Thought we forgot about our blog, didya? We did, kinda. But we're back! We'll see if we do another disappearing act...
I'm not going to write about the actual politics of healthcare reform. I have mixed feelings about the specific proposal. What I do not have mixed feelings about, however, is that some kind of reform is needed.
We cannot, of course, completely absolve people of responsibility for their choices that may have led to them not be able to find or maintain a job. We cannot hold them blameless for decisions to use drugs, drop out of school, etc.
But we also cannot expect people who are in vastly different situations from the beginning to have the same options we do. I look at the people United Way helps, the people Ryan is seeing in counseling, the people our church serves in the Tower Grove neighborhood. These are people for whom joining a gang was a more feasible option for survival than staying in school; these are people where, if they had even one parent at home regularly (and not just a sibling or grandparent or aunt), it was unusual.
It's unbelievably cold and selfish for us who are relatively rich (as in, we can pay our bills and still buy food), white, college-educated and who have been in a stable family to say that hey, we have healthcare through our job, and if someone else doesn't, that's their own fault. "There but for the grace of God go I" -- how often we forget that.
Four stories -- all true -- of people who don't have health insurance:
- A guy who I met at the homeless park a block from where I work. He lived in New Orleans, moved here after his house was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina to live with his cousin -- until he found out his cousin was dealing drugs. He had a job by then, moved out into his own place, then lost his fairly stable, mid-level job. He lost his apartment because he lost his job, then lost his car, and now can't find a job because he doesn't have reliable transportation.
- A family with three daughters (two in college, one in a private school). The husband had worked at the same place for 20 years as a business analyst. The wife had worked in higher education for about 15 years. They lost their jobs in the same week due to downsizing at both companies.
- A woman who has multiple severe mental health diagnoses due to abuse throughout her childhood and no availability to counseling until now. She's been unable to effectively function or build relationships, much less hold a job.
- Kenneth Gladney. His story is ironic, to say the least. He's a Republican who got beat up at the town hall meeting here (note -- yes, I feel bad for him). But, "Brown [his lawyer] finished by telling the crowd that Gladney is accepting donations toward his medical expenses. Gladney told reporters he was recently laid off and has no health insurance."
Again, I am NOT condemning or condoning the health care bill as it currently stands. What I am saying is that if we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we MUST realize that something has to change in the availability of equal healthcare.
*I stole that title from Salon.com. Let's clarify, though -- death panels do not exist in the bill. It says that Medicare would have to pay for consultations between patients and doctors on end-of-life decisions, which it currently doesn't cover. They are not mandatory, either.