At the time of this writing, there remain a little less three and a half hours until the Health Care Reform vote. Although the slants are different amongst the various news outlets (as well as the comedy show known as Fox News), it is believed that there are enough votes to pass the bill and usher in a new era in how we take care of our own. This topic is so heated that it has divided friendships, torn apart families and has been responsible for some rather illegal behavior amongst some otherwise law-abiding and intelligent people.
My position to support health care reform is not just based on the good of the people, the fight for the underdog and the repression of bloated insurance companies and health maintenance organizations. These are noble ideals, particularly when you consider the horror stories that have surfaced over the years surrounding the suffering and death of some of our citizens due to administrative decisions. I need not rehash them here, but suffice to say, if I were going to worry about death panels and kill-granny tactics, I’d look to insurance companies first.
I believe that one of the core values of being an American is the ability to improve oneself through independent means, and that the American Dream should remain alive and well and we should do our level best to take care of ourselves. I also believe that those who cannot, should not be made to suffer for it. There should never be any individual who’s life is less important than a number on a profit and loss ledger.
Somehow, with respect to health care, being a healthy American Citizen has become a crap-shoot if access to health care is limited or non-existent. Not providing access to health care would seem to be in opposition to our constitution, which starts off:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Yes, I know there are many people who interpret this in different ways, and I expect my inbox to be full of email stating each and every one of them, mostly from the conservative angle. Fine, I have a special button that magically removes them, one of which I use on a very regular basis.
I am somewhat of an anomaly in the vast power struggle between liberals and conservatives. I am a social progressive who is in favor of gun ownership, the right to keep the government away from anything that I don’t want them involved in and better control over our borders and the rights that should or should not be given to illegal aliens. However, when it comes to health care, I stand one-hundred percent in favor of Socialized Medicine in the form of National Healthcare such as it is in just about every other country on the planet. I am also willing to have my taxes raised to help pay for it because my money is not more important to me than the health and welfare of my fellow citizens.
My point of view on this subject is not based on an ideology or my stance against religion. This is in spite of the fact that there have been many people who have accused me of being an atheist communist. I have always been and always will be against communism, even in theory. But that is a topic for another day.
I was not always in favor of national or socialized medicine. For many, many years I was against it for some of the same reasons that I hear today and was able to justify it every time I walked into my doctors office and presented my insurance card, knowing that I would be getting some of the best healthcare that is available anywhere in the world.
Then the shit hit the fan…
I found myself working but without the benefit of health insurance when I got sick. I am not talking sick as in not being able to go to work or school for a few days or so, either. Something was going horribly wrong with my nervous system, my short term memory and a few other rather important aspects of being able to integrate into society on a functional level. Visits to the emergency room and the free clinics were inadequate for obvious reasons and I did not have anywhere near the money I needed to pay for the tens of thousands of dollars of tests that were required.
I was unable to work. Period. End of story. I applied for disability, but it would be about five years and an Alice-In-Wonderland trip down the rabbit hole of the Social Security Administration before I even got any of the money that I had spent twenty-eight years investing in. But that is, yet again, a topic for another day.
The time frame between supporting my family through gainful employment, living in a nice comfortable home, driving decent cars, eating good food and even enjoying a couple of toys such as a motorcycle and where I ended up could have been used in one of those “Life comes at you fast” TV commercials.
Within six months our life savings were gone, we had to leave our nice home in a decent, working class neighborhood due to impending eviction, lost all of our vehicles and had already sold most of whatever we had that was valuable. We were relying on food stamps and the kindness of strangers to scrape by and were stuck in the woefully underfunded and poorly staffed world of Medicaid, which any of you who have had to use will attest to their version of healthcare being less than favorable. My medical condition was getting worse. I had to rely on a wheelchair to get around most places and was in constant pain all the time. I don’t have to paint any more of this picture for you to understand how this effected our lives, and how I completely lost faith in just about any positive vestiges I had been hanging onto about the state of our health care in this country.
Even though my illness is degenerating and incurable, I eventually got the medication I needed to temporarily allow me to function well enough in society to regain employment, and scratch my way back to a halfway decent standard of living. Although my drug-induced remission is slowly waning due to have been maxed out on the currently available medication, I have some hope through the re-emergence of stem cell research that before I end up back in the wheelchair there will be a cure for auto-immune diseases. But what could have been accomplished in very short order with a good health insurance plan, competent doctors, state of the art equipment and diagnostics took almost three years of sometimes unbearable conditions and cost us almost everything we had worked our whole lives to attain. We did not go broke and end up destitute and nearly homeless because we played the stock market and lost or because poor decisions had been made in other areas of life. It happened because I got sick and did not have access to adequate health care. What was painful to me, as well, was that my wife and children had to come along for the ride.
Nobody, especially an American Citizen, should ever have to live through that. Ever. And the sad thing is that there are many people who have had it worse than I did, and ended up in tragically worse situations. Many have died.
Even after I had regained the ability to work and landed a decent paying job with health insurance, my “pre-existing condition” forced me to wait a full year before anything even remotely connected to my condition would be covered. Do you have any idea how many medical problems an insurance company can attribute to an auto-immune disease? My son has a history of allergy-related asthma, so in addition to the letter I got from our insurance provider telling me about the restrictions on my coverage, I got one for my son, as well, telling me that he would have to wait a year before any asthma related problems could be covered.
Again, my story is not unique, nor the worst that many of you are aware of or have even experienced yourself. And it is for these reasons, amongst others, that I support the healthcare reform bill with it’s nearly one trillion dollar price tag and why I have no problem paying for it, or having my kids pay for it (they will be using it, too). Not only that, but I hope that this health care reform is only a stepping stone to completely socialized, single payer, national healthcare in this country.
If this bill does not pass, it will be a travesty. If it does, it will truly be a day to celebrate.