Monday, October 5, 2009

Universal health care...or death

I have watched with varying levels of hope, fury, and plain old dismay as the Health Care Debate of '09 has raged on. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am a major advocate for universal health care, so I tend to get pretty antsy any time there's even a glimmer of hope for making it happen.

And what can I say? Obama got my hopes up. Now that both Democrats and Republicans--along with all-too many thoroughly duped regular folk--have been doing their utmost to damn the current effort to get comprehensive health care reform passed, I must admit that I'm feeling pretty pissed off.

The absurd expenses associated with decent care in this country, as well as the absolutely criminal practices of certain insurance companies, have impacted my life many times. Honestly, I would be truly surprised to meet anyone in the US who hadn't had at least one negative health care related event--whether for themselves or a friend or loved one.

And while the pols in DC squabble over "death panels" and bend over for their Insurance Company Overlords, real people are getting sick, going bankrupt, and dying in the good ol' US of A.

Well done! Letting the health care status quo go on is certainly one way to solve the problem of an aging population. Perhaps not a very good one--I'd argue, in fact, that it's pretty horrifying--but a lot of people seem to be pretty gung-ho about the tactic. Which is odd, seeing as how those same individuals seem to be the ones getting all riled up about "death panels" (which don't even exist).

But I'm not the only one who's figured out the preferred Republican health care strategy. Rep. Alan Grayson recently did a marvelous job of summing up the GOP's position when he unveiled a simple chart on the House floor that said, "Die Quickly."

That's about it. Opponents of real reform can argue until they're blue in the face that that's not what they want, and they're likely telling the truth, but the fact remains that, regardless of their intentions, the result of their policies (or lack thereof) is just that: Don't get sick. If you do, die quickly.

I believe that every human being, as an inherent right, should have equal access to quality, affordable health care. No matter what. There's pretty much no argument that could convince me otherwise.

On a personal level, I'm especially invested as someone who intends to someday become self-employed as a writer and musician (because, let's be frank, no one's looking to hire me for that full-time these days). That means I'll need to either A) get married to someone with insurance benefits, B) scrounge together whatever public state coverage I can manage, or C) go without. Don't get sick, and if I do, die quickly.

Frankly, I'm not all that enthused about the latter option. For the second, I can take some small comfort in the fact that Wisconsin does boast a few very decent public options. The Family Planning Waiver provides free reproductive coverage to women between the ages of 15 and 44, so my lady bits would be well taken care of. And there's Badger Care Plus (Core), which is the general health care plan I, as an adult with no dependent children, could get.

Only, Gov. Doyle made the announcement today that they're freezing new applications to the program after overwhelming numbers of Wisconsinites jumped on it since the plan went into effect three months ago. Doyle said they'd been getting between 500 and 600 applications each day. If that's not an argument for the pressing need for universal health care....

As for option A, let's just say I resent feeling even remotely pressured to get hitched simply to maintain health benefits. Que romantico! Hell, there are people in this country who can't even do that if they wanted to, just because a few curmudgeons get tingly in their underoos whenever same-sex relationships are brought up.

No one should lose coverage simply because they leave a job or get laid off. Further, no one should have to worry about breaking the bank over medical bills. But that's exactly what happened to my family.

Fourteen years ago, my mother took ill. It wasn't a "pre-existing condition." It was a rare, recurring cyst that decided to wreak some havoc in and around her brain. And though she fought like the dickens for two years, countless surgeries and treatments for the resulting infections, etc., couldn't prevent her death. In addition to the incredible grief, my family was also left with nearly $100,000 in bills. This even though we were "fully" insured, mind you. My father did his best to keep up with payments, but his minister's salary simply wasn't enough. Eventually, he had to file for bankruptcy. Thankfully, this happened before the new, oppressively restrictive Bush-era bankruptcy laws were passed, so the process went about as well as it could--all things considered.

Still, why did my mom getting sick and dying mean that we also had to suffer the added indignity of financial collapse?

If we as a nation continue down the same, tired road of fear mongering and kowtowing to moneyed insurance interests, that's exactly what will happen to our country as well.

(photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr)


Michael said...

Oy, I was familiar with what happened to your mother but I didn't realize the financial you had to go through as well. No one should have to go through that for any reason.

Lorenzo de' Medici said...

You left out the best part. When the cysts were finally removed and recovery was supposed to being, mysterious fungal infections began to appear; infections that the doctors couldn't find the source of.
Curiously at about the time that she was in I.C.U., Chicago hospitals had been sent a bad batch of sutures - the same sort that were used on her. The bad sutures weren't sterile, and caused patients to develop fungal infections. Since the sutures dissolved by design, proving this would be tricky, but the coincidence remains.
Healthy, no?

Emily said...

Michael - Agreed.

LdM - Cripes, bro, how do you find out about this stuff? Not that I'm surprised. Infuriated, yes, but not surprised. I kind of wish I was, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear God! I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom. The grief and pain is enough - but the indignity of bankruptcy is even worse. I wrote a letter to John Boehner saying that I'm a REAL American (small business owner even) and I want SINGLE PAYER, since he doesn't know any real Americans that want a public option.

Tim said...

Emily, sorry to hear about your mom. I've heard so many similar stories, and have a few of my own. And I've also had insurance my entire life. I had to beg on my hands and knees to get my dad to vote for Obama. But he continues to get forward after forward of right-wing crap emails talking about "death panels" and whatnot. All I can say to him is "Dad, would you pay higher taxes if it meant I'd live longer?" I would gladly pay ridiculously high taxes for universal health care. It can't be much more than what I'm paying now towards the credit cards I had to use to pay off my old medical debt! And yes, I'd even pay those taxes to give free health care to Bill O'Reilly. Even though he doesn't deserve it. :)

Anonymous said...

My family is dependent on Badgercare for it's medical coverage because i am one of 2 employees at the business i work for. with so few employees, providing health insurance is prohibitively expensive for them. our monthly premium for a family of 4 would have been over 1/3 of what i make in a month. add rent and a car payment to that, and it's more than i make in a month. thank god Badgercare is there, or we'd have to try the don't get sick/die quickly health option. a national public option would provide relief to our state run services, allowing more people to be covered, and allowing true small businesses to build a healthy and productive workforce.lucky for us (in more than one way) that we have kids. it removes some of the restrictions that non-parents have in applying and maintaining Badgercare coverage.

MIKE said...

Amen sister! I think you have summed up exactly what I have been thinking about this mess ever since people have started talking about it. I'm sorry to hear about your mom and all the challenges that your whole family faced. I don't understand what is wrong with people who scream about "socialized medicine" being the downfall of our society. What the hell is wrong with treating people humanely? I thought that was part of being human. I just hope that we as a country do not screw this chance up and actually do something helpful, for the people and not the corporations this time.

Emily said...

smed - That whole "real Americans" bullshit pulled so often by the very people most likely to screw over actual Americans drives me nuts. We need more small business owners like you to stand up and speak out. Thanks!

Tim - Hah, agreed! I take the same stance on health care as I do on free speech: I may not agree with or like you, but I'm going to defend your right to say what's on your mind and have quality, affordable health care.

edge - Thank goodness for BadgerCare. But you're right, it's not enough (especially since getting coverage for childless single ladies like me is so damn hard!), and it would actually help a lot of small businesses to have a public option. The raging opposition is just the fruit of years of fear mongering and scare tactics by the moneyed interests as they've duped regular folk into believing the whole "socialism = tyranny!" line of bull.

MIKE - It would be nice, wouldn't it?

Shane said...

Dem majority in house and senate plus Dem president. Time to stop blaming the gop for reform not happening. Dems have the #'s, time to get something done, gop opinions dont matter at this point.

Emily said...

Shane, did you actually read the post?

Shane said...

i did and my point is who cares what Repubs say or think about death panels, etc.. we dont need them to get reform so why waste time talking about or worrying about what they think or say.

Emily said...

Your point is well taken, but the sad truth is that the "death panel" and other similarly absurd talking points have resonated with a lot of people, and we need to make sure those sorts of things get shot down with vigor and honesty. Just ignoring them when they've already taken root with any significant portion of the population doesn't do any good.

And I made it very clear that I'm holding both Democrats and Republicans responsible for the mess on the Hill. They all play their parts, as do we.

Shane said...

But no matter the issue there will always be idiots that believe outlandish rhetoric. I say pass what you think is right and if it turns out to be effective the opposition(especially the looney ones) will suffer politically for there idiocracy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you caught this before, but many Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before they flip flopped and turned against them.

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. Where does the right for good, cheap health care come from? You're just pulling a right out of thin air, no? Allow me to do the same: I have a right not to foot the bill for others' health care bills. I pay my own insurance premiums and they should do the same.

Not playing devil's advocate, I must admit that the health care debate is one of those issues that really cuts to the core of the American dilemma. Does the government have the authority to coerce people and violate their individual sovereignty to pay for other people's welfare? (And I mean welfare as in well-being, not welfare as in an aid program.)

Anonymous said...

Does the government have the authority to coerce people and violate their individual sovereignty to pay for fire departments and police to maintain order and save other people's lives?

i believe that basic healthcare is part of the commons. something that the government is charged with upholding.

Palmer said...

HI XedgeX69 -I suspect that libertarian types would say you're comparing apples and oranges. The police and fire depts provide services that directly affect the property and welfare of every taxpayer. So, take that someone who pays her own health insurance. She directly benefits from the police and fire dept, i.e. - fires at her residence are put out and threats to her person and property are dealt with. However, paying for your health care does not.

I would add that there is a difference between denying healthcare and arguing over who pays for it. The libertarians don't want treatment to be denied to anyone, they just don't think the government should force someone to pay for others' healthcare. For instance, if you undergo treatment and can't afford it, then you become responsible for the bills that you will receive. Pay via an installment plan. You get the treatment and you pay for it. Or find insurance via an employer.

A personal observation here: I think that saying "basic healthcare is part of the commons" or "it is an inherent right and you can't convince me otherwise" as Emily did is, rhetorically speaking, the wrong way to go about convincing millions of people to pay for their own insurance as well as that of others. I think the rhetoric needs to show some kind of reciprocity. I'm not a rhetorician by trade, but I do think showing how everyone will benefit is a better approach than demanding rights that have by no means been agreed upon by everyone.

Emily said...

Palmer: I agree that showing some sort of reciprocity is, unfortunately, necessary (I say "unfortunately" because it kind of sucks that folks don't think keeping other folks healthy should be a community effort unless they get something directly in return). I try to include that line of reasoning in my arguments as often as possible, but I guess I assumed it was obvious enough to leave out this time. It's possible I'm wrong. It's happened before. :)

Making sure people have access to affordable, quality health care leads to lower costs in the long run and puts less of a burden on a society. Focusing on prevention and early treatment means less money and manpower spent on more serious illness down the line.

A lot of this actually has more to do with health care costs than insurance, though. The fact that medical care (the medicine especially) is so astronomically expensive seems to be what causes most of the problems. Companies providing insurance to employees have to pay more. Government programs pay more. Individuals pay a shitton more when they can't afford coverage or are denied coverage for one asinine reason or another. It's the double whammy of a broken insurance system and a broken pricing system.

Because, let's face it, "payment plans" aren't going to cut it when an uninsured or under-insured person is staring down tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they dared get sick. That simply should not be a possible outcome.

The Lost Albatross