Health Care, Round 2

Alan Zendell, April 19, 2017

Yesterday, I had a surgical procedure done at my excellent county hospital. It involved four appointments with three doctors and a half day in the outpatient surgery wing of the hospital. Since I have outstanding health insurance, the only cost to me was a $0.68 copay for a prescription. Last year about this time I had open heart surgery, which involved most of a day in an ER, a 75 mile trip in an ambulance, and four inpatient days, plus three months of cardiac rehab. My cost was under $10. Three years ago, I had my arthritic left shoulder replaced with one made of titanium. Same story – including physical therapy, my cost was about $5.

This isn’t about complaining about my health issues or slowly turning into the bionic man. It’s about how fortunate I am to have insurance (Medicare Parts A and B plus a Blue Cross/Blue Shield supplemental policy) that covered more than half a million dollars of care when millions of Americans still don’t. I spend close to $10,000 a year to cover my wife and me, but you don’t have to be a math wiz to see that it’s a bargain.

How come I have such great coverage? What’s so special about me? Actually, nothing about me is that special, except that I happened to have an employer that made it possible. Most of the millions of people who don’t worked every bit as hard and long as I did to earn it. If they, in their early seventies, had a medical history like mine, they’d either be wiped out financially or dead. Does that sound fair?

In January, President Trump promised wonderful, affordable health care for every American. In March, he went all in on the failed draconian American Health Care Act which would have left an additional twenty-four million people without coverage. Now he says he’s going to take another shot at a better bill.

I actually believe he means it, but I’m not convinced that he understands the economic and political realities involved. I’m not encouraged by the bill he signed on April 13th which gave states the right to refuse federal funding for Planned Parenthood. If he caved in to the right wing that easily on women’s health care, how can we trust him to follow through on any promise?

The truth is, we can’t. But we can raise our voices and demand it. We’ve already observed two important things about this political year. One is that a lot of people in the House of Representatives are worried about holding onto their seats in 2018. The other is that President Trump sways in the wind like a willow tree.

It’s really not that difficult. Call or write to your Congressional representatives. In fact, contact every member of every House or Senate committee that will have a say in a new health care bill, whether you’re in their districts or not. Make it very clear that if they expect your vote next year, they’d better deliver on health care. The Republicans are very nervous about their twenty-one seat House majority, and the people holding seats in competitive districts will do whatever it takes to keep them. This is where your vote really counts. Congressional staffers pay close attention to these things. When they tally the calls, letters, and emails, your voice can be magnified a thousandfold.

As for Trump? He’s not even an issue. If Congress passes a health care bill he’ll sign it into law. He needs to be loved by the people. What better way than to give them the health insurance he promised? Remember when Bill Clinton said, “It’s the economy, Stupid?”  In 2018 it’ll be health care, not the Great Wall of Mexico, not trade with China. Wait and see.

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