On the subject of healthcare reform, where exactly do you stand? We now know what you’re against, but what are you for? And just who is informing your finger-in-the-wind, myopic views on the matter? The insurance and pharmaceutical giants who fight for the status quo by dribbling their largesse among politicos and practitioners alike? Or is it the rabble of “I got mine” insured Americans who disrupt and distort every attempt at rational conversation? Are the decisions really that difficult? Is it as black-and-white and simple as free enterprise and unregulated, rampant capitalism and citizen rights, or is it a matter of simply doing what’s right for everyone, no matter the cost?
A silly season has surely descended upon us once again (if it ever left). Fear of losing whatever insurance we may have left is making us leap to fantastical conclusions bereft of facts and logic. The great catch-phrase is “we don’t want no stinkin’ government bureaucracy running our healthcare!” Excuse me for asking you teabaggers this awkward rhetorical question, but just who do you think is managing (or mismanaging) your care right now? For a big chunk of you, you’re already using government-run healthcare and enjoying it immensely. Just ask my retired parents who have had cataracts removed, plumbing repaired, and knees replaced, all courtesy of Dr. Uncle Sam.
For the rest of us working stiffs who are fortunate enough to even have insurance, the only difference between their bureaucracy and ours is that the government’s is a lot more gracious. Those record profits posted by insurance companies? They’re the result of denied care and the intentional exclusion of anyone with pre-existing conditions or hereditary/congenital risk factors. And do you really think those are the only bureaucracies and bottlenecks standing between us and our physicians? While we’re double- and triple-booked and waiting for hours in a doctor’s office for our precious few minutes of face time, the pharmacy industry’s pretty people are parading in and out at will, peddling their latest chemical concoctions for suppressing anxiety and enhancing post-adolescent concupiscence (call 1-800… if an erection lasts more than four hours…).
We’re the lucky ones, the ones willing to scream and fight at your town hall meetings to keep our last few crumbs of what is being flim-flammed as first-class health care. At least we’re not spending our nights and weekends seeking basic care for our children in a hospital ER. At least we’re not going bankrupt because our coverage was terminated when we lost our job. At least we haven’t resorted to begging for charity for a procedure or a transplant to save the life of an uninsured, or under-insured family member. At least we’re not one of the 8.7 million Americans (more than 25% of the population 65 and over living at home) who reported some type of disability that limited their ability to perform basic personal activities or live independently. That grim statistic is from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study to profile older Americans and their caregivers; wonder how many of them were in the audience shouting you down at your last meeting?
What has happened to us as a people? When did we decide that health care should be a for-profit enterprise rather than a public service like fire and police protection? Do we really agree with the insurance companies that quality healthcare should be off-limits to those who, in the great cosmological lottery, were conceived from “unlucky sperm?” Or to flip that thought around, do we really believe that “lucky sperm” Americans somehow deserve the very same healthcare that is routinely denied our congenitally (or socially, economically, geographically, etc.) disadvantaged fellow human brethren? If so, then we’re just one small step away from the same amoral rationalizations used by Nazis and others to dispose of those they deemed as less-than-perfect and therefore inferior. We’re just not as efficient as they once were because we let our infirm and insensible and impoverished linger for years, until they wither and die without proper medical care.
Please do the right thing. Preserving the status quo is the easy way. The pill-makers and insurance lobbies will pat you on the back and line your pockets. Your constituents, fearful that any change will somehow dilute their healthcare, will fade back into the woodwork of their daily labors. But you will have done the easy thing, the political thing. Please do the right thing instead. For all of us.