June 26, 2017

Republican Health Care: Is This the Best We Can Do?

patriotism
However close we might have come to having a real debate over health care in the U.S., it seems that it may soon be over. In yet another reminder that elections have consequences no matter how poor voter turnout may be, the Republican side of the debate has all but won. The question about whether access to quality health care is a right for all Americans or a luxury reserved for those few who can afford it appears to have been answered (i.e., health care is a privilege). And in all fairness to the Republicans currently occupying Congress, I suspect that this decision was made prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act when Democrats turned their backs on single payer and embraced the insurance industry instead.

I think it is at times like these - when we are facing the prospect of several million Americans losing health insurance followed by deep cuts to Medicaid - that we need to reflect on the sort of nation we want to be. It sounds like we would much rather expand our military and resume investing in our nuclear arsenal than prevent our fellow citizens from descending into poverty due to an illness. And rather than investing in public education or working to resolve a vast array of social ills, we'd prefer to expand our prison system.

Of course, many of us do not feel this way. It isn't like the Senate bill is popular, after all. Plenty of Americans see it for what it is. The problem is, Congress is filled with people who were elected to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and this seems to be the perfect excuse to end Medicaid as we know it.

I'm no longer sure what it would take to jolt enough us out of our apathy that we would force our elected officials to right what is increasingly feeling like a sinking ship. I really hope that the prospect of 22 million Americans losing their health insurance might do it. Impeaching Trump would not go nearly far enough. The Democrats retaking Congress would not go nearly far enough. Too much about the system is broken. Too much about the Democratic Party is broken. And yes, the system to which I refer here is us. We are responsible for its dysfunction. Too many of us have opted out of participating in our democracy.

Believe it or not, this is where some optimism comes in. While I am not sure what it might take for enough us to come to our senses and participate, I do think that we could make a real difference if this were to happen. Beginning to pay attention and communicate with our elected officials would be a positive step. We'd also need to embrace reason and make major strides toward overcoming tribalism. But if we could do these things, I still think that we could improve our plight.

As the 4th of July approaches, I cannot help thinking that now is an ideal time to ask ourselves, "What sort of country do we want to be?" I'd certainly like to be the sort of country where everyone had access to quality health care and illness did not lead so many to poverty. That does not seem to be too much to ask, and I suspect it is what I will be thinking about amidst all the fireworks and flag waving. But before that, I will make sure that both of the Senators elected to represent the state in which I reside hear from me about the Senate health care bill.
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