It should get people talking ...
- The 135-year-old hospital does things differently than the rest of the U. S. healthcare industry
- This documentary might reframe the national conversation about healthcare, which is the #1 issue for American voters in the mid-term elections.
- The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science airs Tuesday, September 25 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.
The miracle in a cornfield
Ever since The Civil War, the iconic nine-part documentary series that featured such greats as Southern historian Shelby Foote, filmmaker Ken Burns has made deep dives into such topics as Baseball, the Vietnam War, jazz music, and more.
Now, he's taking on something that is often referenced but not deeply understood: The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. While healthcare itself is the number one issue for voters in the upcoming mid-term elections, for staff at Mayo, it's what they do, and they do it for free for all people who enter the doors.
Sometimes called "the miracle in a cornfield," and also known as the place for hope when there is no hope, the hospital treats up to 14,000 patients on a given day.
Those patients include the Dalai Lama and John McCain.
"Like none other."
Burns himself was a patient there at one time; he refers to his experience there as like none other in the healthcare field. Primarily, he says that he felt like the patient was the center of the treatment, not doctors. "I began to get curious about why this was so different from any other health care experience I'd had," he said.
"We were making a film about the history the Mayo Clinic, but realized that in their story and in their example might be a way for us all to re-enter a conversation about the essential question: What do we owe each other in terms of taking care of each other?" he said.
The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science
One of the principles that makes the Mayo clinic a shining star is its treatment; the facility can diagnose and treat within days like nobody else can. It primarily accomplishes this because of its patient-centered, collaborative atmosphere that attracts the brightest and the best from around the world to its 135-year-old institution.
Indeed, the Mayo Clinic was founded—by W. W. Mayo and his sons Will and Charlie—on the idea that doctors, staff and patients needed to work together as a team, not isolated, and they must share knowledge and techniques freely. To this day, doctors aren't rewarded by patients seen and bottom lines elucidated by health insurance companies and HMOs; rather, they receive a salary, with the understanding that they will work together for the common patient good.
Burns concluded in a recent interview, "All of us are super-curious about our health. But focusing on a place that deals with it super-well, it reminds you that maybe we've ceded the health care debate to those who don't know a damn thing about it, and that's politicians on both sides."
The documentary airs Tuesday, September 26 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.
(Did you miss it? You're in luck. Watch it on the PBS website.)
Ban Ki-moon recently criticized the state of the U.S. healthcare system as part of his work with The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.
- Ki-moon served as secretary general for the United Nations from 2007 to the end of 2016.
- He said special interests are blocking the American government from pursuing universal healthcare.
- 30 million Americans are not covered by insurance. A 2018 poll shows that more than half of Americans would support a single-payer healthcare plan.
The U.S. healthcare system is politically and morally wrong, according to former United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Ban criticized the state of U.S. healthcare as part of his work with The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela whose work focuses in part on advocating for universal healthcare across the world. He urged American leaders to deliver fully funded healthcare as a "human right".
"It's not easy to understand why such a country like the United States, the most resourceful and richest country in the world, does not introduce universal health coverage," said Ban. "Nobody would understand why almost 30 million people are not covered by insurance."
Ban, a South Korean politician who served 10 years as the eighth secretary general of the U.N. until 2017, has been a vocal proponent of other progressive causes like climate change and LGBTQ rights.
"While swearing in as secretary general, I pledged I would make this world better for all," he said. "Nobody would imagine that there should be so many people – 30 million people – who would be left behind" in the U.S.
A snapshot of the U.S. healthcare system
The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world, even though, as Ban mentioned, some 12.2% percent of American adults lacked health insurance at the end of 2017, up from 10.9% at the close of 2016. According to 2016 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:
- The U.S. spent $3.3 trillion, or $10,348 per person, on healthcare.
- Healthcare spending accounts for about 18% of U.S. GDP.
- Americans spent about $1.1 trillion on private health insurance and $328.6 billion on retail prescription drugs.
Corporate interests inhibit quality of life in America
Ban told The Guardian that the sectoral interests of pharmaceutical companies and hospitals "inhibit the American government" and prevent it from working toward universal health coverage.
"Here, the political interest groups are so, so powerful... Even president, Congress, senators and representatives of the House, they cannot do much so they are easily influenced by these special interest groups," adding that he hopes some progressive states pave the way for publicly financed healthcare.
"It will be either California or New York who will introduce this system," he said. "Then I think there will be many more states who will try to follow suit. I think that's an encouraging phenomenon we see."
Do Americans want single-payer healthcare?
In recent years, there have been growing calls from the left and from some progressive politicians to implement Medicare For All, a single-payer plan that would guarantee health insurance and necessary healthcare to all Americans. And while most Democratic lawmakers have shown mixed feelings about pursuing a single-payer plan, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll from February showed that 51 percent of Americans would support a single-payer plan.
However, passing such legislation remains virtually impossible as long as both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans, many of whom not only oppose Medicare For All outright but also have tried to chip away at the less expansive Affordable Care Act.