BOCES retiree tackles health care issues

Beverly Alves is technically “retired.” Yeah, right!

Beverly taught special education for nearly 30 years at the Herkimer County BOCES, retiring in 2004. But this is one active retiree! A member of the Herkimer County BOCES Teachers Association, Beverly is a frequent visitor to Albany, where she advocates for NYSUT issues as part of the union’s Committee of 100.

More recently, Beverly has turned her attention to Washington DC and to health care reform, where she speaks and writes about single-payer health care and palliative care.

It’s personal with Beverly. She lost her husband Joe, also a special ed teacher, to pancreatic cancer four years ago. During Joe’s illness, Beverly saw up close how palliative care — which provides coordinated, comprehensive treatment to comfort and support both patient and family — should be standard operating procedure in the health care field. Unfortunately, according to Beverly, it’s not.

The result, lawmakers are getting an earful. As she says, “chronically ill people just can not wait.”

Here are two short essays Beverly has shared.

Medicare for All: Universal Single Payer Health Care

by Beverly Alves

Universal single-payer health care is a not-for-profit health care system that would provide equality of medical opportunity for all people living in the United States. Equality of opportunity is the foundation of our American democracy. Under a single-payer system, all health care would be paid by one non-profit funding agency or mechanism. All necessary medical services and care would be provided, as Medicare does today, without the 20 percent co-pay.

At the time our Constitution was drafted, the only difference in medical treatment between those of wealth and those without, was that the wealthy slept on featherbeds, the poor slept on straw mats. At that time, medical treatment was the same for everyone. Today, health care coverage or individual wealth to purchase care is the difference between life and death. Health care is a basic human need. Getting this care is a basic human right.

Our Declaration of Independence was a call to liberate us from the tyranny and oppression of a ruling power that had no regard for the people they ruled. Now, more than two centuries later, we are again besieged by oppression and discrimination. The control of health care by private insurers, who decide who, when and what gets covered, is no less a serious threat to life and liberty than the despotism against which our Founders fought so fiercely. Just ask the 45,000 Americans who will die needlessly each year because of a lack of health care. Or ask their family members who must survive without them.

In addition to living up to our constitutional imperative for equality for all, single-payer health care would fulfill our sacred spiritual obligation as well. The Law of Reciprocity, better known as The Golden Rule, states “Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself.” This principle is the core belief of nearly every religion and ethical system in the world. People need to be reminded that to be spiritually whole, they are obliged to take care of their neighbor.

Although the Affordable Care Act, is a step to insure more people; it falls short of the goal for equality. ACA is a tiered system. It will not provide equal opportunity to health care access or care. In order to fulfill our national responsibility, to provide equal opportunity for all, we must ensure that all people in the US have access to equality quality healthcare.

Finally, to those people who do not understand these messages, we must ask, What would you do if someone you love, a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling or perhaps you yourself, were given a life threatening diagnosis and didn’t have health insurance? What would you do if it were you?

Palliative Care

by Beverly Alves

During our lifetime, many of us will face life-threatening or life-altering illnesses or injuries. Or, perhaps we will watch those we love face them. We need a system in place that can provide support, guidance and direction to those who are facing these challenges. This system is called palliative care.

Palliative care is a medical specialty that provides coordinated, comprehensive care to alleviate pain and suffering for anyone who is given a life-threatening or life-altering diagnosis. It is care to provide comfort and support for the patient and for the patient’s loved ones. Palliative care differs from hospice in that you are not required to have a six-month or less, prognosis, and curative treatment is allowed and provided.

In practice, palliative care would be the medical equivalent of an Individualized Education Plan. It could be considered an individual medical plan, for anyone with a serious or potentially serious medical diagnosis. Seriously ill patients need a plan to help them locate appropriate services, provide the best treatment options and help them transition to the most appropriate environment. Palliative care is routinely provided by a team that includes physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers and others who work together with a patient’s own doctor to provide an extra layer of support for the patient and for the patient’s loved ones. It helps people to navigate the system, as well as to find pain relief, comfort and cure if possible, right from the beginning. Although many health care institutions provide palliative care, it is still a relatively new specialty; it, therefore, might be necessary to ask for it.

In January 2009, palliative care was included as a covered benefit in the single payer bill, HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. The new health bill ironically titled, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act or (ACA), does not include it. Palliative care must be included in any bill that calls itself health care reform.

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have a universal healthcare system. On the basis of equality, we must demand that quality health care be available to us all. Critically, chronically ill people just can not wait.

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One Comment

  1. shirley estes December 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Just wanted to thank you for the story in the Leader Herold..I googled your name to see who you are..I also live in St J My daughter brought the article to my attention on facebook.. Since my sister passed away Oct 4th this year StJ Nursing home I have been wanting to publish her story…. so sad ..brain surgery at 85 years old etc suffering husband is still living and allowed it …We {People are so ignorit} to allow this . we need education on what to do or not do Palitive care is what I am talking about Any thank you for what you are doing

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