Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Country Is Insane

So, health care reform passed today, in a historic vote.

We are supposed to rejoice because the Senate bill includes a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions (while it still allows insurance companies to charge sick patients up to three times as much in premiums, not to mention higher deductibles, etc.) and a ban on rescissions (but it lets insurance companies define fraud, so they can happily continue to practice rescission, that is the practice of dropping coverage for people who, innocently or not--it doesn't matter, have filled out a form incorrectly or incompletely).

We are supposed to ignore the fact that the bill does not, to the utter satisfaction of insurers, establish a public option or lower the eligibility age for Medicare, while at the same time it imposes those very mandates that then candidate Obama condemned because it is not a matter of mandating something, it is a matter of whether people can afford it or not. We are also supposed to ignore the fact that the bill is slated, for the first time, to tax the benefits of union members who, in the past, have sacrificed pay raises in order to keep what the Senate now calls "Cadillac benefits". Not "Cadillac" in the sense that it includes things like boob jobs or botox injections or phallic plastic surgery. "Cadillac" in the sense that it covers everything that an industrial worker might need for himself or his family.

But what is especially sickening about the whole affair is the fact that the bill does not yet cover everyone. It leaves a full 5% of people who live in this country exposed to sickness. For example, it does not cover illegal immigrants. That's only fair, some say. Why would you want to reward with health care people who are in this country because they broke the law to begin with? Because, as it turns out, it is the same people who collect your lettuce, tomatoes, and green onions; who prepare your food in restaurants and homes; who come in contact with you and your children; who attend the same schools (if they are lucky enough to be able to); the same churches; who share the bus you ride; and so on. You don't want to pay for them to get better? Fine. I hope you can at least envision them coughing and sneezing on that delicious burrito they make for you every Monday in the office cafeteria.

Only in a country so miopic, so outwardly generous but inwardly miserly, so hung up on its completely twisted idea of fairness, could excluding millions of people from receiving health care be considered just, let alone humane (or sensible). You don't want illegal immigrants? Then kick them out. But as long as you exploit their slave labor, get it into your tiny little brains that it is not only just, but sensible, to provide them with the same basic medical care that you receive.

And if you still think that the Senate bill is grounds for rejoicing because it prescribes more health insurance for America, not less, remember the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

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