The Golden Rule of Health Care
In the quiet beauty of Iowa farmland, a middle-aged unemployed “tea party” protestor, Randy, screamed his displeasure at the healthcare reform bill into a megaphone. He joins the ranks of radical activists mounting increasingly violent attacks on supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Randy and other equal-access healthcare opponents have medical insurance and they don’t want to share their good fortune.
“The most pro-choice president this nation has ever elected is forcing us to have health care. Every single person’s body in this whole country belongs to the government now,” yelled the overweight Randy to no one in particular.
Randy is angry at the passing of government supported healthcare for every American and expressed his rage on a poster depicting a Communist hammer and sickle. Since he receives health insurance through his wife’s job, unemployment insurance through the state of Iowa and federal government, financial support through the military for his eldest child, and free education for his high school age daughter, Randy’s rage at the “government takeover” is truly absurd. He is a man who claims to believe in self-reliance and individualism yet gleans all of his financial support from the United States government. Ironically, Randy “belongs to the government” already by his own free will.
Such is the hypocrisy of many health care reform opponents - those who call themselves “Christians,” “Capitalists,” and “Freedom Lovers,” yet live anti-Christian, anti-Capitalist lifestyles of subsidized incomes and self-serving politics.
How can we respect citizens who milk the nation for all its worth, yet publicly declare their objection to government support for others? Who are these self-absorbed people and what will it take for them to reflect on their own duplicity?
They won’t be the first hypocrites in America calling for “freedom” at the expense of everyone else. The very first were the nation’s Puritans who called for religious freedom and Christian values while committing genocide on a native nation of indigenous people. Early Americans justified their heinous actions by their “genetic and religious superiority,” but what it really came down to was stealing somebody else’s land.
The second notable time newly minted Americans drew their freedom at the expense of others was the tragic institution of slavery. Self-proclaimed “freedom lovers” and “devout Christians” quoted the Bible on Sundays, the Constitution on Mondays, and enslaved millions of human beings as “rightful property” through it all. They justified profiting handsomely by robbing other people of their personal freedom.
Make no mistake-health care reform in America is about equality, liberty, and money. The nation’s citizens should have equal access to decent medical care, not just the well-heeled or well-placed. The U.S. has some of the best medical care in the modern world-but only if you can afford it. In an enlightened “Christian” nation, health care is a basic human right, not a material luxury.
Since we are right on the heels of Holy Week and so many health care protestors claim to be God-loving folk, let’s bring out the big guns and quote The Good Book. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40.
The nation’s uninsured from whichever lens you view them are the “least among us.” Those with pre-existing conditions and those with limited incomes are completely left out of the system-disenfranchised from medical care that any corporate, union, military, government, elderly or well-off citizen takes for granted. What happened to equality for all Americans?
The new health care reform bill, however imperfect, aims to right that wrong and balance the scales of justice.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” wrote the Founders. How equal are we if nearly half the adult population between the ages of 25-65 does not have access to health care?
“They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson’s prose claims it is neither the President nor Congress that gives Americans equal right to health care- but our Creator. The Declaration of Independence is virtually an endorsement for national health care. Will we deny someone their right to life, because they have a pre-existing illness?
Without a federal law, yes “we” will. Insurance companies have a monopoly on the nation’s health. American citizens continue to be denied life-saving operations and treatments by profit-driven insurance executives.
Just ask Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive who blew the whistle on the industry. Like Paul of the Road to Damascus who went from killing Christians to becoming a founder of the religion, Potter too had a life-changing epiphany.
Wendell Potter was a VP for Corporate Communications at one of the largest health insurance providers in the nation. As communications spokesman, he was the guy that put the spin on spin. A famous case emerged on Potter’s watch. A young Los Angeles girl was denied life-saving liver surgery at UCLA Medical Center. The 17 year-old died waiting as Cigna refused the treatment recommended by UCLA’s best liver specialists. Massive protests were organized at Cigna’s headquarters. Tragically, help came too little too late. Family members and supporters called Cigna’s acts “criminal” and petitioned the District Attorney to charge Cigna with manslaughter. All the while, Wendell Potter was there spinning.
Perhaps this was the case that put a crack in his armor. Yet his real transformation occurred a year later not far from his rural Virginia home at a local “health fair.” Potter was shocked to see a scene akin to a third world nation. Thousands of people were lined up in the pouring rain while hundreds more received medical treatments under a make-shift hospital tent. Until he saw for himself the direct results of profits-before-people health care, Potter was a non-believer. The experience galvanized him to testify before a Senate committee that his and other health insurance companies, “dumped the sick to satisfy investors.”
Haves and Have Nots
We have created a system of haves and have-nots. Some of those who have healthcare do not want to share the pie and continue to call for “freedom” for the “corporatocracy” that disenfranchises whole segments of the population.
Certain loudmouthed government-subsidized lawmakers, intellectually challenged talk-show hosts, and (ironically) recipients of Social Security and Medicare oppose helping fellow citizens access the same opportunities they have at our expense.
What happened in America to the Golden Rule? Have we completely lost our moral compass?
If it were not for contributions from American taxpayers aged 25 to 65, there would be no Medicare or Social Security. We are the ones supporting Grandma and Grandpa. Most of us are proud to do it even if there may not be anything left for us. What would the country be like if the younger generations took the Tea Party stance and said “No way Jose. We are not going to support ‘socialized medicine’ or ‘government pensions’ for seniors!”
Let’s face it - no private company would insure the elderly if they were not forced to do so by the U.S. government.
Fifty years ago, the battle for “medical care for the aged” echoed the current fight for health care reform.
One lawmaker wrote on the eve of the Medicare vote:
“Stories of personal hardships to older persons who have been unable to meet medical expenses, who have gone without care they needed, who have lost all the savings of a lifetime with one catastrophic illness. I don’t know how anyone could ignore these facts or fail to recognize that there is a great human need that is not being met by the wealthiest nation in the world.”
Despite this sentiment, there was tremendous opposition to “socialized medicine” for senior citizens. The same sort of protests erupted against Medicare that we now experience with health care reform. The American Medical Association along with many of the nation’s hospitals simply refused to take part in the program, even after it was made the law of the land. It took President Lyndon Johson to work out a diplomatic solution and pressure the medical community to participate.
One doctor stated his objection to Medicare: “I have never had it brought to my attention that anyone suffered from lack of medical care because they were unable to pay for it.”
An Arizona resident said: “Not only is it unconstitutional to provide compulsory medical aid, but it is also very unwise. It is just another socialist scheme to destroy our sovereignty.”
Another person commented: “The aged people do not need this system of help, and it is just another way to take the individual’s dignity away from him and make weaker people become captives to a dole system.”
In 2010, some Medicare recipients are publicly echoing the same views about universal healthcare. Equal access to care is “socialized medicine” and will undermine our democratic capitalist structure, they claim. We have heard it all before—fifty years ago for those alive then and seventy years ago for those who remember the Social Security debate.
Medicare and Social Security are obligatory contributions from employees and employers—whether you want to participate or not. And isn’t it fortunate for the nation’s eldery that we have these programs? The over 65 crowd would be in dire straits if we did not. None of us born after the bill passed could conceive of such a socially reprehensible world where we threw the ailing elderly out on the street and allowed them to wither away without medical care or monthly stipend.
Healthcare Of the People, By the People, For the People…
An elderly aunt underwent quadruple bypass surgery last year. She was cared for around the clock in a New Jersey hospital that looked more like a four star hotel than a cardiac wing. Her doctor was a celebrated heart surgeon; her nurses attentive and top notch. Upon her release, she was visited at home by physical therapists, private nurses, home healthcare aids and in their absence monitored 24 hours a day with computerized readings sent back to the nurse’s station. It was as much of a Cadillac insurance policy that money could buy. Only money did not buy it—it was Medicare. Guess what? They haven’t dropped her since—even though she clearly has a “pre-existing” condition.
Without Medicare she would surely have died. So thank you JFK & LBJ and all the lawmakers willing to fight five decades ago for what we take for granted now.
Something hopeful and refreshingly new emerged from the passing of the health care bill - a new class of Americans emerged apart from the haves and have nots - the “have toos.” Those Americans who have insurance themselves, but because of their deep belief in reciprocity and equal opportunity for all, they want you to have it too.
It comes back to the Golden Rule. We wish for others what we wish for ourselves.
Randy, if we followed your theory of abandoning our own people, especially the least among us, you and your daughters would be homeless and destitute.
Isn’t it fortunate for you and your family that the majority of Americans still believe in The Golden Rule?
Monika Mitchell is the Executive Director and Editor-in-chief of Good Business International, Inc. (GoodB). She writes regularly for the Good-B Blog.