Mar. 25th, 2010

morgannalefey: (Default)
This was an exchange between myself and someone on Facebook that I knew from high school, and who approached me. She is JK, I am "You" and "Me" :)

Health Care Reform
Between You and JK
JK March 22 at 8:20pm Report
Hi ,

There are a few people in my circle of friends who have suffered terrible personal hardships as well, and they won't have any sympathy for someone who has a well-paying job (as I interpret from your "white collar" classification?) but cannot afford health care. Some people have trouble affording food without the complication of healthcare, and worked themselves through and out of it. We do have bankruptcy laws that are very valid for those who need them.

I am writing to you because I have sought out people in favor of this legislation to understand "why"? Obama has done a great job of convincing people this is the only option (i.e. this bill or nothing -- that is the only choice) and sadly, there are SO many ways that our health insurance system could be improved IF ONLY they would be considered. They are not being considered because the objective is greater than just "improving" the system.

And let's be clear, this is a health insurance problem -- not a health care problem. Although there are bad examples you can find (as with any industry/business) our health care system in this country is held up as a shining example in other countries. Just ask the many people who come here for treatment, or who are unable to come here, but wish they could.

I agree -- and everyone I speak with agrees -- that we have a problem. We have people in bad situations that need help. I get that. But these relatively few examples (compared to the majority of people who are happy with their insurance plans) are held up as the reason why we need a total overhaul of the system.

The marketing of this bill has been wonderful -- it has convinced many, but when I talk in details, I learn that most people tend to favor freedom and choice. I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts. If you could be shown that there IS a way to solve the problems of your friends with ANY type of health care system, would you still prefer to see the government involved to this degree? If so, why?

Thanks,
J,

Me March 22 at 10:09pm
I think about the only thing we may agree on is how well the "marketing" of both sides of this issue has been conducted. Please forgive the imposition on your time I am making in telling you this story. It is a long one, but it is one I wish you to know, so you can better understand my view of this.

I am willing to bet a great deal that the people who "worked themselves through and out of it" didn't do it alone, utterly alone. But even if they did, then they were lucky at important junctures in their lives. Their inability to see how their luck may not extend to other people in the world is their problem, not mine nor my friend's.

The example I have specifically to look at are two of my closest friends right now. J & S.

(I've trimmed this massively. The part I cut out simply details the hardships of a couple I know who are both working full time as adults with no children, who can't afford medical care or insurance and often the medicine they need to be healthy… you can find stories like this everywhere if you bother to look.)

Part 2
Aaanyway, that's the specific tale of the working couple who can't afford health coverage, and for whom there is currently no public option or safety net. At all.

I really think you're fooling yourself when you talk about our health care system being a shining example in other countries. Unless the other countries you're talking about are, say, Somalia and Congo. All industrialized countries, other than the US, provide some form of universal health care to their citizens. All of them. All. The precise details of how that works varies from country to country. For instance, in Switzerland, individuals have to buy standardized policies from insurance companies for a single price that all the companies charge for the basic health care services that include coverage for preventive health care. Then they buy some "a la carte" options on top of that to tailor the rest to their needs. For instance, a woman who is of child-bearing age who wishes to give birth might add a pregnancy policy to the standard package.

In the UK, everyone gets healthcare from the national health service. There is never any worry that you can't get preventive care, or regular care, if you need it. You can purchase special services or private service if you don't want to go through the national health service, but -everyone-, regardless of income status is guaranteed health care.

That's simply two examples of ways it can play out, but the real point here is that EVERY OTHER industrialized country has long seen the importance and value of ensuring that ALL of its citizens have the minimum health care provided to them, by whatever means it is they manage to implement it.

This isn't something you can have an opinion about, J. This is cold, hard fact. The US is the only industrialized country that does not provide some sort of universal health care to all of its citizens.

You might be able to gloss that over in some way, and claim "oh they wish they had our system", and certainly there are some people in those countries who don't have a good picture of what our system is like, and of course there ARE some things medically at which we excel, but it has been at the expense of every poor and working poor person in our country who cannot afford to buy into our "system" where access to health care is completely and utterly controlled by corporations whose best interest is served by denying anyone and everyone they possibly can coverage while milking them for every penny they can get out of them.

The insurance industry gets away with too much. They cannot be relied upon to control themselves, and it is not in their own best interest to control themselves. Their only obligation, in their eyes, is to their stockholders. They owe nothing to their subscribers and the people who are relying on them for their most basic health needs. There are a huge raft of problems with our current system (I suspect we can at least agree on that), and the status quo has been utterly inadequate in addressing those problems. There needs to be control of the industry, and they clearly must be -forced- to do what is needed to provide health care across the board. Since they won't do it, it's the governments -job- to make them or to push them out of the way.

Every industrialized country in the world except for the US recognizes that their citizens must be cared for medically, and that it is the duty of the government to ensure that happens when the industry itself fails to do it.

I don't believe that this health care bill is by any means perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. It is not a limiting of freedoms for the fortunate people who have insurance. It's leveling the playing field for those who don't, and it gives them a chance at something they should have had access to decades ago.

Let me ask you... if not the government, then -who- was going to fix this? And if they were going to fix it, why the hell haven't they by now? This system has been screwed up for over forty years, J. When the hell were they planning on making their move?

JK March 24 at 8:35pm Report
Thank you for sharing your story. Clearly, personal experiences (and those shared with close friends and family) color our perspectives and expectations of the world. I am disappointed that you discount my position as mere "opinion" and your position as "fact". My experience tells me that your friends are not typical of the American experience. Tragic and horrible, I agree. But too often these exceptions are held up as a standard for making radical changes to the laws and policies of a country that has a tradition of certain values and principles.

We are not like Europe. Many Americans do not want to be like Europe or other "industrialized" countries. Neither age, nor population, nor geographic location make any country better than another. I'm proud of the American foundation and heritage. I'm not going to judge you on your country of birth, nor anything about your past -- that is what makes this country GREAT. So please, don't judge me on wanting America to be America. We are different. Some argue that is better, some argue worse, but different for sure. I do not agree with trying to make America like other countries.

I do notice one trend with EVERYONE I have spoken with -- on BOTH sides of the issue. Things needed to change. That is why Obama was elected. Change is good, and healthy, and necessary. But not all change is warranted. Change for the sake of change is dangerous if you are not clear on where you are going. This is not going to help. You have your facts, I have mine. Like the abortion topic, this country is divided and will never agree. I understand that, and hopefully you do as well. So the big question is exactly the one you ask: Who is going to fix this? Government does have a role, and if you believe in the U.S. Constitution there are roles for the States and roles for the Federal government. The Federal govt is getting out of control, and in the end we all will suffer. Sorry, that is just my "facts", based on my education, experience, and all the same things you are basing your position on.

So, let's agree to disagree, and see what happens in the next election.

Me March 24 at 9:39pm
1) The situation of J & S is not isolated within my circle of friends and the people I know from all around the places I've lived. I know, personally, three people who are in the same situation, and know tangentially at least seven others. I suspect that it might be that you and your circle of friends have led a more insulated life than my circle has. That's not a condemnation or a judgment, just an agreement that one's experiences color one's perceptions of a situation. I suspect that if you'd spent time in the places I have, speaking with the people I have, you might come to realize that their experience of things is not so isolated as you might think at this point in time (and it is certainly not nearly as rare in the Northeast as it is in other places, like the Midwest, because the cost of living in the northeast is much, much higher than in many other parts of the country). I can, however, accept that their experience is not the majority experience for whatever that is worth.

2) Just to be painfully clear, the only thing I was stating was fact is that the US is the only industrialized country in the entire world that doesn't provide universal health care of some sort to all of its citizens. That was the only thing I was claiming as fact.

I accept that everything else is perspective.

However, that one fact is, in my -opinion-, damning. Of us. I simply cannot ever agree that embracing the idea that "everyone should have access to health care" turns us some other country.

It's =humane= to provide the most basic health care to everyone in the country. It's the right thing to do. It's got nothing to do with political ideology. It's the only morally justifiable action in a country that claims that everyone is created equal. Failure to provide the same degree of rights and protections to everyone in our country is a travesty, it's a violation of the principles upon which this country was founded, and it's a morally contradictory stance for people to claim on the one hand to actually care about humans and the human condition while with the same breath they condemn them to a half-life devoid of medical attention that every other civilized country (and some not so civilized ones) in the entire world agrees is a basic human right.

I don't give two damns -how- it happens that we make sure that everyone in our country has reasonable access to health care. The Swiss have a system that is run through private insurance companies, but overseen by the government. Their insurance industry manages to make a profit just fine. If that's the system we come up with, then fine, we come up with it. But there HAS to be SOME system in place that -actually- provides basic health care to -everyone-. There is no longer any room for discussion on that point.

The bottom line is that it's -shameful- that the greatest, richest, most powerful, and most free nation on the entire planet allows this injustice to stand, and that people who claim to love humanity and the principles upon which this country was founded defend that injustice with frothing lies piled upon self-interest and NIMBY attitudes (for the record, I'm not claiming that -you- do this, but some of the people who post on your wall -do-).

It would appear, at the very least, that you and I agree that something has to change. I accept that you can't agree that the federal government should be handling this. On that point I can certainly agree to disagree with you. But of course I can't just not try to convince you. Please feel free to not read the rest of this (assuming you've read this far already ;D), because it's me trying to convince you of... well what I'm not precisely sure, but something, anyway. :)

You strike me as someone who genuinely cares about your neighbors and the people down the street. For what little it might be worth, I want you to know that I admire that in you. It is rare, possibly more rare than you realize. I don't know what sort of life you've lead, where you've lived, or with whom you've come into contact, but it seems to me that you do have some compassion for the people who are suffering out there.

When you say things like "My experience tells me that your friends are not typical of the American experience." though, it seems to me that you're thinking the problems are small, or that the numbers of people affected aren't really significant. It is certainly true that we're not talking about a majority of Americans. But we're not talking about an insignificant number, either.

It is how we treat the least of our society that defines who we are. And at this point in history, how we treat the poor, the working poor, the indigent, the hungry, the homeless, and the mentally ill is a graphic demonstration of how warped our society is. Even if we were only talking about a few tens of thousands of people, instead of the - tens of millions- who are actually suffering, it would still be proof of how unjust our society really is.

I happen to believe that we, as country, can do better. The private sector and the states have all had a very long time to do better, and they've demonstrated time and time again that they -won't-, for whatever reason. It's getting worse every day.

Maybe it will take the threat of the federal government stepping in to get private industry off its ass to do -the right thing- but historically speaking, that's never really worked before. I wonder why you'd think it'd work now. The federal government actually has to act. Or nothing will change. That's the way it has been all along, since the founding of the country. Every single significant social change that has been for the benefit and improvement of anyone who wasn't rich, white, and/or male in this country has come because of the action of the -federal- government.

The Louisiana purchase
The freeing of the slaves
Child labor laws
Food safety laws
Women's right to vote
Civil rights for minorities
Civil rights for the disabled
Environmental protections
Clean water acts

All of these caused sweeping social changes in our country, all were fought with exactly the same arguments as what we hear now held up against health care. Yet, you benefit from having clean water to drink, and being able to rely on there being clean water to drink anywhere you travel in the US. If you end up in a wheelchair, you'll have access to public buildings. There is no formaldehyde in the milk you buy because of food inspections and regulations. Your children will know what bald eagles are, and be able to see them, because of environmental protections. Your children aren't working in factories or mills, but have a chance to be children, to get an education, and to "live the American Dream" because of child labor laws. Black people, while still struggling, have finally seen the day when there is a black president. You, yourself, are able to purchase a car, have your own checking account, and exercise your right to vote for your representatives... all because of sweeping social changes that came through the federal government acting on behalf of the entire country on issues where the entire country was impacted.

Can you name one, single sweeping social change in our country's history that -wasn't- brought about by federal action?

I put the question to you once again. If not the federal government, then who? Who should be stepping up, and why haven't they done so in the last thirty years when the health care and income gaps started back in the 70s, or at least within the last 20 years when it had become obvious that the current system was terribly broken?

JK March 24 at 11:05pm Report

Wow. Clearly, I've hit a nerve. Again, we disagree. I'm not going to change your mind, I can see that. So, I'm not going to try. Take care, and I wish you the best.

JK March 24 at 11:17pm Report

And to be clear from my end -- what you describe is a form of Socialism, and although some people think that is a better form of government, I don't want to live in a Socialist Country. I think freedom of the kind we've had for 200 years is worth it. We see things differently, and to me that is OK. I hope you feel the same.

(This is where I stopped responding to her)

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