Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why we will never have universal health care coverage

Last July 9th, I took my bike, put my youngest kid in the back and rode to the old courthouse in downtown Ft. Myers, where some people were going to demonstrate and make their voice heard in support of universal health care. I was of a mind of doing some demonstrating too, supporting something so basic as government provided basic health care for all.
Alas, that wasn't to be. When I got there, I saw, in a nutshell, why universal health care is not going to happen in this country, ever. Which is a damn shame, really. I'm sure the O administration is going to be able to pass some weak-ass, watered down version of health care reform, as long as it doesn't interfere with the obscene profits of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. But whatever it is, it's not going to be universal health care, like they have in advanced, first world societies like... Argentina.
That's right, Argentina, South America. The Old Country, in my case. Where, when we went for vacation a while ago, the same little one riding the back of my bike had the bad luck of falling ill. As in, seriously ill, with a respiratory infection that wouldn't let her breathe. You can imagine my grief as I took her to the nearest children's hospital (5 blocks from my mom's place, in fact, near Constitucion train station - Hospital Pedro de Elizalde). Well, she was immediately admitted, no questions asked, no requirement to show an insurance card or a credit card or an ID or anything at all. She was given the best care around the clock. Doctors would check on her on the hour, every hour. Very capable nurses would administer medicines and check on IV drips constantly. The room was clean, modern and well-appointed with all the necessary gear. The only difference I could see from Health Park here in Ft. Myers was that there were 2 people per room instead of 1, and no TV. That's it. The rest was the same.
So anyway, she stayed there a few days, got well, they let her go after making sure she'd be OK. When we were leaving, I mentioned that we were visitors, and inquired as to how to pay for her stay. They just looked at me in a funny way. It just doesn't work that way. Nobody's going to make a profit from someone falling ill, period. It's society's responsibility to care of all. You can choose a private insurance plan, with a private clinic, if for whatever reason you prefer to. Maybe 2 people per room is too much for you, and you want to be alone. Or you want cable TV. Whatever. You have that option. There's no big, socialistic government banning private enterprise in medicine. There's many private insurance companies. With many clients (patients?). But society as a whole will guarantee that everyone has their basic health care needs met. There's no ads on TV about new drugs. A doctor will prescribe what he thinks you need, without you "asking him about...".
Maybe I'm making it sound perfect here, and it isn't. The nurse was telling me of planeloads of foreigners coming from Lima and Miami to get sex-change surgery, plastic surgery, that kind of thing, for free. There's many problems and abuses, sure. But the simple fact is, if you have a health problem, a) you're gonna get treatment to matter what, and b), you're not gonna be in debt forever because of it. Actually, you're not going to have to pay anything for treatment, period. You're supposed to get well and get back to work and start paying your taxes again, so that when somebody else has a problem, he's taken care of as well, just like your daughter was.
Oh, taxes. A sore spot, that. Right off the bat, I noticed that there were about a dozen or so people demonstrating FOR health care, and two dozen AGAINST it. Paying higher taxes was a big rationale as to why the government shouldn't guarantee health care for all, according to the demonstrators against. Well, God forbid you'd have to pay a percentage point more on your ATV, or your Jet Ski, or your cigarettes, or your booze, in order to have doctors treat little girls without coverage, or laid off workers who don't have insurance through work anymore and aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, or old, broke, retired persons. No sir, that's not gonna happen, they kept yelling, right before proclaiming how Christian and holier-than-thou they are. You know the type, the Tea Party people, the ones with the "Don't tread on me" and Confederate flags, that foam in the mouth at the mere mention on Obama or the Democrats.
Well, they should chill out, because Obama and the Democrats, once again, will do nothing. There will be a lot of talk, then some totally meaningless half-measures to save face, then everything will go back to normal. Normal being our current state of affairs, where being uninsured and having an accident pretty much guarantees you'll die destitute in the richest nation on Earth. Heck, even with insurance they'll bleed you dry, these companies employ thousands of people just to look for ways to deny you coverage you already paid for.
Another big point these bozos had was how people from other countries envy our system here, and come to get treatment, how you can't get a hospital bed in Canada and have to come stateside to get treatment, etc. I say, bullshit. That's Faux News and talk radio propaganda, pure and simple. It's just not true. Never mind my little Argentinian example before. I have friends from Canada, Denmark, the UK, Italy, Chile and a bunch of other places, and I know they are quite happy with their system, can get a bed when they need it, and wouldn't dream of coming here to get treatment, unless maybe to see a specific doctor who is the best in his field, in a desperate case, a top doctor that could be here just as well as in Japan or Germany - they would go there to see him too, if the situation was desperate enough. I wonder how many of the guys demonstrating against health care for all know anyone residing in a different country, that could confirm or deny the whole "foreigners envy our system" crap.
Anyway, the reason I say health care reform is never gonna happen, besides the fact of Democrats being just Republicans Light since a long time ago and completely afraid to confront lobbies and interests head-on, despite having a clear mandate to do so, is because anyone who wants to have a rational discussion about the matter is gonna get shouted down by an angry mob, brainwashed by whatever propaganda they listen to in their monster trucks and McMansions, and angry as hell at "liberals" and "minorities" and "entitlements" and "taxes" - when they should be mad as hell at "Goldman Sachs", really, and all the Goldman Sachs insiders in this and every other administration. They are OK with letting someone die for lack of medical treatment, Christians that they are, especially if her points of view differ from their Holy Writ - I mention this because in the camp of those supporting health care the other day, there was some lady with a hat bearing a legend supporting gay marriage. Well, you should see how those counter-demonstrators really went crazy about that. Every time this lady approached them to try and have a conversation and explain her points, they would just shout her down, they wouldn't listen or talk, just ratchet up the decibels. Don't get me wrong, I think gay marriage is a non-issue. I don't care for it. And I think the lady was mudding the waters, mixing one message with another at the demonstration, as if we don't have trouble enough trying to secure some sort of health care coverage for all Americans, without being distracted by other grievances and struggles. But there it is: they are united, they show up in numbers that double ours, and they just scream and yell very loudly, until anyone opposing them, progressives, liberals, whatever, have to back down and retreat. That's the way it is. If big O, fresh from winning a big election, with a clear mandate from the people, can't push effectively enough for the Change he promised, what can we little guys do? It's hopeless. In the end, I didn't even stay there. The kid kept saying, "these guys yell too loud", meaning the anti-demonstration, and "can we go", so we left. No heroic argument, no "let's convince these deluded guys of how wrong they are", no "let's make a stand here". Why expose my kid and myself to some crazy born-again fanatic yelling 4-letter words at us, with a side of spittle, some bozo that has no idea of what's really going on, and doesn't want to learn anything about anything? Besides, even with the 3 dozen people that showed up either for or against, you know, there's what, a million people in greater Lee and Collier counties? I mean, c'mon. No one cares. No one cares.
A piece of advice, if you're uninsured and have a health issue: go to Miami, take a plane to Buenos Aires, and get the treatment you need. Have about a grand or two available, at all times, cash, to cover the ticket and expenses. Try to learn a little Spanish. And forget about the Holy O liberating us from these health care insurance bloodsuckers, because it's not going to happen, not in our lifetimes, not ever. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid I'm not.

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