I’m really trying to understand this. Really. Why is the outcry against health care reform so much louder than the call for reform? I have a very hard time believing that a majority of people are against some sort of improvement in our system. Around here, people are losing their insurance right and left. But they sometimes seem more scared of reform than of remaining uninsured.
Those of us in favor of a single payer system are shut out of this one. “Medicare for all” is uttered only quietly among well-known co-conspirators. When people who oppose this plan, or even just oppose the president, continue violent rhetoric, bring loaded firearms to rallies, is it any wonder we are silent? How is bringing a loaded gun to a rally not intimidating? And don’t give me the “it’s only one dude” argument—that’s disingenuous and unconvincing. There has been more than once incident, but more important, there has been overt support and quiet assent for nuts like this from the right. When prominent journalists and prominent right-wing politicians fail to condemn this sort of behavior, the intimidation is magnified.
I’m not saying there isn’t real opposition to health care reform, but there is an almost complete absence of real debate, and this implied violence is playing a role. We already entrust our elderly to the government’s care, and we’re pretty damned happy about it, so why not expand it? Do people seriously believe they will have decreased access to services? Do they have any precedent showing that extreme forms of rationing are taking place in any other democracy? Do they have data showing dissatisfaction or worse health outcomes?
Of course not. It’s a purely ideological debate, leaving real, suffering people behind. Let’s start interviewing people recently released from the hospital and staring at a $60,000 bill. Let’s interview former auto workers who are both unemployed and uninsured. Let’s talk to doctors on the front line, trying to find ways to treat diabetic patients who can’t afford medications or testing supplies. Let’s visit rehab wards and dialysis centers where these folks end up after our first failure to care for them.
This isn’t a game. This is a real, dirty, nasty, mortal debate. Our current system is unsustainable, financially, morally, and scientifically.
As medicine has become scientific over the last thirty years, we have let our system continue to accrete chaotically from a country-doc model into a hodge-podge of coverage that ignores the science, the data, the humanity. We cannot build a “scientific system” of health care coverage—-but we can build a system that recognizes our hard-won knowledge. We can implement a just, financially more sound, better system—and it wouldn’t even be that hard to do. We already have all the tools in place to cover everyone. Let’s get loud. Let’s shout down the shouters. University students are about to come back to campus. Let’s get them out there making some noise, agitating for real change.
Let’s be loud but compassionate and brave, and let the violent fringe of society see that we stand together against them, but that if they fall, we will pick them up. Let them try to turn down good care out of spite for us. Let them call for seniors to turn in their Medicare cards to protest “big government”. The right is all about exclusion. We will have a system that cares for all, that excludes none. Let them see that the left cares about them and about their parents and children. And let them see us carry on, care for all, and leave none behind.