As a child, I was attracted to anything that dealt with medicine. Many stories featured Johns Hopkins Hospital, and eventually I was privileged to spend 36 years at Johns Hopkins working with brilliant and caring colleagues who dedicated their lives to the art and science of healing. After a storybook career that included thousands of operations and many sleepless nights, I looked forward to retirement, thinking it would be relaxing. However, I now find myself deeply immersed in trying to heal the health care environment because if you cure the organism and put it back into a sick environment, you really have not accomplished very much.
Recently, I was giving a speech in Sikeston, Mo., where I had the opportunity to be reacquainted with a 21-year-old man named T.J. He seems today like a pretty regular 20-something. However, T.J. has lived anything but a regular life.
At 9 months of age, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. His mother was told not to expect him to see his second birthday. After 17 surgeries – seven of which I performed – T.J. was finally out of the woods. It was quite an experience to get to see him and his dedicated family again.
I share this story to help explain why I have decided to become chairman of the Save Our Healthcare Project, which was organized by a group called the American Legacy PAC. Our mission is to lead a national citizens’ effort to hold Washington accountable, re-center the health care debate around doctors and patients, and begin replacing Obamacare with patient-centered reforms that will allow every American access to the best, most affordable care in the world. If you would like to join us, please visit SaveOurHealthcare.org.
I believe a nationwide effort such as this is vital. As much as I have been privileged to treat people such as T.J., I am but one person – and both the problems and the solutions to our health care woes are bigger than any one person. As we move forward, we will underscore two points.
First, the underlying and unfixable flaw of Obamacare is that it puts its trust in a centralized bureaucracy instead of free individuals. Second, repealing Obamacare is not an end in itself. We must provide the country with a new and better direction.
From my experience, I know that nothing is more personal than health care. I steadfastly believe that no centralized bureaucracy and no politician should ever get in the way of decisions best made by patients, families and doctors.
While we have strong ties that bind us all together, we are a nation of individuals, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Each of us has our own needs, and our elected officials must recognize that top-down cookie-cutter solutions will not work. If such solutions will not work, we must offer ones that will. Every day that the American people are unaware of alternative ideas is a day that Obamacare’s roots grow deeper and more permanent.
Those of us who think we can do better than Obamacare cannot hope to win national elections, let alone win a massive policy fight, if we don’t first win the argument. The argument about the right path forward for the American health care system is a big argument to win. This is a massive undertaking, and it will be tough. But when I look into the eyes of someone such as T.J. in Missouri, I know there are much tougher things to confront in this world.
I also know that if we have courage, then there is hope for a better future.
• Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.