a day every other day, they started working four or five, as they had nothing better to do, and suddenly found that even at their age they could be useful and needed. The health of the Immobile aged improved significantly, and unexpectedly, the health of the mobile aged improved right along with it. Costs plummeted. With healthier people, fewer caretakers quit, fewer professional trainers were needed even with the semi-annual refresher courses, and marriages blossomed among the elderly, who were now interacting regularly, freeing up apartments for newcomers.
So, the lesson the folks who developed Plan C took away from all this was: We ended up with a capitalist solution after all. We didn’t see it at first because we defined “profit” too narrowly. But the return on investment has been most rewarding!
All good wishes.
Today great uproar ensues with any mention of “the healthcare crisis”. I know this since I constantly see useless podium doughnuts on the idiot box promising the impossible, while clueless media anchors gaze upon them without laughing in their faces. Maybe, possibly, probably, the anchors are pig-ignorant. Maybe, almost certainly, the podium doughnuts have psychological disorders which forever cement their existence in politics…until they are lynched anyway, which I fear will not be soon enough.
While I’m against the state forcing anything on anyone, including looking after fellow citizens, the hard facts of the matter are that much of the western world faces a HUGE problem in this regard. Broke, nearing the end of the road on which the can has been kicked down, all manner of solutions will be put forth. The above mentioned solution which Joe shared certainly qualifies as worthy of consideration for those who are actually looking to solve some of the related problems.
What are the odds that most will care to look at what has worked? To care to look to history to find clues? To really try to solve the problem? Slim to none I’m afraid.
Votes need gettin’ and sheeple need shearing. Instead we gallop on and on towards the inevitable.
“You end up as you deserve. In old age you must put up with the face, the friends, the health, and the children you have earned.” – Judith Viorst