The rising cost of healthcare

Two days ago, I had unusually exerted myself physically about the evening. And at night when I went to sleep I noticed some difficulty with breathing and my throat was congested also. It progressively got worse and worse and my breathing became increasingly difficult. Well past midnight, I noticed that my left arm started to become numb and I had immense thirst. I panicked. I was alone at home. Fearing that I was going to get a heart attack, I somehow managed to get into the hospital that was ‘only’  300 meters away.

I asked for a glass of water and they quickly gave me it.  They attached a small clip-like device to my finger (for checking the oxygen saturation in my blood), checked my BP, and immediately they did an EKG.  Oops.  It came out completely normal. Sinus Rhythm. I had also 99% oxygen saturation.  It was something more related to my gastrointestinal system than my heart.  The doctor, a lady, on duty offered to give me an injection for that.  I refused it (Pantoprazole). The next thing she told me is that I can go back home.  So about 3’O clock in the morning, I started to walk back the short distance from the hospital to the place I live in. I went to work that day.

In early days, though people had a more healthier lifestyle, they used to contract with all sorts of diseases. I am not talking about the very-early-times when plague, leprosy, and TB killed a very large number of people all over the world:  In those days, even the demography of a country was changed by the outbreak of a disease like plague. But, I am taking about a period-of-time that was as recent as twenty or thirty years ago.

In those days also, when someone was contracted with an illness he used to get admitted in a hospital. A laboratory was attached to the hospital.  There was an operation theater also. Like now, some doctors were even trained in the UK and US. But the treatment was not at all expensive. Unless one had to perform a cardiac bypass or a kidney transplant, which they had to do in a big hospital, preferably outside the state, treatment costs were under the realm of common man.

But a lot of things have changed.  Drug prices were gradually decontrolled. Surgeries and procedures that were only done in big hospitals, in big cities, started to be done in an average hospital. Hi-tech diagnostic tests have become commonplace. The aftermath: the high cost of healthcare.

Earlier, to visualize the structures inside the human body an x-ray was the one thing what the doctor needed. Currently, we have CT and MRI scans. Ultrasound scanning which was unheard of before has become routine (since it is comparatively cheaper to CT and MRI). CT or MRI essentially serves the purpose of an x-ray machine.  But with much clarity (resolution).  And the price: cost.  Generally, the clearer the type of scan, the more money the patient has to pay.

Also, people’s changed lifestyle may have contributed to the newer diseases people are getting.  I use a Teflon-coated non-stick pan in my kitchen. In my childhood we did not have Teflon. Nobody had.  What is Teflon? Well — some kind of plastic. Is it safe? After its invention it has been ‘tested’ and found to be safe.  How safe? Nobody knows.  What if Teflon causes some kind of cancer or other ailments? Just because no case has been definitely linked with Teflon-coated-utensil-use with some kind of malady, it does not mean that it is 100% safe. Metals we use to cook food like iron and copper were here for billions of years.  Teflon was invented in the last century.

Teflon, and beverages like Coke, and the preservatives we use on processed food are only recent phenomenon. Certain preservatives and certain ingredients of carbonated-bottled-sugary-water like Coke are alleged to be carcinogens.

Even though we lead a more healthy lifestyle, sooner or later we may get admitted to a hospital for a reason that sometimes be not our fault; like a motor-vehicle-accident or a natural catastrophe. If we need expert treatment (read expensive) there has to be a way to pay these bills. That is where medical insurance comes to our help.  Developed countries have a  healthcare system that is almost fully supported by the insurance companies. Treatment costs are not borne by the individuals.

Following suit, I suppose India is also getting world-class doctors and world-class treatment facilities.  So healthcare is going to get even more expensive. I am planning to take healthcare insurance for myself.  And I do it before I buy my next smartphone.

Is charismatism good or bad?

Charisma or the ability to attract people, charm, suaveness, whatever —  is hailed as one of the desirable traits.  It is no wonder that the then-new, now-old, evangelical movement in the Kerala Syro-Malabar Roman Catholic church was called by the name ‘charismatic movement’ or simply ‘charismatism.’

It was the late 1980s, and Kerala Tourism had not officially coined the tagline “God’s Own Country” but the general socioeconomic conditions were quite close to that.  The state had its own television broadcasting station that was less than five years old, thus the culture and civilization were unaffected by the corrupting western influence. (Although that is debatable.) Due to the centuries-old Christian-missionary influence the state had very high literacy levels, high healthcare and low infant mortality rates on par with developed nations.  The standard of living was high.  And the Roman Catholics here (which consisted of the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Latin rites) lived a pious life.

Along with other changes on the macro-level, a movement called “Charismatic movement” or Charismatism started to grow its roots in Kerala.  I am a practicing Christian, a Roman Catholic from the state who would like to chronicle the timeline like this.

At first a lot of people were skeptical about going to charismatic conventions but a lot were enthusiastic also.  The major factor that attracted the believers was the miraculous healing that took place on those convention sites.  People who had chronic illnesses testified of becoming healed.  The mechanism was like this.  We would hear a lot of in-person testimonies on stage.  If your illness is cured you are also supposed to come on to the stage and testify it before other people.  There was the news of a lot of healing, big and small, but no dead man ever came to life again.

Another news that spread during those initial days was that big businessmen, catholic businessmen, were the biggest sponsors of those conventions spending mind boggling amounts of cash.  What faith, and what a benevolence – it started to feel something like that during those days.

Now, I say something like this.  A businessman wants to make a profit.  If something is beneficial to him he spends money (or invests – in their parlance ) for it.

Then came one-on-one contacts.  One nun told me, “You are from a good family. You are a privileged person.  It is considered something fortunate”.

Now I know.  It is pride. One who obeys the law, the scriptures, is considered even more fortunate.

Another nun told me.  Everyone should come to this ashram and pray. After sometime this ashram will become a big house of prayer.  It shall become world-famous”.

What was that again? Ambition? That too in the Holy Catholic church?

Also people got ‘counseling’ in those initial days.  (Still gets from a qualified counselor.) People used to tell-all to an unskilled counselor only to let that person slip their secrets to someone else.

I once met our teacher, a Catholic priest, on the bus during my journey to another town which is 30 minutes away.  He was embarrassed, at least tried to conceal his embarrassment in his words.  He went something like this, “Some say there is a lot of virtuousness in these conventions.  Let me go and see.”  I saw him a few years ago.  Incidentally, he is the headmaster of the school.

Things changed very rapidly from those days.  Television broadcasting station with one-or-two channels (one-local and one-national) made way to Cable TV with multiple foreign channels, and now DTH services.  Internet and Windows PCs became ubiquitous.  Ladies dress’ changed.  Jeans and cotton-top clad ladies riding the scooter and driving the car became the norm rather than the exception.

People became more ambitious.  The charismatic movement and charismatism had its inroads to every facet of Catholic life in the state.  But after all these years, the church looks something different now.  Evangelists and believers both alike became business-minded rather than holy-minded.  It looks something more similar to Evangelical Protestantism than Catholicism.

As William James, the father of modern American philosophy puts it – you can’t have two opposites at the same time.  As Jesus puts it, you can’t have two masters at the same time.  A businessman wants to amass money, a saint wants to give ‘em all.

It is said that Judas Iscariot knew that Jesus was son of God.  “But why should I forgo 30 talents of silver? Jesus will save himself.  He has done it many times over.”

As Jesus said, if salt loses its saltiness it becomes worthless, only to be thrown outside and trampled under the feet of men.

We shall pray, Jesus saves the world.  Jesus saves the Holy Catholic Church.  Amen.

Slandering should be charged with first-degree murder

Man is unique from other animals that we need other people’s help for our very existence.  Take the case of a motorist.  His life depends not only on how well he can drive, but also on the disposition of the other drivers on the road.  If another driver is inebriated or “intexticated”, no matter how well he can drive, his life is in danger.  That is where the law and law-enforcement comes into play.  If we suspect that somebody is driving under the influence of alcohol, or without a proper license, or while texting on his mobile phone, we can call the nearby police station and pass the information on.  The driver will be arrested and hopefully will be taken off the road.  This is theory.

In practice, every time someone lurks on the border of impropriety; we might not be able to do something about it.  Even law or law enforcement has its limitations.  The offense has to be cognizable.  For non-cognizable offenses, it has to be proven in the court that someone has wronged against the society.  There are always criminal lawyers. There is always the benefit of doubt.

Since man is interdependent for his daily living, even wrongs committed in the dark, in complete privacy, even in our own thoughts are against everyone else in the society.  Because, thoughts are manifested as actions. In the opposite, every benevolent thought is good.  We do what we think. Every prayer is answered.

If every prayer and words-of-encouragement is answered, slander has the opposite effect.  It is murder on the realm of belief.  People who slanders are playing with the belief system of other people.  Only evil people do that.  And there are evil people in this world.  If they say that you are bad, that you have done something that you have not done; they are slandering.  They are committing murder on your image.  They are attempting to kill you in the society you live in.  Because man has a tendency to believe what he hear. Unfortunately, there isn’t any law against it.  I am not talking about infamous news in the newspaper.  I am not talking about false accusations in the media.  You can move court and file a libel suit in such cases.  But what about the slander spread in your society by people with certain vested interests?

How to tackle slander then?  By its inverse.  By prayer. By praying, and asking other people to pray for you.  Even people who slanders takes food everyday.  It is a virtue in its own right.  So these people are not all that bad.  Slandering should be dealt with charges of first-degree murder.  Until that day comes, let us pray that, “God they do not know what they are doing.  Please forgive them.”


True lies

A doctor was giving testimony in a court. A lawyer was examining him.

The lawyer asked, “ What did the patient tell you when you decided that it was you who was going to do the autopsy”?

—  What?”

For the second  question the doctor at least had a reply.

“ How did you know that this patient had died?”

“Because I had his brain put in a jar, in a solution, and kept before me in my table”.

Lawyers’ questions can be ridiculous at times,  and the court patiently goes through the procedure of scrutinizing  facts and figures in the quest of finding the truth.

We live in a world where information is readily available.  News is spread faster than wildfire. But how much of what is being popularized  is really true is debatable.  It is not a matter of contention that Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a man on January 30 , 1948. It is widely reported that Gandhiji had said “Hey Ram” as his final words.  How?  Because the people who were standing closer to Gandhi reported it. What if Gandhi had said something else and these people were not able to truly construe it at that time? What if they just thought that Gandhi had said “Hey Ram” as his final words? What if Gandhi did not say anything ?  What the media reported that day we still believe as true.

A few years back, I was reading the news of the death of a Kerala businessman’s young son in a car accident.  The young son and his cousin was driving a car about 3 ‘o clock in the morning when he lost control of the vehicle and it capsized. The cousin who survived the accident had told the media,  “We were going really slow”.

Nonsense. For me, the cousin was lying blatantly. The accident was caused by a car that had lost control and capsized.  What was the reason? Speed, obviously.

The world’s 99% of the wealth is concentrated on 1% of the people. Even news are paid now.  To sell their ideas and wares these businessmen manipulate everything.  News, events, people, even our own brains. Beware!

The automated life

Tasker is an android app which makes your mobile phone super-customizable.  It can tweak and automate your phone to the next level.  Like turning off the ringer at night.  Or turning on the wifi as soon as you reach home.  Or even simple as starting the music player as soon as you plug in the headphones.  It is a paid app, but you can find the free substitutes; in either case just go to Google Play Store and search and download it.

Remember the Milk (RTM) is an incredibly popular website for to-do lists.  Anyone can create an account for free and use it as their daily to-do list.  From buying the milk and calling your parents to simple task management, the website helps to remember them all.  It has got a smartphone app also.

But what about people who doesn’t like keeping their lists on the internet or are not interested in using a smartphone? The good old paper lists would come in handy.  Just write down the things we need to remember and keep it in your pocket.  The best method is to always keep a list, and update it as soon as you find that something is needed to be added.  Like buying milk or sending an important letter.

Personally I do not find that smartphones or internet-enabled technology makes lives any better.  Plugging in the headphones might launch the music app.  But what music does it play? Hear the same music everyday?

Rather than the smartphone do it for me, I would rather select my music from the list.

In the first place I would plug in the headphones, launch the music app by just one-or- two taps; and then select the music I wish.  Why bother to download an app just to save two taps on the touchscreen?

Two classmates

It was late morning, certainly not noon, and Kuchela who was comfortably seated in his reading chair in the porch of his house and casually browsing through the newspapers saw his old friend and classmate Krishna coming to his house.  On a frenzy, he yelled to his wife who was inside of the house.


Fearing for his life, his wife came running about.

“WHO is coming?”


“Who is Krishna?” His wife asked.

“We studied together in school.  I did not have any money then.  He was very rich, and he used to help me.  But afterward, his business has failed.  He has a lot of debt, and all of his 16,108 dames are gone now.”

Kuchela added,

“Please do one thing.  You remove your ornaments and put it aside.  Move the big 42’’ TV and put it in the back room.  And change your clothes to something old and frayed.”

Kuchela’s wife did exactly as her husband told her.

Within a few moments Krishna appeared in front of his house.

Without even waiting for Krishna to enter, Kuchela went off.

“Krishna, I still remember the good ol’ days when we studied together.  But, things are very different now.  I do not have a regular job, nor we do not have any means of livelihood.  We just subsist like this. I would like to help you, but I can’t.  Sorry.”

Krishna did not say anything.  He just smiled at Kuchela and went back.

Where have the standards gone?

Times are changing.  Calculators are ensuring that children are less adept at math, and the Internet and search engines like Google are ensuring that we need not remember anything.  Also, learning by-heart is being shunned from the curriculum and newer techniques in education are being implemented with.

Are these enough reasons for the drop in standards in every profession we see?  Let me explain.  I am not a doctor, I am not a hardware engineer, and I am not at all a software coder.  I do not earn a living by my expertise in the above-mentioned fields.  So, when I need the help of a doctor; I go a doctor.  Also, I go to other people like a computer hardware specialist.

When a person I had known wanted to quit smoking 10-15 years ago, Zyban, the smoking-cessation pill, was being introduced in the U.S.  So, he went to a doctor to know about this medicine.  Zyban was available as a generic drug in India, but the doctor whom he had gone to did not have any clue about how to use it.  The person had known from the Internet that he had to use the medicine for about one-or-two-weeks along with his smoking, then quit “cold turkey”; and then continue to take the medicine for about two months afterward.  The doctor was not knowledgeable about it.

When we need to install a new hardware we go a hardware engineer.  He is also proficient in the work he does on a daily basis.  But when he encounters some new hardware, and when we ask him about it he is left in the lurch.  Sometimes it is futile even to ask him, because we will be left tutoring him rather than the other way around!!

We all work in different avenues.  It is time we rethink on our role of creating value in the workplace.  We all need to keep ourselves updated on our area of expertise.  Above of all, we need to figure out the scope of our work.  Like, what does our employer or customer really needs from us?  In what ways we can lessen their problems?  In what ways we can increase their level of satisfaction?  In order to achieve that, what do we need to do and learn? This should be a continuous process so that other people are satisfied with our level of competence.  It is the art and science of professionalism.