Health Care for the Unlucky

By Don Rollins

I’m lucky. I’m a long way from rich (a relative term, if ever) but I’ve got health insurance, and, friend, in this country that means you’re lucky. Damn lucky.

If I blow out my Achilles in a game of weekend-warrior basketball, at least I don’t have to worry about being partially lame for the rest of my days. If my migraines turn out to be a tumor, at least got a shot at early detection and quality treatment. And if I decide to buy a house, and promptly get upside down on my mortgage, at least it won’t be a stack of medical bills that puts me on the street. I’m lucky, indeed.

But you can’t have the lucky without the unlucky. When it comes to health care, that means something just north of 46 million mostly tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens, at least 10% of whom are kids. Think about that for a minute.

Truth is, luck has precious little to do with health insurance. Just ask around. Ask the bipolar friend who just lost his coverage along with his job; ask the immigrant woman at the day care, the one who just broke her pelvis; ask the panicked twenty-something who just tested HIV-positive. These are not unlucky people; these are people who happen to live in a country where unbridled capitalism and unexamined individualism are exalted and the proletariat is laid low.

But if jeremiads from political hacks like me made any difference (they don’t), we’d have wrapped this thing up back in ’93 (we didn’t). So, what can we do differently this time around?

1. Get educated. If you can navigate an online search engine, you can get the lowdown on just about every universal health care system in the Western World. The wheel has been invented. And assessed. And tweaked. The one benefit from having waited so long is that we can cherry-pick from everybody else.

2. Get real. Rationing will probably happen. Taxes will probably rise. With two wars, a struggling economy and the greatest disparity between rich and poor since Teddy Roosevelt was a pup, does anybody really think we can do this pain-free? Well-intentioned liberals hurt the cause when they dodge the tough, legitimate questions and buy into spin-doctored, sunshine economics.

3. Get involved. This is a precious, dangerous opportunity, friends. Straight up, if comes to pass, what a coup it will be. But if this push for serious health care reform fails, Obama’s Administration could be little more than a placeholder for the next Republican regime. Bottom line: donate, lobby, organize and network like Carville on crack.

Just think: relative health care egalitarianism. Not every generation gets the chance to improve things on so grand a scale, but ours does. Lucky and unlucky, it’s time we get it in gear. We can do this. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

Rev. Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Spartanburg, S.C. Email

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2009

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