Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The haves and have-nots in the wealthiest country in the world

I can accept - and even celebrate - that there are people of goodwill on both sides of the debate regarding the newly signed health care law. One of the things that has always made this country great is our ability to publicly disagree with each other, and bow to the desires of the majority, even while working to adopt our own desired policies.

So although I may get into a spirited discussion with family and/or friends over the desirability of another government-mandated program, I don't ever place the value of my position above the value of the relationship. I'm a relationship-oriented person. Always have been, always will be.

What I'm not okay with is fear-mongering, name-calling, race-baiting, demagoguery, and outlandish lies to try to influence the citizenry. I'm also not okay with elected officials leading, promoting, spreading, and otherwise encouraging other members of their party to stand in united opposition to an elected official - in this case, the President of the United States. When three members of the Republican House stood on the balcony of the Capitol Building on Saturday, holding three signs saying "Kill" "The" "Bill" I was appalled at their unprofessionalism in playing to a crowd of dissidents. There used to be a standard of behavior that was not only expected but was actually exhibited in Washington, DC. Today it's less like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and more like Larry, Curly, and Moe.

I'm tired of the lies about "Death Panels," increased costs and decreased coverage for Medicare recipients, and the lockstep behavior of the Republicans in office. Although some Republicans point to the "Nay" votes cast by some Democratic Congresspersons as a lack of support by the full Party, my opinion is that it simply points out that Democrats are able to think for themselves and don't have to all march to the same tune as is the case in the Republican Party.

I was also appalled at the name-calling and threatening signs on display by the "Tea Party" movement on Saturday. As one commenter said, the Tea Party slogan seems to be "Do what we want and nobody gets hurt." I do understand that not everyone in the Tea Party movement or the Republican Party shares these sentiments, but my mother always told me that you're known by the company you keep. Most appalling of all are the people who take this kind of behavior to heart and feel inspired to either act or call upon others to act to rid the nation of a perceived threat.

I must confess, too, that I really don't understand the reluctance among some people to have access to affordable health insurance. When my children were small, good health insurance was a definite plus when you looked for a job. And, for some, it still is. My youngest son and his wife have a health insurance shortage because of his job loss late last year. One of the things he looks for in interviews is what health insurance is offered.

When I was a young wife and mother, we had excellent company-paid health insurance. Yes, fully paid premiums and good benefits. Slowly, over the years, the company began to transfer some of the cost of the premiums to the employees, but it still wasn't an onerous amount and we still had good benefits. It was not the cost of doing business that caused these premiums to increase - since this happened during the corporate-friendly Reagan years - but the sharp increase in premiums, which were also a consequence of the Big Business worship of the Reagan years. Eventually, the company - Eastern Airlines - folded, and health insurance was the least of our worries.

As I grow older and become more and more aware of the fragility of life, I do find it hard to understand why so many people don't think insurance is helpful to them. Another of my sons and his wife do not wish to have any but catastrophic coverage, backed up by a Health Savings Plan for routine medical care. I kind of understand their thinking (and I don't think there's anything in the new law that prohibits this), but I also know that without this law that prohibits lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions clauses, even their choice of coverage wouldn't be practical. With medical costs at an all-time high (and climbing) policy limits would be quickly reached. And with insurance companies denying care to newborns for "pre-existing conditions," a seriously ill infant could mean bankruptcy for the family.

Yes, I know there are those who decry this new law as an "entitlement," and they vigorously oppose it on those grounds. But, if, as some claim, we are a "Christian nation," then caring for others should be second nature. Donating to charity instead of paying taxes may sound like a good idea, but charities have no way to reach the vast majority of those who need help, and can't help all those who ask for it. And those who would choose to donate couldn't - or wouldn't - be able to provide for all those in need.

So instead of decrying our government's attempts to help those who cannot - for whatever reason - help themselves, let us reclaim the compassionate and generous spirit for which we were once known. This new law will have absolutely no effect on my health care - I neither gain nor lose - but I know many for whom it will be a lifeline and I believe that's what America should celebrate.