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In My Opinion
Lynn Paris

Healthcare in America?

I have a good healthcare plan right now. For the first time in my life, I work for a huge public institution, so I am finally covered under a very generous plan. Of course, it still isn’t quite as good as my husband’s healthcare, which is covered by the Veteran’s Administration, which is, incidentally, a government-run health care program. (But wait; I thought we abhorred the idea of government–run healthcare; I guess the Republicans forgot about the V.A. Or, maybe they don’t really care that much about our nation’s veterans as they say they do.) At any rate, my husband actually gets called to remind him when he needs a check-up or a test, and he says he never has to wait more than 5 minutes to see his doctor when he goes. My plan, which according to my employer is worth $12,000 a year, isn’t quite that good. In fact, I actually dread it when I need to call my doctor because it’s impossible to reach his office. Still, it’s wonderful to know I’m insured.

When I worked as an independent contractor there was no way I could afford health insurance. Because I had several existing conditions—like high blood pressure that’s completely controlled by an inexpensive little pill, and headaches, that I’ve had since I was eighteen and have yet to turn into a brain tumor—I was denied healthcare unless I joined through the Texas high-risk pool. That would have cost me as much as my monthly mortgage payment, so I was forced to self-insure. Before that, our small business had a group plan, which was fairly affordable, about a third as much as the high-risk insurance, and we were able to offer it to our employees. Not PAY for it, of course, or we would have gone out of business. But at least everyone had access to fairly affordable healthcare. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep our insurance when we moved, because our plan wasn’t portable. I think even most Republicans agree that that’s a stupid rule.

But that’s about the only thing they agree with. From what I’ve been hearing over the past few weeks, the right wing of the Republican party thinks Americans have a splendid healthcare system, I assume because they always tend to be on the side of big business, in this case the HMOS, insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. Some are pushing the status quo, while others are using scare tactics to frighten as many people as they can. If I’ve heard these phrases once I’ve heard them a thousand times: “Don’t let the government take over your health care; we need to stop them from nationalizing our healthcare system.” Who ever said anything about that? The healthcare plan being debated simply offers a “public option” to cover those who are either uninsured or can’t afford their insurance premiums. Its intended byproduct, aside from making health insurance accessible to everyone, is to make the current insurance companies more competitive.

For some reason, however, Republicans seem to want it both ways. On the one hand they tell the people that they should be afraid of having the big, bad, inefficient government in charge of our health care. They run ad campaigns designed to scare the living daylights out of us; ”Do You Want The Federal Government To Come Between You and Your Doctor?”

First of all, I’m sure the 40 million plus senior citizens currently on Medicare, another federally run healthcare plan by the way, could vouch for the fact that no one from the federal government has ever come between them and their doctors. Second, it couldn’t be any worse than the 800 numbers I have to call to try to get through to my local (and I mean around the corner) doctor by going through the huge HMO system that engulfs him.

And third, if the government is so terrible at running a healthcare plan, then why are the conservatives so afraid that it will put the insurance companies out of business? How could a terribly inefficient public option put the marvelously efficient and cost-effective insurance companies in ANY jeopardy whatsoever? And what about that free market capitalism they all love so much? Isn’t that supposed to be about competition?

By far the most insidious campaigning I’ve heard against the proposed healthcare plan is that the government will decide who lives and who dies. That’s right. Several people at Obama’s town hall meetings have asked him questions like; “I heard that someone from the government would be sent to visit all of us and that if we’re too old or infirm we’d be put out to pasture.” How Obama managed not to ask that woman if she was out of her mind is beyond me. Instead, he went for dry humor, and told her that they didn’t have enough people working in government to visit every single person. Dry humor doesn’t work on someone that uninformed. Or, that misinformed, because she was obviously getting her information from the likes of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. I recently told my husband that no one actually believes that stuff. Clearly, I was wrong. It frightens me now to think about how many scared elderly people are out there, believing the lies they are hearing from the right wing.

I’m not saying that all Republicans are of that mindset. Many actually want healthcare reform. They are as upset as the rest of us that we spend more on healthcare than the citizens of any other country and are ranked, according to a survey by the World Health Organization, at a disgraceful 37th in quality of health care we receive. Something is badly broken.

I’m also not saying that the proposed House or Senate plans are perfect, or that they couldn’t use a whole lot of tweaking. But I haven’t seen ANY plans put forth by the Republicans for all their nay saying. Come up with something better, and no one will care if it’s got a democrat’s or a republican’s name on it. Until then, stop spreading lies, stop trying to protect your rich cronies, and stop scaring people. Those tactics, like healthcare in America, are a disgrace.

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