I have written about that transformative event on several occasions. It was much more than life altering; it completely tilted the axis upon which my life rotated. I woke up in a Reno hospital five weeks later not knowing much, but soon found out. It would be an educational experience that was heavy on experience. The various aspects of how that cool October morning touched my life are numerous and when multiplied by nuance, infinite. One of the tiny threads in this complex fabric, however, has current relevance; it has to do with a debate that has turned away from what it is all about to everything it’s not: healthcare reform.
I’ll not rehash here the need for some kind of healthcare reform. Conservatives and liberals alike largely accept the idea that our current system is seriously dysfunctional. Almost everyone agrees that we need to do something. I was lucky; I had insurance, but that $1,500 deductible is a myth – one that is well hidden in the techno-legal mumbo-jumbo that I could not decipher on my best day. And those in late 2000 and most of 2001 were not my best. In simple but decidedly accurate terms, there are three players in the game: The patient, the doctors (collectively, and the hospitals and the clinicians and the x-ray techs and the anesthesiologists, and, and, and) and the insurance company. Of those three players, two are seasoned professionals; they know the lingo and the bureaucracy… it is their game. The amateur is the patient, but only the patient can lose the game. Only the patient bears the legal responsibility for the cost of his or her care – a cost ultimately determined by the pros.
Suffice it to say that my cost far exceeded my deductible, and for reasons that have not yet, still, been adequately explained. I’m not even sure they know themselves and there is no one person accountable. Except me, by law. And if I can’t pay, we all do. But I cite this only to personify what healthcare (or lack thereof) has become in the greatest and most prosperous country in the world. What gives? Why can’t we fix it? We have identified many of the problems as well as possible solutions many, many times and over many, many years. What could possibly be standing in the way? This should be a rhetorical question, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is not, so I’ll answer it: Partisan politics.
And in today’s culture, that really means dirty politics. This is not about helping the people of this nation get covered or reforming what has been for far too long a broken system, it’s about winners and losers. Many of the arguments presented – and accepted – are so ridiculous that reasoned, valid and legitimate debate is no longer taking place. Although it is not at all surprising that the extreme right-wing demagogues would perpetuate these fallacies (death panels? Please…), it is somewhat surprising that so many otherwise rational Republicans (or conservatives) do. Their not so thinly veiled goal is to beat Obama and the Democrats and it has become so pronounced that the concept of reforming healthcare has fallen off the agenda entirely. It is just another game, but the losers remain the same.
If something isn’t done soon the opportunity will be gone. The Republicans are so bent on seeing the “other side” fail that serving this country and the best interests of all of her people comes secondarily, if at all. Can we afford to wait another 20 or more years for another window to open up? If this reform effort fails, what does the right have to offer other than the status quo? Our elected representatives have long forgotten for whom they work – this is not news, but when it comes to something that is so pivotal and fundamental, wouldn’t you think they could pull their collective heads out of their ass(ets) and put this pettiness aside?
Maybe I expect too much.