Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are we all together?

I have avoided talking much in the way about politics on this blog. Mostly because there are what seem like billions of political blogs already out there in cyberspace. But, I feel like I have to say something about the health care debate.
I have not hidden my views on this. If you don't know, I am stridently for a universal health care system in these United States of America.
Here we are, the United States, the great beacon, the shining city on a hill as Ronald Reagan once put it, yet we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends, our loved ones and strangers.
What do I mean? Simply this. There are 47 million uninsured Americans at this point, of which I am one. 47 million people who live in fear everyday. And it doesn't take much to instill that fear. Even something so simple as a cut on the arm or finger, nothing too serious in the regular course of things, can induce fear. "What if that get's infected?" people think. I know because, as I said, I am one of them. Or the fear of stepping wrong, falling and breaking an ankle. How much does that cost with no coverage? Or, let's talk worst case scenario, because that is what this is really all about. The worst case. What if, in November, I start feeling kind of crummy. And don't get any better, rather get worse. Finally, I force myself, despite the cost, to go to the doctor. He runs some tests and calls a few days later. I am a writer, so let's do a short play.

Doctor: Jason, this is Dr. Berwald, I have the results of your tests.
Me: OK, I hope it's not too terribly bad.
Doctor: Well, I wish I could say it was good news, but it's not. You had better sit down for this, Jason. You have testicular cancer.
Me: Oh...well...that really sucks.
Doctor: We need to discuss treatment options for you, Jason.
Me: Ummm. I don't have any insurance.

That is probably how the conversation would end. No insurance means no treatment. No treatment equals a death sentence pronounced and carried out, because our country has no universal health care. Now, I am a college graduate, and am reasonably intelligent, so it stands to reason that I will find employment again, and will be provided benefits.
However, what about the people in this country who weren't afforded the same opportunities as me?
People work at places that don't offer health insurance, and aren't paid enough to buy it privately. So the same scenario above applies to them. Your neighbor down the street gets laid off and cannot afford the COBRA payments, so he is in the same boat.
I do not view this as a debate of capitalism versus socialism. I view it as a moral question. Do we, as a nation, condemn these people to death? Granted, not all of the 47 million will get cancer. But if one does, how can we stand by and let that person die? Since when did that become an acceptable proposition in this country? As it stands, 15,000 people die each year in the United States because they have no coverage.
There has been so many lies and misinformation spread about universal coverage, I would like to try and dispel some of them.
The first is that under a universal plan, our overall health care would suffer. That we would wait months to see the doctor and our nation would become less healthy as a result.
Well, that is false. Under our current system, the United States ranks 37th in the world in health care, just behind Costa Rica and just above Slovenia according to the World Health Organization. The country rated the highest? France, and it's evil, socialistic plan. Other countries demonized in this debate include Canada, England, and Sweden. Where do they rank? England is 18th, Sweden is 23rd, Canada is 30th, all significantly higher than the United States.
For all this talk of our great system by fellas like Sean Hannity, and how it is the best in the world, the United States ranks 24th in average healthy life expectancy, again according to the WHO.
Another misconception is that this plan will cover illegal immigrants. That is a lie, despite what Joe Wilson thinks. There is specific language in the bill that states that illegal immigrants will not be covered.
I wish I had the wherewithal to address the near psychotic ravings of Sarah Palin and her ideas that there will be death panels under this plan. But I just don't have the energy, and I really don't think her marginalized views are worth repeating.
Basically, I view this as our chance to get something right. To become something bigger than we actually are. In the western world, the United States is the only country without some form of universal health care. Looking outside the so called first world, countries like Cuba, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago have some form of universal coverage.
The time has come for the United States to get with the program. That this debate has been hijacked by Hannity, Palin, Glen Beck and others is sickening. We need to refocus the debate and say we won't sit back and rest on our laurels, whatever laurels we have in this regard. The time has come for us to once again say we will look out for our neighbors, our friends, our countrymen. The time has come for us to say, "We will not allow our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors and strangers eight states away to die because of inaction."
Because otherwise, if you and I don't do something, everyone that dies because they have no health coverage, their blood is on our hands. And that is a stain that never washes away.

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