I have been working as a freelance marketing writer in Silicon Valley for the past ten years and am now age 62. The premiums for somebody my age, though I am in good health (so far) would be wallopingly high --- if I could even get insurance. However, nobody will touch me because of my age, even at ruinous rates. My income is up-and-down in this economy; when business is good, I am able to pay as I go for basic exams and preventive care and the odd case of the flu. But other times I have had to borrow on my car's pink slip to pay medical bills and even my rent (a brutal 99 percent rate of interest!) And my good health could change in the blink of an eye, of course. Pretty scary.
I am not able to get full time work with benefits despite my efforts. Companies know that they have people like me over a barrel, so they hire us as 1099s with no benefits, and we grab every bit of work we can get, you may be sure.
I recall my health insurance premiums back in the early 2000s were only $250 a month through Blue Shield. I could always scrape that together. But I am uninsured now. I have deep experience and an education from a top university, but I have no security at all. I plan to keep working until I drop in my traces. Am I not worth basic medical insurance?
The story is heartbreaking. How is it that we've determined that the provision of basic health care to our citizens is just another commodity, availability to be determined by market forces and "principles of free enterprise"? Socialism you say? Government takeover? What about those highways you take to work? Or the museums and public parks you visit to refresh your soul? Or the elementary school you send your kids to around the corner? Or the police and fire departments that we depend on in communities across the land? Or the little social security check your elderly parents receive? How thankful are you that granny has Medicare? These are all publicly funded programs, people. They represent the unacknowledged "socialistic" impulse that pervades our nation's moral soul. A long time ago we decided that no child should be without an opportunity to receive a basic education. It was such an obvious ethical conclusion that there has never been much opposition to the idea of using public funds to provide for the schooling of its youth. Granted, there are inefficiencies and injustices. We have a tiered system. Urban, inner city schools are poorly funded and ambivalently managed. But at least a kid growing up in inner city Chicago has a school to go to!
How is it that we have collectively excluded the provision of health care to its working citizens and children from the category of public goods that are justifiably paid for by public funds? Why are we ok with pooling our resources to pave our roads every two years but if you propose to disconnect the ridiculous, anachronistic symbiosis between health care and employment, you're called a communistic nazi? It just makes no sense.
The reform bill pending right now is about as watered down a version of reform as you will ever see. There is no public option. The private health insurers are happy. Big Pharm has been paid off. Doctors are going to get screwed. But anything bolder or more egalitarian would stand no chance. The FoxNews/GOP noise machine has already won the PR battle. Obama is a socialist. Goverment takeover. He's going to steal your Medicare. Ultimately, the bill won't be good enough (doesn't include all 47 million uninsured, too many concessions to corporate America, too much faith in cost control prognostications), but at least it represents a step in the right direction. I know, that sounds passive and patronizing----at least it's something, blah blah blah. But we have to stop averting our eyes from unpleasant facts. The time to intervene is now. If it fails, no one will touch health care reform for another generation....
Good article from Health Affairs Blog advocating for reform.