I hesitate to write this because I am not an expert and this is not a political blog. I’m well aware that my readers don’t come here to get their policy lessons.
But I believe in civic responsibility. And today, the first day of early voting in Florida, I believe that it is my responsibility – our responsibility – to change the dialogue.
While the media and majority of the voting public talks about Joe the Plumber and Saturday Night Live, I’d like to remind you that there are real and pressing concerns that need to be addressed in this country.
Issues that have the power to impact your day to day life. Systems whose dysfunction can derail not only your family’s future, but your ability to survive life as you presently know it.
Issues like healthcare.
It seems strange to some that in a democratic nation that prides itself on the values of capitalism and free markets that we should even be discussing Universal Healthcare. The very idea of a Government Regulated Healthcare System screams of socialism – a fate worse than death to those who would call themselves conservatives.
Ten years ago I would have told you that the government had absolutely no business interfering with our healthcare system. To suggest otherwise would be to open the doors for Uncle Sam conferring with My Doctor about My Medical Decisions. Ten years ago I would have told you it was my right to decide whether or not my family would purchase health insurance. I would have told you that no one had the authority to force me to take care of myself according to someone else’s standards.
Ten years ago, I would have told you that healthcare was a choice.
Because it was.
For millions of Americans, that is no longer the case.
A Republican friend told me recently that he didn’t believe anyone had a right to “above average health care”. He feared that I would think him insensitive, but my internal reaction had nothing to do with his sensitivity and everything to do with his perspective – or lack there of. It reminded me that there are two completely different conversations going on in this country.
What my friend seems unaware of is that the battle for above average health care is irrelevant for most Americans. It is not a question of quality or priorities. It’s not a matter of choosing health insurance over a big screen TV, as I’ve heard some people claim.
For millions of Americans the battle is for some coverage, any coverage that allows them basic, life saving medical care without bankruptcy.
That is the reality. It’s not spin or stump speech rhetoric. It’s what normal, middle class families just like yours are faced with every single day.
The reality in America is changing – has changed – and it seems that many people have yet to have an up close and personal encounter that opens their eyes to that fact.
If you have employer provided benefits, you are lucky.
Nearly half of working Americans do not have the option of health insurance through their work. Half. These are not lazy people. These are not drains on society. These are working Americans (80% of uninsured are native or natural born Amreicans) who have to purchase health insurance on their own or go without.
So why not purchase it on their own?
- Rising insurance costs mean many families simply can’t afford it. And not because they are choosing other “luxuries” over health insurance. Not because they’re asking you to foot the bill for necessities while they roll around in wants and extras.
- Three years ago when my family had to purchase our own health insurance, our premiums were over $500/month for two adults and one child – and we were both in good health in our early 20s. A few months ago, our friends were quoted $2,000 a month to cover 2 adults and 1 child – non smokers with no pre-existing conditions. Needless to say, that family is not currently covered.
- Many people who need insurance the most can’t qualify for coverage. How many people do you know affected by cancer? What about asthma? Diabetes? Hear disease? These people would find it nearly impossible to find coverage on their own. In fact, I’m not personally aware of any policy that would cover someone with a history of cancer.
Are these people asking for “above average” care? Are they looking for a handout?
The costs of basic health care has risen to the point that one serious emergency room visit or extended hospital stay can literally bankrupt a family. A burst appendix. A newly discovered lump. A broken bone. How many families would find themselves financially destroyed with one slip on the ice?
But is it the government’s job to get involved?
Isn’t our constitution based on less government interference, and not more?
Maybe, in theory. Maybe, as a matter of ideology, our federal government was created for nothing more than national security and stable infrastructure. And yet, our history has proven that our government is in reality a growing, evolving, living organization that is constantly adapting to current needs.
Who among us would insist that the Bill of Rights – an addendum to the original Constitution – is unnecessary or unconstitutional? Who would debate that woman’s rights or the Emancipation Proclamation represent anything remotely anti-American or anti-democratic? What about FDIC insurance of your funds – something that is no doubt preventing bank runs even now?
Is the federal government too big? Is it far reaching and intrusive? Does it need to be scaled back and beaten back to Washington in many areas? Absolutely. Without a doubt. There is a time and place for federalist principles that keep a sprawling government in check.
But a country as large and diverse as ours simply cannot afford the luxury of an all or nothing ideology.
And healthcare is a perfect example of that.
This country is supposed to be about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Those, above all else, are our inalienable rights. It does not guarantee us success or happy endings. It doesn’t even promise fairness. But it does pledge to give us the opportunity to live freely in pursuit of our dreams. That, above all else, is the role of our government.
The current state of the healthcare system in this country is a very real violation of those rights for many Americans.
People are dying because they cannot afford treatment. Not above average treatment. Not elective, experimental procedures. Basic, life saving care. Here, in the “richest country in the world”, people are dying.
And those who don’t? Those who finally choose life in the form of bankruptcy and medical care they cannot pay for? Their lives and expenses become the responsibility of all of us in the form of taxes and higher medical bills and premiums.
We are paying for this country’s healthcare one way or another – whether it remains broken or not.
I wish more than anything that my conservative friends could see that this is no longer a question of becoming a “welfare state”. Healthcare is no longer the plight of the poor or lower working class. It is no longer a question of “fiscal responsibility”.
We are not talking about welfare mamas looking for boob jobs!
We’re talking about a small business owner who has to postpone her child’s oncology surgery because of insurance coverage.
We’re talking about a supervisor and his pregnant, recently laid off wife, who can no longer pay their mortgage AND provide coverage for their 2 year old daughter.
We’re talking about a mother with cancer who will never be covered by insurance again, even with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills in her future.
The healthcare crisis in America is affecting middle class, upper class, every class of people in this country. And it could happen to you just as easily as it has anyone else.
It’s time, at the very least, that we change the dialogue. Do you think healthcare is a right?