Wednesday, October 30, 2013

thoughts on Obamacare from an uninsured young woman



It's been a while since I posted, and there are a lot of updates to cover, but I'm writing today because I felt like I needed to take a very public stand on the Affordable Care Act and express my feelings about the current controversy in our society. While these statements abound, I think it's important for the Americans that this law affects the most to make our voices heard. As an uninsured young woman with a baby on the way, you can imagine what a godsend this act would be to me if I weren't fortunate enough to be with someone whose employer recognizes domestic partnerships and covers them.

It's no secret that I'm a flaming liberal (and a long-winded one, at that). I fully and wholeheartedly support gay marriage, ending US involvement in many of the Middle East conflicts, universal healthcare, alternative fuel research, action on global warming, legalization of marijuana (and, in turn, criminalization of nicotine), abandoning the war on drugs, an extensive public welfare system (though I will also state that our current system is in desperate need of review and reform) and many other liberal flags.

That doesn't mean that I agree with every single thing President Obama has done. HOWEVER, I am a rational enough person to recognize that he, and most of the other top government officials, know a hell of a lot more about what's going on in the government and around the world than I do, and therefore are able to make better informed decisions - whether they are right or wrong, only history will ever truly know. While I desperately wish he would close sites like Guantanamo Bay and extricate our country from unnecessary military action that in truth has no real bearing on our country's liberties, empirical evidence shows him to be an intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable man and I trust that he has reasons for the actions that he takes (or doesn't take), even if I disagree with them or if they turn out to be incorrect.

However, when we come to public and social policy issues like healthcare, in my mind the issue seems pretty black and white, and politicians aren't granted the benefit of the doubt when they oppose providing healthcare to our nation's poorest and sickest. The medical and insurance companies have gotten wildly out of hand, and far too many people are forced to forgo medical treatment because they are unable to afford the coverage or the treatments that might save their lives. The arguments against the Affordable Care Act seem mostly based on fabrications, partial truths wrung out of context and even some outright lies. Many conservatives scream about getting government out of our lives and "out of the exam room", but then turn around and demand trans-vaginal ultra sounds for women who exercise their right to choose what happens within their own body when conservative attempts to criminalize that right fail. 

The GOP has employed blatant, over the top scare tactics in attempting to dissuade people (particularly young adults) from signing up for the ACA. I find these attempts at fear mongering (such as the Uncle Sam gyno exam commercial) to be not only gross misrepresentations of the law, but also insulting to the intelligence and cognitive reasoning abilities of the audience they're aimed at. It's the opposition saying, "We think you're too lazy to actually do the research and read the specifics of the ACA for yourself, so we're going to play on your fears and worst nightmares by spinning half-truths and flat out lies to scare you away from taking advantage of something that could potentially save your financial well-being, or maybe even your life, or the life and financial/physical welfare of someone else, because WE don't want the act to be successful."

While I won't deny that there have been issues with the launch of the website, I feel that the goal of the act is one that anyone with a conscience and a sense of civic responsibility can agree with - access to affordable healthcare for ALL American citizens, and I'm having a hard time understanding why Republicans are railing so hard against it. According to a recent study by Harvard Medical School researchers, "nearly 45,000 people die in the US each year - one every 12 minutes - in large part because they lack health insurance and cannot get good care." (Source: Reuters). This number is higher than drunk driving and homicide combined. The study goes on to state that Americans adults under the age of 64 who lack health coverage have a 40% higher risk of death than those who have coverage. In 2008, roughly 46.3 million US citizens lacked health insurance, and these numbers are increasing yearly. These people - myself included, at the moment - are far more likely to suffer and die from preventable/treatable complications and illnesses simply because they can't afford the care they so desperately need. If they were to seek treatment, they would likely be plagued by financial difficulties from the INSANE cost of medical bills for the rest of their lives, and if they were to pass while in treatment, those bills would haunt their grieving family members. The piper demands to be paid.

This is simply unacceptable in a nation that is supposed to be a world leader in democracy and social responsibility. It's an alarming reality that calls into question our entire healthcare system, as well as the true "morality" of a society in which it's okay to let people die because they would rather feed their children than go to the doctor for their insulin.

In an editorial BetterUtah.org website, Erin Mann makes a very valid point: "Our government provides a free public education system so that all Americans have equal access to education. If a good education were only available to those who could afford it, where would our nation be? By the same token, healthcare should not only be available to those who can afford it. It should be available to all American citizens."

I am not a "balls to the wall" liberal. I prefer to step back and analyze an issue and all possible answers before committing myself fully to a cause or solution. After a great deal of thought and debate, I simply can't see any reason to so completely and vehemently oppose Obamacare as the Tea Party and other conservatives do. Sure, there might be certain aspects of the reform act that might need to be looked at again, but overall, it's the best treatment we currently have to a growing cancer in our culture. 

Over the last several years, we have watched our government fall apart as the Republican Party throws what amounts to a nationwide hissy fit because they didn't get their way, and as the Democrats fumble their leadership and fail to carry out the mandate issued to them by the youth of the country. The political and cultural landscape of our nation is changing, as the priorities and ethical standpoints of the majority of one generation supersede the previous one. It's the cycle of history - things change. Evolution is a FACT, not a theory, and it applies to political processes just as it does to physical ones. We're not asking the older generation to step aside completely, but we are asking them to open their eyes and recognize that it's time for a new social contract, where civic responsibility takes on a new meaning from those of the past - a social contract in which the strong help the weak instead of eating them, where the rich help the poor instead of ignoring them and the well-fed share their plate with the hungry children freezing on the street.



Sources & Further Reading:
Reuters article cited above:

American Public Health Association Journal where Harvard study referred to in Reuters article was originally published:

Erin Mann's editorial on the BetterUtah.org website:

Examples of People Who Were Denied Health Care (by Media Matters):

John Rawl's Social Contract Theory: