Monster in the Closet

Somehow, we continue to dither about how or if to change our health care system.  We have shown great leadership at some times in our history, but when I read about how we compare with other countries today, I worry that we are stuck in fear.  The other industrialized nations of the world have shown us a myriad of ways to create public health systems, and shown us the strengths and weaknesses of various systems.  Still, we are not ready.  We want to suck our thumbs and cry.

A poll cited in the New York Times today reported that “75 percent of respondents said they were concerned that the cost of their own health care cost would go up if the government did not create a system of providing health care for all Americans. But 77 percent said they were concerned the cost of health care would go up if the government did create such a system.”

What kind of craziness is that?  It’s like a little kid telling you, “Don’t close my closet door.  You’ll make the monster angry.”  And then, “Don’t open my closet door.  The monster will come out!”

This hardly seems like an American reaction to me.  I thought we were a nation of risk-takers.  Many of our people are here because they struck out for new places, took a big risk.  And this public health insurance thing is hardly the biggest risk we’ve taken.  Richard Nixon had a similar idea.  And that was, like, a long time ago (before I was born!), and he was not exactly a commie feel-good croissant-eater.

Almost a year ago, a lot of Americans were all hyped up about having our first African-American president, and we were all cooing about how times had changed, and how wonderful it was, and what it all meant (even Republicans).  We make one reasonable leap forward (let’s not be racist in our voting!), and the next summer we’re too afraid to entertain possibilities for fixing one of our most glaring problems.

But the fear is enticing: oh, the government will tell you what medical procedures you can have!  (Instead of your insurance company or your bank account balance.)  Oh, the government will waste our money, indebt us!  (Unlike those kind, gentle corporations, who never waste our money or extort us for bailouts rather than go out of business.)

I’m not afraid of public health insurance.  I’m hopeful.  I hope that my friends who live with the fear of illness or injury causing financial catastrophe will get some piece of mind.  I hope that people who have already been unlucky enough to have cancer can live merely with the fear of cancer, not the dread of knowing it’s impossible for them to get insurance again.

I hope that this country will recognize that almost none of us are wealthy enough to afford every medical procedure that we might ever want.  That having the choice of every doctor on planet earth doesn’t mean a lot if you are laid off and have no insurance and run through your savings.  And that if you think your health insurance and income keep you safe from catastrophic medical bills, do a little more research, and find out you are wrong.  (Except for Warren Buffet.  And probably Brad Pitt.  Pitt does have a lot of kids, though.)

It just breaks my heart that the same country with the balls to take on the British Empire and Adolf Hitler is shaking in its boots over taking a step that a struggling place like Thailand attempted in 2001.  I mean, seriously.  If Thailand can deal with both political instability and universal health care, then the U.S. can give it a shot, too.  We are embarrassing ourselves by shying away from the mere attempt.  This is not the stuff we are made of.

The Times reference:

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