Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Take on Healthcare Reform

Like many others, I listened to President Obama's speech last night. And, I hope, like many others, I was disgusted when South Carolina Representative Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson III -- a member of the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" -- shouted out "You lie" when Obama said his plan would not provide insurance to illegal aliens. But this is exactly the behavior we have come to expect from the GOP: completely obstreperous, completely devoid of logic, and completely lacking in sympathy for those less well-off than they. It was, after all, Representative Zach Wamp (R-TN, of course) who said, "Health care is a privilege... it's not necessarily a right." I wonder how Zach Wamp (what a perfect name for a redneck) would feel if his Congressional (i.e., taxpayer-paid) healthcare were suddenly eliminated.

BadTux has written extensively about the healthcare crisis, both the economic factors involved and the political implications. For a snarky penguin, he has a remarkable grasp of all the variables involved, and -- more importantly -- can impart them without sounding pedantic or condescending. I don't plan on duplicating his efforts; I don't have the knowledge he has, nor do I have his flair. I will instead give you my take on this mess.

I'm unemployed, and I have been for more than a year. Yes, some of it is my fault: my profession is safety and security, and a state as safe and secure as Maine has little need for safety and security professionals. Those facilities that do have such a need are (a) a two- or three-hour drive away, (b) Defense Department facilities (Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Brunswick Naval Air Station [which is closing next year anyway], or Bath Iron Works), or (c) correctional facilities.

I did not move to Maine simply because I got tired of a reasonably good job, with reasonably good benefits, I moved because my parents are in their 80s and can no longer care for themselves.

I found a job for a while, but the contract ended unexpectedly, and I was laid off. I had not worked enough quarters in Maine to qualify for unemployment, and of course Michigan's unemployment wouldn't pay me in Maine. I was fortunate in that my wife and I had housing, and that she works part-time, so we had food and lights and all those other neat things.

But, I didn't have medical insurance. And Mrs 618's part-time job paid just enough to make us ineligible for MaineCare, the state version of Medicare/Medicaid. So, of course, I had to tear up my back and pinch my sciatic nerve* working around the house. No medical insurance meant no visit to the doctor until I couldn't bear the pain any longer. None of the few local doctors are accepting new patients, so Mrs 618 hauled me off to the local ER, where the doctor gave me a couple of prescriptions (I was just barely able to scrape up the money for two, the other two had to wait), and instructions for physical therapy. PT here runs about $300 an hour, more money that we don't have, so that had to wait.

Guess what? I'm not getting any better. I'm still in excruciating pain (since I ran out of pain-killers), I still can't walk, I still can't find a job... and now I can't even keep up with the chores around the house. Oh, and I explained to the hospital that I would need to make payments arrangements; when they heard my situation, we agreed on $20 per week (which means about 100 weeks of payments; meanwhile, other patients' payments are taking up the slack).

Do we need a "public option", the one the Republicans are screaming about?

Hell, yes.

*If you have never dealt with sciatica, consider yourself blessed. If you have, you know just how wonderful it feels....