Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why Universal Healthcare?

I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient.
-Excerpt from The (modern) Hippocratic Oath, emphasis added.

As much as I want to get into the roadblocks and possible solutions we have to encounter and discover, we have to answer the question of why. The following is a paraphrase of a blog entry I recently read, an entry that unfortunately echoes far too much the sentiments of far too many people.

Why should everyone be insured? I worked hard and sacrificed for what I have. I pay for it out of my own pocket. It’s not my fault some idiot decided to forego college and work at Walmart or my local gas station. If I have to pay for it, so should everyone else.

I hear this kind of statement most often from self-touted Christian people, people who too often forget the so-called Golden Rule: Love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matthew 22:39)

Then there’s this little gem of scripture: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me. – Matthew 25:41

And if scripture doesn’t matter to you, then certainly being a good person does. Even good non-religious people abide by the Golden Rule, sometimes quoted as "treat others the way you would like to be treated."

But this is America, Capitalist America – it’s a dog eat dog kinda America, where if you want to succeed you can - and if you can't, well, too bad?

Nonono.

Sometimes people don’t know how to, and I hardly think it’s within our authority to assume we know everyone’s situation. Until you’ve walked a mile in a man’s shoes…

Let’s also take a moment to consider what society would be like without those "lowlifes," like the waitress serving you your meal at your important meeting with a client, or those who clean your hotel room (no, not all of them are illegal immigrants), construction workers, your local mechanic, etc. What about people who love to do what I do - what I aspire to do - write your favorite books/columns, and yet be unable to get insurance because of pre-existing conditions? What would the world be like without those working for the small businesses that can’t afford to offer decent health insurance, or the single parents who have to work multiple part time jobs at the local grocery store or hardware store just to pay rent – in case you were unaware, the majority of employers won’t offer insurance to their part time workers.

Blue-collar America may not be as smart as you are, but they're vital to our society, and they deserve some respect for that.

And what of widows or couples who have divorced, leaving the one time stay-at-home mother (the kind conservatives love) without insurance? Sure her kids are probably covered under Dad’s policy, but what of Mom?

People who've lost their job due to the economic crisis?

There is always catastrophe insurance, but this won’t cover everything.

Cancer.

Pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Mental illness – and no, it’s not all as extreme or as obvious as you may believe. You might be surprised, and I guarantee you: you want most these people on their medications.

And what of those people working for companies that are currently suffering due to the economic crisis - hard working people whose job benefits, if not threatened, are probably being cut. They worked hard. What about them?

Before you suggest Medi-cal, I suggest you remember that you're paying for that and, quite frankly, it sucks. Universal health care does not need to equate to more of that. Hopefully I can get back to that at a later time.

Right Versus Privilege
The Hippocratic Oath makes health care a right, not a privilege as so many like to contend. When hospitals are bound by law to reject no one based on ability to pay, it becomes a right.

So where does that right become privilege? The actual insurance? We have a right to be healthy, but not a right to ensure we can afford to stay healthy?

What?

So many enjoy talking about how hard they've worked to get where they are today, to get the kind of job that will offer them the kind of insurance they have.

But we are not talking about the size of the house you own, or the number of SUVs you have. We're talking about the right to be kept healthy whenever possible.

My husband is a teacher. Through the past year or so, we visited a number of different school districts within the north state looking for jobs, and let me tell you, the benefits vary in a frightening way. One district could only offer him about $32,000 a year as an intern. After benefits, he would be making about $26,000 a year. For five family members. The premium amounted to about $500/month - a quarter of what would have been his gross monthly payment.

And that wasn't for the best plan on the list.

His father is in a district just across the bridge that requires a $350/month payment - and they pay interns $8,000 more a year than the aforementioned district. My husband's current district takes out $250 a month for 100% coverage.

Thankfully we were lucky. Eric found a district with the ability to offer amazing benefits along with a comparable salary to the grocery store he worked at before. But let me emphasize on the lucky.

Because he's a math teacher and there's a huge shortage, and this particular principal was rather taken with Eric, we're able to live better, health wise, than we were when he worked for a grocery store, which had pretty decent benefits, though they declined over the years (along with available hours, the ability to get promoted, and raises).

We were getting to a point where we were going to take the $26,000/year job, tired of having him work nights, student teach nearly full time, and take classes. It was taking a toll on him, on me, and our family as a whole. Even if it meant having to get on Medi-cal, on WIC (Women, Infants, and Children - get free food), and live out in the middle of nowhere. I'm not kidding.

And some would have me think that we would have somehow "deserved" this? That those teachers out there, teaching migrant worker's kids at a low-income, low performing school somehow asked for it? That if they wanted better, they could get it?

What if they didn't want to? What if they want to be out there helping those kids?

Should we punish them for it?

No. I understand that universal health care isn't something we can implement *now.* There are some serious problems we need to address first before it is a viable option, but the initial hurdle we need to jump over is this elitist attitude that somehow those who don't have enough or any insurance somehow deserve it.

Life doesn't always work out the way we think it ought to - it's not always roses for even the wealthy. Financial and job security can go overnight. You've seen it happen over the last few weeks.

We can get healthcare for everyone. It will take some work, some deliberation, some intelligence - but we can do this, and we should. It's only right.

3 comments:

that girl said...

good thoughts. you provide some fun reading. you know, i would love to see everybody with the kind of healthcare they desire. but the problem is, good healthcare is expensive. part of me hates that fact, but another part of me is glad. at least i know i am paying for something of high quality, something that will save my life someday. with universal healthcare, that means healthcare that is government-run. do you really want to sit in a doctor's office that reminds you of the DMV, long wait times and crappy emotionless service included?? like one brilliant woman put it recently, with government-run healthcare, "you'll get the sympathy of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office." ugh. but true, when you go to the post office your letter arrives in 2 days, pronto. but seriously, it wasn't until FedEx came along and gave the post office some healthy competition that they became reliable -- for everyone, didn't matter who they were. competition is good. we pay high prices for healthcare because it assures competition, innovation, the smartest doctors, etc. hopefully America can figure out how to accomplish this in the near future and still make everyone happy. my dad was a teacher, i can relate to your situation. it sucks. get over it. why do you feel like you're being punished? the "this is not fair" attitude is what i am tired of hearing about. the attitude that can never be satisfied. i can only imagine what you will complain about next once the healthcare issue is "resolved."

Lisa said...

I like your fourth sentence: at least i know i am paying for something of high quality, something that will save my life someday.

You *do* get what you pay for. Agreed.

Again, though, I don't think it has to be a DMV/IRS kind of situation or what we have now. I'm positive it doesn't have to be one or the other.

I never said I felt like I was being punished - BUT, some teachers are. They chose this profession, granted. Some people *choose* to work in industries that don't offer great benefits. But those professionals who offer services such as teaching deserve more. Every single one of them should have amazing healthcare, even if just because they are exposed to 150 germy kids on a daily basis.

I just think it's a right and that something is better than nothing.

I like the idea that if you can pay for private, cool! Keep your private insurance. I love it. But for those who can't, they should have something better than the E.R.

I heard it said on the television...wish I could remember the who and where, but she essentially observed that we have universal healthcare now. It just sucks. The system is weighed down, full of crap we could do without.

We just need to make it better. We need to allow people the chance to be healthy - especially hard working, tax paying people who happen (by choice or not) to work for companies who don't offer (by choice or not) decent healthcare. People are worth something whether they're a CEO of a successful company or the dude that changes your oil.

That's all.

And, haha, there's always, always something to complain about. I'd like to see something done.

I'm just tired of hearing "sucks for you!" Sometimes that works, but not in this case.

And by the way, thank you for coming back. I hope that despite our differences you'll continue to check in and will maybe even visit my other blog.

I love a good debate.

Jessica said...

if people are going to argue against providing services for citizens, i think they should at least be familiar with facts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_in_the_United_States
http://www.nchc.org/facts/coverage.shtml

i think "get over it" isn't really a viable argument for a health care crisis, especially when you're talking to a mother of three. my brother, who is a type 1 diabetic (the kind that isn't caused by lifestyle), cannot barely afford health care, either, and, though he went to college, works at a grocery store so he can afford his insulin.

there are pros and cons to universal health care vs. private health care, but i've never heard anyone who lived abroad complain about universal health care. most prefer it... furthermore, you would think that, if competitive health care were so effective, we would have higher life expectancy rates and, well, better health care for our working and middle classes. i mean, (?) right...? it isn't just the rich who deserve health care, right?