In our farming community of about 500 people, my father was never "Mr. Edwards." To everyone, including the doctor, he was "Guy." Doc Hansen was a friend. People knew each other, and cared.

My father was also a healer, not from any technical training, but it was just the way he was. When someone was hurting, sometimes they wanted Guy. Caring is the beginning of healing, and it's free.

It was 1945, and I was 14 years old. One evening I caught a finger in a machine, and it was badly chopped up. My brother called the doctor, and went after my father, at home a mile away, and we met at the doctor's tiny office.

With no anesthetic, it didn't hurt much as Doc put the finger together, shorter by one less bone. He did so well that the finger works as well as ever, even now as I type d, c, and e, His charge: $5. That must have been half a week's income for my father, and $5 for an hour's work was fine for Doc.

Doc Hansen never mentioned payment until after a visit. He didn't send monthly bills. He did, on occasion, when a farmer owed him a few hundred dollars, accept a "back forty" as payment. Doc became a rich land-owner. My brothers took shifts plowing his land in the spring and shucking corn in the fall. Regardless of debts, Doc was always available when needed.

A few months later, my mother was sent to the other end of Iowa to the University Hospital for goiter removal. For years without iodine in her diet, her thyroid had grown until her neck was as big as her head. Then, commercial table salt was "iodized" to prevent goiters, and something else happened. With iodine, goiters began to put out massive amount of hormones. That was toxic to my mother's heart. The goiter had to be removed. She was in the hospital for about four months. The cost? We never heard. The federal government paid.

We had real health care, always available, either by direct payment or by welfare.

In years following, something happened to health care. People lived longer because of public health measures and new technologies, but "care" disappeared. Natural treatment was replaced with symptom drugging.

Insurance was a good thing, but with a side-effect of greatly increased prices. I had dental cleaning for $8; a year later, at a time when many people began to have dental insurance, the price was $32.

When we don't look into the doctor's eyes when we pay, and the doctor knows and cares little about our life, it becomes a game of how much money the medical people can get out of the insurance. Insurers had little reason to hold down prices, because higher costs meant higher premiums. Government bureaucracy only built itself higher, higher and more oppressive.

A recent visit to hospital emergency in passing a kidney stone cost Medicare and insurance about $8,000. That was for four extremely painful hours in the waiting room, shivering and nauseated, and about an hour of treatment time. As I understood later, the hospital provided the needed diagnosis, but I would have had much more care at home.

Now there are no home-town doctors; those with no staff, almost no bookkeeping and few government directives. Now, a doctor can function only with a clinic staff to keep up with untold laws, forms, scheduling, accounting and reports. A 15-minute appointment consists of an hour of waiting and five minutes with a doctor facing a screen and with hands on a keyboard. The $250 charge is paid by high-priced insurance or by a government paying with borrowed dollars and massive federal debt.

We have the best medical technology in the world, though far from the best health.

Obamacare added to these problems. Reforming it will make little difference. Bureaucrats in the media-technocracy alliance protect their interest.

I miss health care.

— Ira Edwards lives in Medford.