When I was in college I had this car. Her name was Betsy. She was a 1985 Mustang hatchback…She was small, zippy, and I could fit everything I owned into her, a prized feature for someone living a nomadic student life.
She was also unreliable. She got terrible gas mileage, always leaked oil, and from time to time the alternator would go bad. I got really good at what I called the “work-around.” I carried extra oil, jumper cables, and other odds and ends to keep her limping along. I realized that she wasn’t an ideal car, but I was fond of her, and best of all, she was PAID FOR. For several years it seemed worth it to manage all of her flaws and inconveniences.
But she got older, more unreliable, and at the same time, MY WORLD CHANGED. I had a baby who didn’t need to be in a hot car while I was broke down at some intersection. I became a professional that was expected to arrive at places on time. Gas got more expensive. It became clear to me that poor old Betsy could no longer meet my needs. The workarounds had become ridiculous inconveniences. And the costs of tweaks and repairs had started to nickel and dime me to death. Each cost, on its own seemed much less than paying for a new car, but the overall balance sheet was starting to add up. Pretty soon it was evident that paying for a better car was cheaper than maintaining the one I already had. Eventually…I got a Camry.
The healthcare system these days reminds me of driving my dear old Betsy. It was a system originally designed for a different time and a different world. Minor inconveniences have escalated into significant break-downs. The costs of keeping our old system are rapidly out-sizing the costs of innovating a new one.
Sometimes nostalgia and sticker-shock cause us to hesitate, and to put off badly needed up-grades. We try to fool ourselves into saying, “Hey, what we have right now isn’t perfect, but is it really worth it to invest in something new?”
Every morning I get behind the wheel of my Camry, start her up without any fuss, and drive my family to work and school without incident.
If I could feel this same peace of mind, experience this same reliability in healthcare, the cost of upgrading would be worth it to me.