I am mentally exhausted. I am horrified by what I see on TV and by what I witnessed at my own town hall meeting – these rabid detractors of health care reform who have been led to believe that covering 47 million people so they can see a doctor is somehow a threat to the American way of life.
To start, the information they have is just wrong. The “death panels,” the “forced single payer,” the “taxpayer money going to illegals,” the “secret plot for socialism” are all farcical falsehoods simply introduced to muddy the debate enough so that our elected officials waiver in making perhaps the most meaningful civil rights advancement since the 14th amendment.
But more personally, the chance of reforming health care so that those who have fallen through the cracks are able to get the care they need is something I had put on the top of my list when deciding who to support in the US primaries, and during the national elections. I supported Hillary not only for her “more realistic” view of Washington (sorry to say “I told you so,” Barack) but also because of her work towards universal health care. When Obama won, and I understood that he too would work toward closing the coverage gap, I began to get more active in his campaign as well.
You see, my mother, who is now 57 yrs old, doesn’t have health care. She is too young for Medicare, and does not qualify for social programs like Medicaid because she is self employed. She runs her own business caring for children of working parents, soldiers and reservists of the nearby bases in Homestead, FL.
Her business is home based, and while it provides enough money to pay the bills, her clients are mostly low income, so she charges low fees despite providing high quality services and having high qualifications. The revenue from her business is not consistent, especially as parents lose their jobs, travel for vacation, move, or have other life changes. When she closes or goes on vacation or gets sick, she doesn’t get paid. This is her passion, but in terms of money, very little is left over to pay the ever increasing prices of private insurance for a single person.
While I am employed and have insurance, I cannot help her because: A) I live in another state, B) I cannot claim her as a dependent since she files herself, and C) my insurance company doesn’t cover parents. I also work for a start up company, which, while we are doing OK in this economy, means I have a very real risk of losing my insurance myself. We also struggle in this economy with our own costs of mortgage, childcare, insurance, etc.
My mother is a cancer survivor and has arthritis. She requires regular screenings, and at times, pain medication. She must go into debt every time she needs to get a checkup. Should she need a major procedure, or treatment, the only option would be for her to go into serious debt to pay her medical bills. She risks losing her business, her credit, and her home.
My mother is not illegal. She was born and bred in New York and has worked all her life helping others, first as a social worker, then caring for children. She put me through college, sometimes working two jobs to do so. She raised a half dozen of my cousins as her own.
There are others who have coverage with much less effort because they are on public assistance and get Medicaid or because they claim federal benefits due to disability. My mother, despite her real physical ailments, has never stopped working because she believes in contributing to society and working for her money.
Yet these health care reform detractors would deny her the chance of getting affordable health care. They would include her in false statistics that those without care are either “immortals” or “illegals,” or that her being able to see a doctor on a regular basis will somehow take away their freedoms. They callously claim to be Christians and concerned citizens while ignoring the real people who die everyday because they can’t access what these detractors have, through no fault of their own, wanting only the ability to have the choices most of America enjoys.
I understand the frustration with the recent events of this country. Specifically, I understand the frustration with the amount of money spent during the financial crisis, how the banks basically gave up nothing while getting our money to save their over-leveraged hides. I understand the frustration with the amount of money spent on the stimulus package, which has been slow to be realized, let alone all the money already spent on two seemingly endless wars, one of which was totally unnecessary.
But what I also understand, is that this is not about health care. It is about a population of people who are still sore about losing the presidential election, of losing power in the congress, and of seeing “other people” rising to power. The statements I hear have little to do with real debate around the details of health care reform but about their general displeasure of not being in power, or of feeling “their way of life” is somehow under attack.
In venting their rabid frustration, they are hijacking the lives of people like my mother, for the selfish purpose of trying to snatch some shallow victory vs. the current President and Democrat Congress. I am disgusted that there are people willing to do this, to deny life and the right to health to make their political points.
The ugly underbelly of this country shows itself again, but I have faith that change will come. Change is always hard, and what we are seeing is the quintessential example of the last throes of a dying animal. While still dangerous, it thrashes with vigor before taking its final breath.
Image credit: Sanja Gjenero