Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Reform and Foolish Arguments

The issue of health care reform is one I am very passionate about. I think the discussion for health care reform is long overdue. We discussed it for about ten seconds in the early 1990s, and have not heard much about it since then. It has been my opinion for a very long time that a nation with as many resoures as the United States has is without excuse when it comes to the millions who have to live without health insurance. Reforms have been needed for decades, and while Obama's plan may not be perfect, I am thrilled that we are at least talking about it. Again.

Being one of such strong opinions on the subject, I could not resist taking a poll on a social networking site that asked if I believed access to health care is a basic human right. My answer was an emphatic (you should have seen the energy in my font!) YES. I knew this would cause a ripple, but with so much discussion about the topic, I had no way of anticipating the response I would receive from someone I counted as a friend.

The first response to my post was, "Who gave you that right?"

This response shocked me, because it seemed instantly combative, and I was on the defensive at once. I argued that if we are going to claim to be pro-life, as this individual does, then it only stands to reason that we would be in favor of health care for everyone. I aruged that we should not end our pro-life stance simply because the child is now out of the womb, or that child grows into an adult who is no longer covered by state medical. People have the right to health care simply by way of being human. If we are to be pro-life, we need to be pro-life at all points of the spectrum, not simply for the unborn.

I was then corrected. I was told that health care and pro-life issues are not the same. Life is a God-given right, and it is FREE (though to whom it is free, I do not know. Bringing a baby into the world is very expensive, and the costs do not end at birth. It's the gift that keeps on taking.) Health care, on the other hand, is a privilege.

From that point on, the discussion became very heated. While we were only typing our questions and responses to each other, it was clear that it became very personal. I finally bowed out of the "conversation" before I went too far and said something intentionally hurtful, out of anger. The long and the short of it is that we did not see eye to eye, not by a long shot, and I was increasingly stunned by the things this pro-life Christian was saying.

What amazes me about the entire discussion on health care reform is that the loudest voices against it seem to be coming from the Christian conservatives, the most vocal "pro-life" groups out there. It is not as though these groups are offering alternatives to the current proposal. They are simply saying that the government shouldn't take over people's health care, that Obama is another Hitler, that Obama wants a socialist nation,that Obama is a fascist, etc. All the anti-Obama rhetoric, and the Glenn Beck/Republican Party funded march on Washington, has offered up no viable alternatives to what Obama is proposing.

It shocked and sickened me to see this individual, who represents a very wealthy and powerful sect of our society, essentially say that those who do not have health insurance need to fend for themselves, because, after all, life isn't fair and it isn't our job to make it fair. What infuriated me perhaps beyond anything else this person said was the, the very blatant statement...that life isn't fair, and nothing will be fair until Christ returns to make all things perfect. When I challenged them by asking if this really was the best we had to offer...the response was YES!

It is still upsetting to me. This individual represented every reason why I have distanced myself from the conservative movement and from the mainstream Christian church. In my opinion, the mainstream conservative Christians have become so arrogant, so "fat cat" in their view of the world around them, all compassion and empathy has been lost. If it is still their, it is buried under a lot of bullshit rhetoric. These people say in one breath that they care about the problem of so many people being uninsured, and in the next breath say that health care is a privilege, and life is not fair and it's not our job to make it fair.

Perhaps it is not our job to make life fair. We can't make life fair. But, if we have the means to help lighten the load for someone, we should do it. I believe we are compelled to do it. As human beings, and most definitely as Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Why is it that the U.S. is so quick to send aid to help the poor and oppressed in the Middle East, yet just as quickly ignores the poor and oppressed in our own country? Why do we not feel compelled to help our own citizens?

Every day, people suffer needlessly, even to the point of death, due to conditions that could be easily treated if they had access to quality health care. The uninsured either do not get treatment, succumbing to very treatable illness, or they flood the emergency rooms for conditions that are not emergencies. The uninsured have become very savvy, realizing that the emergency room cannot turn them away. Emergency rooms are overflowing with people who are there for conditions that could easily be treated by a family docto, if the patient had health insurance and/or could afford to see a family doctor.

I am not saying anything here that is not well known, insofar as the need for health care reform is concerned. There is no denying that our health care system needs an overhaul. What baffled me today was the callousness with which my worthy opponent seemed to dismiss the uninsured. It seemed as though the individual had a "I'm covered. Too bad for them, though. Life's not fair." Perhaps that wasn't my imagination.

I wanted so much to say that if the church that the individual was hiding behind would do its job, we would not even be having this conversation. Matthew 25 indicates that the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and didn't do. Jesus spoke specifically, in verse 36, about health care when He said, "I was sick, and you looked after me."

What I am reading there is that if the church was doing what it was supposed to do, there would be no need for government intervention for health care or anything else. Within the body of Christ, we have people of skill, people who have the education, training, and licensing to do everything Jesus mentions in Matthew 25:34-36. Yet, for everything mentioned there, we have a government program that pays people to do those things.


So, who gave me the right to health care? It looks like Jesus did. I am having a hard time swallowing it when a Christian can truly profess that we do not owe anyone access to health care as a basic right, because life is not fair and it's God's job, not ours, to make it fair.

I feel very passionately about this issue because of my own experiences with needing health care but having no insurance. In April of 2007, I was diagnosed with renal carcinoid cancer, and had surgery to remove my left kidney. At the time of my diagnosis, I had insurance from my job, so everything connected to my care at that time was paid for.

However, I could not work, so, naturally, I lost my insurance. Six weeks after my surgery, when the pain from the surgery would not subside, my doctor ordered a CT scan. The scan showed I had some cancer in my lymph nodes, and it was recommended that I receive radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. I did not have that kind of money in my sock drawer, and I had been denied Medicaid. The cancer wasn't going away on its unfair!...and I needed treatment. What was I supposed to do?

No one could believe I had been denied Medicaid. I had cancer, for cryin' out loud, and I was denied Medicaid? That was disheartening and infuriating. All of us felt so powerless.

What could be done about it? Who would have the power to get me the help I needed? I had done everything I could, to no avail. What now?

My mom called our state representative's office and explained the situation. A few phone calls and a couple of days later, I had the Medicaid approval I needed, and simultaneously received word that I had been approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

So, I know what I'm talking about when I say we DO need the government to step in and oversee things. Obviously, without my state representatives help, I would have been left to suffer as the tumors grew and made me more sick. I was not destitute enough to qualify for Medicaid on the first try, and I was not wealthy enough to buy private insurance. I know, I isn't fair and access to health care is a privilege, not a right. God will provide, right?

It looks to me like the way He provided was by having the government step in and make sure I received access to health care. I do not understand the notion of God providing, when there is a stubborn unwillingness to be the vessel through which He provides.

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