I’m sick of being sick.
Not to get too personal, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the last eight months, working with my doctors, to get well. You see, I’ve got a real pain in my neck—literally. Is it a pinched nerve? Arthritis? Lyme disease? Poor posture? Plain old aging? Take your pick. Finally, after so many tests and scans and x-rays and physical therapy and appointments, I think I’m on the road to recovery. I pray I will be back on my bicycle come spring, pain free, ready to ride.
Because being sick really stinks.
No other way to name it. Illness deflates the spirit. Upsets the regular routines of life. Distracts the one who is ill, makes it hard to fully concentrate on other things. I’m not complaining. Through this journey I’ve been supported by caring family and friends, skilled healers, and one reassuring medicine that is perhaps more important to my peace of mind, than any other. It’s kind of a miracle cure actually, especially these days.
It’s my health insurance card.
The 3 ¼ by 2 ¼ inch plastic rectangle I keep in my billfold. So powerful a drug for such a diminutive document, for when you possess this card, doors open, doctors respond, hospitals treat, practitioners practice, prescriptions are filled and most important, an insurance company (and sometimes the government too) helps pay for the cost of treatment. Treatment that almost always is very, very expensive.
You realize how central this card is to health the first time you walk into a doctor’s office or treatment facility for a visit. Often the initial question is not: “How are you feeling?” but, “Do you have insurance?” In 2017, for millions of Americans, the answer to this question may be about to take a turn for the worse, much worse, if some in power succeed and “reform” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ACA is a 2010 law that has provided health insurance for upwards of 20 million Americans who previously lacked coverage, didn’t have that magic card in their wallets. And yes, I do agree with the critics who note that the ACA is far from perfect. It is a work in progress. Yet the numbers don’t lie. Millions of our neighbors and the vulnerable and the invisible and the powerless and those living on the edge economically: they now have health care. The ACA has lowered the number of uninsured folks in the United States to less than ten percent of the population, the smallest figure ever.
So, yes, please, fix the ACA. Carefully. Thoughtfully. But don’t change it wholesale. Don’t gut it. Don’t make insurance more expensive for the financially struggling. And please don’t, DON’T repeal it.
I’m not alone in being sick over the possibility of losing the ACA. Groups like the American Medical Association, the Catholic Health Association, the American Association of Retired Persons, and the American Hospital Association are all against the proposed bill. There’s basic economics at work too. We pay for the uninsured with or without the ACA. When folks who can’t afford health care, seek care, the cost of that care is added into the system’s bottom line. We have and will always pay for health care for the sick, one way or another. The United States is alone among almost all western developed nations, in not guaranteeing decent health care for all. America first? America dead last. That is unless you have first class health insurance, like the President and the Congress do. Any one else bothered by this whiff of hypocrisy?
But as a person of faith, my argument lines up with Congressman Kennedy’s. Providing affordable, decent health care for every last American citizen is the merciful and the right thing to do. Period. This is not an argument about money. This debate must be understood in moral terms. When will we as a nation finally declare that it is our responsibility, together, to help the sick? To heal the wounded. To reassure and comfort the poor and the powerless. To see that anyone who ever gets sick (and that’s every one): they should have that miraculous health insurance card in their pockets too. Not just the “lucky” ones like me.
I’m still sick of being sick. But I’m really, really sick of having this debate about health insurance and health care, again and again and again and again. Health care for all is finally about simple, decent, human mercy. Not politics. Not partisanship. Not posturing. The real cure for what ails us our healthcare system?