I just finished the most emotionally draining telephone exchange I think I’ve ever had. It was with my primary health care provider, concerning the surprisingly thorny question of services received versus services requested versus services covered by my health insurance. I’d been trying to get an answer for more than a week, and it was implied that this was expecting a little too much.
I was exceptionally non-Mennonite. I was sarcastic with a total stranger. I asked to speak to someone’s supervisor. It did not, however, occur to me to ask for the 27B-6. Maybe that would’ve done the trick.
The compromise that might actually get us a nationwide, publicly-financed insurance plan — what many are calling a “public option” — is to make it optional? Well, at least the crazy is flowing the way I’d prefer, for once.
Snark aside, the compromise is to make the public option “optional” at the state level — states can opt out if they want, presumably through legislative action. Sounds fine to me. The point of a public option is to make it big, and the big blue states — California, New York, &c — won’t opt out. It’ll be (mostly) smaller, hyperconservative states that — Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho — are most likely to do so. That’s unfortunate, because these are also poor states, with lots of citizens who would benefit from public health insurance — but at least their legislatures can be crazy on their own, and not derail it for the rest of the country.
This is also one more reason I’d better find a postdoc somewhere outside of Idaho.
I think the lesson here is that, for the segregationists as for the people who now say that health care reform is Socialist/ Fascist/ Communist/ Satanic, these terms mean only one thing: “not the way I want America to be.” And I think it’s every bit as sad that there exist Americans who believe it’s OK for a huge portion their our fellow Americans to live without proper health care, as it was for there to exist Americans who thought it was wrong for black kids to go to school with white kids.
The New York Times has just released a poll of American attitudes toward the health insurance reforms pending in Congress. There’s a lot to be depressed about, but the worst might be this: 75% of respondents are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the cost of their health care will go up if no action is taken; but 77% have the same concern that costs will rise if action is taken. If those are completely independent probabilities, that means almost 58% of the country thinks health care costs will go up no matter what happens. (If, instead, we minimize the number of people who think costs will go up under both scenarios, it’s 52%, still a majority.)
Those numbers tell me that my fellow Americans are just scared, and they may not even know why. They’re faced, on the one hand, with an economic downturn in which it’s good news if we only lose a quarter-million jobs in a given month and health insurance is becoming more expensive and less meaningful by the day; and, on the other, with irresponsible idiots telling them that government health insurance means mandatory euthanasia for Grandma. The system is broken, and we’re terrified of the fix. And that terrifies me.