I am quite weary of the frankly irresponsible nonsense I hear in the national debate over healthcare. From the religious voices that seek to convince us that freedom of religion means they are free to impose their religious view on whomever they please while those upon whom they would impose their views do not have the right to refuse, to those who are selfish enough to feel that since they have health insurance everybody else can go to hell, it’s the kind of uneducated simple-mindedness that ceased to exist in most part of the developed world in the last century.
I met a man last weekend who, at 72, has been forced to take a job sweeping floors because his Medicare coverage is woefully inadequate. Since he has had a defibrillator implanted, no insurance company will offer him a supplemental insurance policy. Last week, the school building in which he works – which is not climate controlled – had temperatures in excess of one hundred degrees. He told me he knows that he will work until he dies so that he can have health care coverage. I challenge someone to explain to me how anyone can feel that our healthcare system is working when they hear stories like this.
I have heard young men in their late twenties and early thirties respond to stories like this by saying that man should have worked harder or saved more so he could pay for things like this. Such attitudes reflect a voluntary ignorance of the cost of medical care and the criminal callousness of our managed care system that makes money by not paying for the very coverage it contracted to provide. Be very clear – when the insurance company’s actuarial tables determine it will cost too much to cover treatment needed to keep you alive they will simply refuse – and you will die. The hysterical, fantasy based rhetoric of the Sarah Palin’s of the world around “death panels” in universal healthcare fail to recognize that we currently have the world’s largest death panel – managed care health insurance.
We need to come to see this as the moral issue it is. Religions that have relegated morality to what people do with their genitals (unless, of course, they are the ones doing things with their genitals, in which case they would rather not discuss it) are nothing less than abdicating their responsibility to stand with the disenfranchised. Churches are obsessed with ovaries and penises and Congressmen do not want to hear about vaginas – but neither of them seem to want to address why their own parent’s medical bills aren’t adequately covered. Have they all lost their minds, or did they never have one to begin with?
We can talk about morality until we are blue in the face, but until we wake up to our responsibility to care for – rather than attempt to control – one another, it’s all so much hot air. It doesn’t matter what we value so much that we posses it at the expense of another, the fact that we would willingly allow someone to suffer so we could have more is absolutely amoral and disgusting. Greed is quite simply never an appropriate motive.