Hillary Clinton, donning Geisinger Health’s signature turquoise, visited Danville, Pa. yesterday to speak at the 2017 Geisinger Healthcare Symposium. Geisinger owns dozens of clinics and hospitals across the state, including Holy Spirit hospital, just a few miles from Messiah. The theme of this year’s symposium was “From Crisis to Cure: Revitalizing America’s Healthcare System.”
Clinton sat down with Geisinger president and CEO, David Feinberg, to talk universal healthcare, the successes and shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act and specifically solutions to the opioid crisis that’s teeming its way through Pennsylvania’s small towns.
The chances of dying from an opioid overdose is four times higher in Pennsylvania than it is in New York City. In the town of Danville, there was once 48 overdoses in the span of 24 hours. For a town with a population that’s only a little over 3,000, that’s a shocking number.
Clinton first remarked on the horror of a new statistic – opioids account for 90 deaths per day, which will soon surpass the strikingly high number of deaths due to gun violence per day in the United States. President Trump did declare the opioid crisis a ‘national emergency,’ but to Clinton, that isn’t enough.
“Clearly what we’re doing is not working . . . It’s disappointing to me that the new administration has only given rhetorical support. There’s no plan, there’s no money, there’s no leadership, so communities and health systems are pretty much left on their own,” Clinton said.
When asked what could be the solution, she realizes the importance of effective policy decisions, but said that problem-solving needs to start at the community level.
Clinton said, “We have to recognize that this is a symptom of a lot of personal and community disconnection. People are engaging in this use of opioids, and then moving onto heroin, because they are in despair, they are distraught, they are bored, they are unemployed – they don’t have any of those anchors anymore in their lives.”
Referencing Robert Putnam’s famous book ‘Bowling Alone’ she stressed that people are not feeling connected anymore, and that social media has only made it worse.
“[Social media] was sold as a way of connecting us to the world, but in effect, it is shrinking our world to our phones. And it is giving us a distorted view of reality because we are being forced to compare ourselves to people who themselves are lying about their lives, which then makes us feel terrible,” Clinton said.
She stressed that not only do we need to answer the question, ‘What do we do to give people something meaningful in their lives,’ but also that intervention is going to take collaboration between the medical field, the judicial field and law enforcement.
The opioid crisis is just one conversation that makes up the overall, ongoing debate over healthcare in this country. It’s a debate that can be just as heated as many other political issues today.
Clinton spoke to the “toxic and unhealthy” conversation regarding the Affordable Care Act and said she is most worried by the fact that the healthcare conversation seems to not be informed by reason or reality.
“I was shocked at the level of ignorance that was displayed by people advocating for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. There are a lot of things you could do to improve it, but to say you want to get rid of it and then not even be able to answer questions about what would come next, that was shocking to me,” Clinton said.
She believes the root of the problem with the healthcare debate, and many other issues, is that since it may not personally affect them, people are disconnected from the conversation.
“A democracy requires people to compromise. None of us are perfect, therefore, we all need to pool our wisdom and our best efforts to come up with the best way forward,” Clinton concluded.