In the fray
With health care reform on everyone’s mind, I’ve been posting links on my Facebook page to items that interest me. Some weeks ago I linked to a video that made fun of Sarah Palin and her opposition to health care reform. In response, a friend who lives across our fair city – and who leans Republican – sent me a note.
She wrote: “Whether or not I agree with the health care reforms being proposed, I have been making a concerted effort to not engage in inflammatory rhetoric … I think that we can best influence folks by being true to our thoughtful nature and staying above the fray.”
It’s hard to disagree with her: Discussions of important policies ought to be civil. Yet, but … well, below, with some adaptations, is what I wrote back to her:
I’m not wholly proud to have linked to that video, but on the other hand I am starting to think that the only reason Obama was able to win the election, and the only way that we are actually going to be able to move forward as a country is to fight back and fight back hard against Rove-type rhetoric. A lot of time (in the media, in people’s minds) is wasted refuting total BS: Obama is Hitler, Obama doesn’t respect the constitution, Obama is a socialist, Obama isn’t American, Obama hates white people, etc., etc.
These nasty distractions are constantly being generated by the loudest Republican voices and they have nothing to do with creating intelligent social policy. And more and more I am starting to think we do ourselves and future generations an injustice when we don’t hit back and hit back hard.
Health care delivery in our country is broken. We are over-medicated, over-regulated and under-served by the profit-making insurance companies and drug companies (look at their profits, look at their executive compensation packages). A huge percentage of each dollar spent on health care goes to administering this system of rules and regulations that routinely blocks access to treatments and leaves profit-makers deciding what dose of antibiotics a Park Street pediatrician can put in her syringe for a child.
If anything, ”death panels” exist now, in denied claims and denied treatments. And yet somehow this reality has gotten buried in the mythology created by the insurance and drug company lobbies and all those beholden to them.
My point? I sometimes think progressives have been too nice and have been ramrodded by bizarre ideas (Bush as noble, though he failed to serve; Kerry, a winner of a Purple Heart, unmanly) and that has been their greatest fault.
And frankly, the fear-mongering does muddy the waters, does cloud people’s thinking, and does need to be answered unequivocally and sternly. So I guess I slide over into thinking the right-wing propaganda machine, in which Palin plays a part, is stupid and should be called as such. Because in reality, I am watching as friends and neighbors lose jobs and are left grappling to find affordable health insurance for themselves and their families.
One neighbor told me of the uncertainty he and his family faced when they tried to secure new coverage after he was laid off. The cost of Cobra for himself and his son was $1,200 a month. Insurance through his wife’s employer was $1,150. He was not eligible for a federal subsidy for Cobra because he still had the option of being insured through his wife. An insurance broker told him the reason insurance was costing so much was because he’d had a recent MRI on his knee. In the end, he insured his healthy son through an independent plan for $112 which reduced his Cobra for himself to $600 a month.
Another neighbor described the 15-line bill he got after taking his daughter in for a well visit for the first time on new insurance he got after he lost his job. “There was a ‘contract disallowed adjustment’ and something called this ‘balance was your copay,’ and then there’s a deductible, which was $5.08,” he told me. “The $30 co-pay makes sense, but none of the other numbers do.” When he called to ask for an explanation, the person he talked to was unable to explain the bill. “It was only a few dollars,” he told me. “So I just paid it.”
More and more, I am thinking all of us need to step into the fray and push back against nonsense – call lies lies and distortions, distortions – so we can clear some room where we can really be thoughtful about governance. Thoughtful, for example, about creating a logical and less wasteful system of health care. National goings-on affect our lives in Alameda, even though we may wish ourselves separate because we’re an island. It is incumbent on all of us to pay attention – to step into the fray, with facts as a guide.