Columns 2012

Health care the right thing to do

There are some things in life that can’t be fixed. Old age is one of them. You are born, you mature, and eventually you get to be old and achy. Then you die.

So when I got out of my winter’s easy chair, where the most strenuous thing I’d done for six months is take my dogs on walks, and bowled three games using a not totally approved form for getting the ball to roll down the alley, I expected that I might feel some strains and pains the next day. I was very right.

Getting old is not for the fainthearted. Muscles that used to respond immediately to any demands now ask for a few weeks to work up enthusiasm for new tasks. Bones that once operated in a smooth and quiet fashion now creak and groan like an old boat on a rough sea. Tylenol becomes a very close friend.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Despite a myriad of health issues, I am fairly healthy. The aches will subside. The pain will decrease. I’ll even roll that ball down the alley again assuming anyone ever again wants someone on their team whose high score was 75.

The reason I consider myself lucky, the reason I can feel even remotely healthy despite multiple health challenges, is because I’ve had the great good fortune of having health insurance coverage my entire life. Well, maybe not my entire life. My parents didn’t have health insurance. So I guess my childhood was a crap shoot as far as everyone hoping to god no great illness visited us.

From my first job until today, I’ve been covered. When a health issue arose, I didn’t hesitate to seek care. The sooner I did, the sooner I got the problem under control. And the sooner I did that, the less amount of long term damage I suffered.

I received notice a few weeks ago that my annual mammogram was due. I didn’t think twice about picking up the phone and making the appointment. When I got to the window, I showed my Medicare card and my secondary insurance. Twenty minutes later I left the facility knowing that a professional would look at my x-rays and send my regular doctor a report. No muss, no fuss, no wondering if I could both afford preventive care and dinner on the same day.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to weigh that kind of decision… food or medicine, medical tests or rent. In a fair and compassionate world, no one would ever have to contemplate those choices. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where people every day look at a sick baby or a husband in pain or a funny lump under their arm and wonder if they can afford to take care of the problem and, if so, what else in their budget will have to be cut.

Of course, there’s always the emergency room where, when you show up, they pretty much have to see you. Problem is that’s not what ERs are for. So they patch you up as best they can and tell you to see your regular physician. Except you can’t afford a regular physician or you probably wouldn’t be in the ER in the first place.

We can argue for a long time whether Obamacare or Romneycare or some other care is the answer or not to what ails America. What can’t be argued is that there are two classes of people in this country right now, those who can afford to be healthy and those whose health care plan consists of hoping to god nothing happens to them.

Taking care of the sick and the poor is a tenet in almost every major religion in the world. On top of that, it is simply the moral and ethical thing to do. You can debate all you want about how to do it, but what should never be debated is that it is something we should do.

A currently proposed House budget that axes health care and food programs to pay for more military spending than even the top brass of the military wants is an ungodly, unchristian and unworkable solution for any great nation to contemplate.