I’m posting this under the “Living” category in honor of the many lives this flawed, compromised, not-as-great-as-we’d like it bill will save. As the vice president so eloquently said: “This is a big fucking deal.”
Just this week I got another letter from the collection agency that is still trying to collect money from my mother for an operation she needed while she was uninsured in her early sixties. She thought she had insurance, but her employer had dropped coverage for his employees without telling them. It was a very small company, and the rates went too high (which is not to excuse him). The hospital refused several offers to settle, and although we keep thinking this issue is dead, since she lives on Social Security alone (and it’s illegal to collect SS funds), they keep sending dunning letters.
Such is the state of things, that I had to explain to my mother when she was worried after watching too much bad right-wing news coverage that it was Medicare, government health coverage, that saved her life after the head injury, and that has kept her in pretty good health ever since she turned sixty-five. She didn’t understand this. She thought she had private insurance. I had to explain that while she has Blue Cross/Blue Shield Part B, that only covers the 20% that Medicare won’t cover, that the majority of her health care is taken care of by Medicare, a government program. Just like the Social Security, on which she depends for her entire income, is also a government program.
The right has spent nearly thirty years since the Reagan era convincing middle-America that the government can’t do anything right, that government is incompetent — all to prop up the rapacious corporate forces that feed off a middle-class that has become increasingly fearful as it’s watched dreams of economic security erode. What I’d like to know is what have corporations been so successful at? Jobs? Hardly. They’ve sent all the jobs, including an increasing number of white-collar jobs overseas. Providing services or economic security or decent retirements for people? Hardly.
And the insurance industry, what can I say? Private enterprise hasn’t made this country healthier, or provided decent care to the majority. What it’s done is raise premiums, refuse to pay for preventative and necessary care, and use every trick in its extensive book to dump anyone off its rolls who might actually need health care. All in order to pay higher and higher bonuses to executives and to drive up stock prices.
The right has spent thirty years telling people it’s okay to be selfish, that we are not all in this together, that it’s every man, woman and child for him or herself. The Chicago school were wrong. Ayn Rand and Allan Greenspan and all the rest of them were wrong. They sold the country a bill of goods. There was no “trickle down.” The rising tide only lifted the boats of the 1% of the population that took all the money. The rest of us are left out here floundering, left with a broken banking system, raided retirement accounts, and no health care. That worked real well.
So really, I’m ready for a change. I’m not crazy about this bill, and I’m still furious with my senator, Max Baucus, who is already working to obstruct the reconciliation bill, and who is dutifully serving his masters in the insurance industry by preventing the logical addition of a public option to the reconciliation process (a public option that would save us huge expenditures of public money). But I am thrilled that as a nation we might, just might, be turning the corner again. We might be remembering who we are.
Now let’s move on to HCR 1.1, 1.5, and 2.0 (with a public option). Let’s make HCR actually work, and work for the millions and millions of uninsured, and underinsured people. Let’s stop unnecessary medical bankruptcies, stop lining the pockets of venal insurance agents and executives, and perhaps learn to live like a civilized modern nation. Let’s unleash the entreprenurial energies of all those people trapped in jobs they hate because they can’t afford to lose their insurance coverage. Let’s try it folks, try living in a nation in which health care is a right, not a privilege. We might just like it.