Be forewarned: This is a rant.
Where are the grown-ups in Congress? Can we please go back to the days when people with strong opinions had the maturity to speak to one another and negotiate a compromise?
I had a hard time concentrating on my work this past week, with all the school-yard bullying on Capitol Hill that caused millions of hard-working federal employees to sit idle and worry about their next paychecks, while right-wing conservatives insisted they wouldn’t fund the federal budget unless they could gut the Affordable Care Act.
Then, with Orwellian ease, these same Tea Party Republicans turned around and began to press legislation to fund, piecemeal, all the government programs they realized their constituents valued, after all. Like the National Institute of Health. And help for poor women who can’t afford to feed their children. And blamed it all on the Democrats. Really? How stupid do they think we are?
Whatever your opinion about Obamacare, this is not the way to resolve it. The new law may have flaws that need to be worked out, but it also has already helped millions of children with pre-existing conditions to get health care coverage, something the free market has failed to do. And it promises to help millions of American adults with chronic illnesses like scleroderma to get necessary medical care that they could not otherwise afford. So many people tried to check out the new insurance exchanges this past week that websites across the country couldn’t handle the load. Clearly, demand is real and significant.
But there are so many lies, so much misinformation being perpetrated by a conservative coalition backed in large part by the Koch brothers, billionaire oil magnates whose corporate holdings include Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups and Georgia-Pacific lumber, among other profit centers. This past Sunday’s New York Times explains the months-long machinations that have led to the current standoff.
Even the idol of conservative Republicans, Ronald Regan, knew how to negotiate with House leader and died-in-the-wool liberal Democrat Tip O’Neill. Take a page from the Gipper’s playbook, Tea Party members, and let us get on with the real work of governing. Please.
What disturbs me as much as this hostage-taking political brinksmanship inside the Beltway is the cynical effort by this same conservative coalition to undermine the law’s effectiveness by trying to convince young, healthy Americans, especially college students, not to enroll in Obamacare.
The program’s long-term success depends on everyone, healthy or not, to participate and spread the risk. Where is our good old American compassion? Our sense of community and responsibility for each other? Not to mention the fact that young adults shouldn’t be boondoggled into thinking they can do without healthcare coverage. That is just pure foolishness. An emergency room visit for a broken ankle or dehydration from the flu—the kinds of medical crises that can strike anyone, regardless of age or medical condition—can easily cost several thousand dollars, far more than most young adults can afford. And it’s certainly smarter to get healthcare coverage when you’re young and healthy—otherwise you run the risk of being denied coverage when you get really sick.
It’s that pre-existing condition Catch-22.
Health insurance isn’t the only type of coverage that currently penalizes those of us who struggle with chronic disease. I cannot get affordable long term care insurance, something I may well need in the future. My scleroderma makes the premiums outrageously high. I also cannot add to my life insurance, which I fortunately had the foresight to buy when I was still healthy and in my twenties. But my coverage is modest, what I could afford back then.
I’m sure it will be years, probably decades, before those free market inequities are addressed. Meanwhile, I am praying that Congress and the President are able to work out their differences, get our dedicated federal employees back on the job, avoid the major catastrophe of a default on the nation’s debt payments, and refine the Affordable Care Act as needed without any more childish shenanigans.
I love our system of democracy. The older I get, the more I value the freedoms we enjoy. It’s high time for the principled adults to stand up to the egotistical ideologues, take back Congress and work together to solve the very serious issues we all face as a nation.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.