Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. – Proverbs 16: 18-19, the Bible
My Grandma Delphia used to quote that Bible verse. I wonder if other folks heard the same from their grandmothers. I am pretty sure some folks at the highest levels in our government either didn’t trust or honor their grandmothers’ teachings or they just flat don’t think rules of common decency and our shared humanity apply.
Many of us knew in 2008 what the Republicans had in store for us in the area of healthcare reform, and we firmly and overwhelmingly rejected those plans. Instead we took seriously the threat that a John McCain presidency meant taxation of our healthcare benefits and other healthcare horrors, and we overwhelmingly rejected those ideas. We had great angst about the potential that anyone would look at the suffering embedded in the U.S. healthcare system and allow it to continue and even grow worse.
Our angst moved us in another direction at the polls. We were promised by the Democrats that no one with an income under $250,000 per year would have any increase in taxes at all to cover healthcare reform, and we were also heartened to hear Barack Obama state firmly and without hesitation that healthcare is a basic human right.
Whew. Finally, we had firm, clear promises that seemed grounded in progressive, fair-minded ideals and common sense along with the vision of our shared humanity. Healthcare as a human right would not only be on the radar, we thought, but it would serve as the benchmark for any reform under such a leader as Barack Obama – and those elected officials who supported him.
We let down our angst a bit too much it seems. For within a few short weeks of the start of the healthcare reform discussion, in March of 2009, President Obama signaled he might consider a health benefits tax to pay for reform.
Our angst was tickled. Many of us fought through the spring and summer to be heard. Though the tea party craziness garnered much media attention, others fought as hard and as passionately with little impact. The history of this healthcare reform struggle in 2009 and 2010 will be recorded by many with varied viewpoints and various degrees of accuracy. No need to replay all of those torturous details here.
And by the time we reached Christmas Eve 2009, any reference to “healthcare reform” had been replaced by the more politically practical (so some must have thought) terms “health insurance reform,” and all reference to healthcare as a basic human right had long since been squelched.
By Christmas, the House had passed its version of reform and the Senate managed its own. Gone were the visions of equal access to healthcare or equal treatment as patients. Gone were the visions of a United States where healthcare was accepted as a human right and where policy reflected the granting and protection of that right.
And certainly gone were the promises made upon which so much reliance occurred. I am sure this President and this Congress understand the legal concept of significant reliance. Americans worked hard and voted in huge numbers because of what was “sold” to them from both sides of the political aisle. That contract with voters has been breached.
We have some angst now. We have a lot more angst than this President and this Congress want to acknowledge. Hence the pride and the haughty spirits my grandmother might have noticed.
In an NPR story this week, White House aides and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer summed it up:
White House aides believe a lot of the liberal angst about health care will go away once the president actually signs a bill. And to the extent that the Democrats have a problem motivating their core voters, they've got time to fix it.
"We're not overly concerned about these things, first and foremost because there isn't an election tomorrow, not an election the next day," says Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director.
Our angst will not go away anytime soon.
When we see our paystubs and our tax returns reflect the collection of our hard-earned money for the huge bail-out of the for-profit, private insurance industry instead of for the guaranteed right to healthcare, we will feel angst. When we are forced to purchase the defective financial product sold to us as health insurance or face penalties or even criminal charges, we will feel angst.
When we continue to have trouble affording truly comprehensive health coverage that provides a single standard of high quality care for all, we will feel angst.
When we cannot see a doctor without paying a big co-pay or deductible, when we bury a child whose treatment was denied by the insurance company, when we avoid seeking care because we cannot afford our medicines, when our employers cut our benefits to avoid paying the excise tax, when the insurance company CEOs continue to earn mega-salaries, obscene bonuses and retire with huge golden parachutes funded by our tax subsidies, when thousands of our neighbors and friends still go bankrupt because their coverage just wasn’t good enough to protect them – oh, we will feel angst.
I am sorry, Dan, this is an angst that is loaded down with intense human suffering. It isn’t just political or ethical or intellectual bantering angst. It is very real human angst caused by those with prideful, haughty attitudes who cared little about promises made and the human right to healthcare so boldly proclaimed.
Oh, we will feel our angst. And we will act upon it in due time by making sure that we elect those who do support creating a nation where healthcare is truly guaranteed for all.
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