Sunday, August 08, 2010

Republicans Are Trying to Kill Me

Sorry about the snarky title to this post. Unfortunately, it's true. I don't mean that the average everyday Republican is trying to kill me. On the other hand, many very conservative Republicans who go to the polls every election aren't paying too much attention to facts these days. Nor do these same voters recognize how few good ideas their leaders have had for many years now.

Let's begin with a fact that came close to killing me: health care is broken and has been for twenty years. Republicans leaders in Congress could care less about this simple fact. For one thing, they have too many wealthy campaign contributors who work for the insurance companies and those contributors don't want their cash cow disturbed.

So what does this have to do with me? Simple. I work as a free lance writer and editor. It's never been easy to get health insurance even in the best of times. Sometimes I have lucked out simply because sometimes I have gotten health insurance through my wife's employer. She's in a profession where it's common to change employers from time to time. For technical reasons I can no longer get health insurance from her latest employer. So I tried to apply for health insurance through a company that had a deal with the AARP. I thought it was a straightforward application. Little did I know. A few weeks after I got the application, I got a letter from the insurance company that said I had to call such and such a person. The person was a nurse working for the insurance company. She asked some detailed questions about my health history. Two weeks later I received a letter denying me health insurance because of a preexisting condition that has now existed for over 30 years. That condition has probably cost me less than $3,000 over the 30 year span and most of the money was spent on periodic blood tests. I kept thinking back on the nurse and how little regard she seemed to have for her profession. She was working for bean counters instead of people who believe in providing a good service for their clients.

Nearly two years later—last month—my wife and I decided to move to a little larger rental. We decided to hire movers this time but there was still a lot of work to do. Being a writer, for example, it's natural that I have a lot of books. Boxes of books can get in the way during a move, so I rented a small storage space to store the books until after the move. Our last place has stairs and I found myself getting a bit winded after taking down a load to my car and going back up the stairs. Sometimes my left shoulder started getting sore. If I simply stopped, the shoulder pain went away. I tried to be more careful and started taking my time. I thought maybe I was beginning to show my age, but otherwise I was fine. Or so I thought. I was wrong.

At one in the morning, I finished an editing job and got ready for bed. I'm a night owl but normally I finish my jobs around midnight. But it had been a long day and I had been a bit sluggish. I got ready for bed and a bunch of acid suddenly erupted up my esophagus. I get acid reflux sometimes, though an over-the-counter medication I take usually does a good job of controlling the problem. My shoulder also started hurting a lot, particularly around the chest.

I couldn't sleep, so I went in the living room to sit in a chair, thinking that might help. It began to occur to me that maybe I had a bigger problem, that maybe more than acid reflux and a sore shoulder was going on. I didn't want to think about it. It was early Saturday morning and no place I could think of was going to be cheap. And besides, that pain I felt when I went up the stairs always went away. And I thought a glass of water and some Tums and a little patience is all I needed and I would be fine.

But after a couple of hours the chair grew uncomfortable. I went back to bed, lay there awhile, and broke out in a sweat. I threw off the blankets, sat up and finally my wife asked if something was wrong. I explained about the pain. She trusted my explanation since I usually know my body pretty well. But I wasn't being honest with myself. For one thing, I hate false alarms. For another, I couldn't even think where to go. I couldn't afford to go anywhere. I simply couldn't afford to have a problem. So I waited.

If Republicans had not stalled and played games on health care, if a few Democrats—behaving like Republicans— had not waffled for so long, I might have had insurance by now. I would be paying several thousands dollar a year for it, just like everybody else. Health care should have been passed a year ago. Insurance for preexisting conditions might have become available by this past January. Republicans literally might not have been trying to kill me on the night I had a heart attack and waited and waited because I had no insurance.

My wife finally drove me to the emergency room. Luckily, it was less than a mile away. Luckily, they have a first-rate heart clinic. Luckily, they got to me in time, pumped me with heparin and wheeled me into the heart clinic where I received a stent. I stayed in the hospital for three days. I was lucky, my new doctor thinks I'll heal, though it's not exactly going to happen in a hurry. But the bill? I don't want to even talk about the bill. It's big. I try to watch my money. I try to save. But I've never seen a bill like that. Actually, there are several bills and they haven't stopped coming.

I don't want to hear from Republicans that I'm fussing about nothing, that I just have to know how to manipulate the system. That's bullcrap. It's a full admission that health care in our nation is broken. Will the new health care program work? Maybe. It needs to be stronger than it is but Republicans and the few Democrats who behave like Republicans watered it down too much. They lied to the public too much. They are still lying to the public too much. These days Republican leaders are paid to lie. The theme of Republicans this year is that our country is failing. It's an insulting proposition, particularly given the games that have been played in the last thirty years. Think of it: they want President Obama to fail. They want our president to fail. That is tantamount to wanting our nation to fail.

I have Republican friends who are horrified by what happened to me. I have one friend who worried that an argument we had back in June might have contributed to my heart attack. I had to assure him that it didn't. But I don't know what to think. You can't keep sending jobs overseas, you can't keep buying oil from foreign companies, you can't keep letting American economic sectors run amok (think oil and coal), you can't ignore the paramount importance of developing renewable energy sources, you can't play one group off another, you can't shovel buckets of money into the hands of people who are already wealthy and expect a majority of Americans to do well. It isn't going to happen. But that's where we're headed if Republicans get back into power. They have no ideas except old ideas that have not worked.

A few days ago, I put my name on an email list to receive an application for insurance for those people with preexisting conditions. I guess I have two preexisting conditions now. Needless to say, I need the insurance. And today's Republican leaders have done nothing to assure me that they're not trying to kill me the next time I have a serious health issue.

I'll say it one last time: I know I was lucky. But I keep thinking of the ones who waited too long, the mothers and fathers, the hardworking people who had no insurance. This is not the way our country should be. We need to start moving forward again, not backwards.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig, your most important, and unequivocal, post ever. Bravo. BT

7:57 AM  

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