Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Fight Against Death

As you know, I'm a staunch supporter of health care reform. My reasons are both selfish -- I am currently one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance -- and for the common good -- my heart breaks every time I hear of someone who goes bankrupt because of an injury or who has important disease treatment denied to them because their insurance decides not to pay.

I have tried framing this issue pragmatically, I've tried approaching it as an issue of morality. Even looking at health care as a human right hasn't worked. But MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, one of health care reform's loudest supporters, may have said it best when he devoted the entirety of Wednesday night's show to a Special Comment, titled "Health Care Reform: The Fight Against Death."

Olbermann does not look at this issue pragmatically, or through a lens of morality or even civil rights. Instead, he frames this as an issue of life and death. We all want to live, and health care is the way we fight death. Everyone deserves that, and no one should have to worry about paying bills when they are fighting death.

"How are we not united against death?!" he said at one point, echoing the essence of this issue that so many -- the President, Congress, lobbyists and grassroots activists -- have missed. But rather than continue to recap what he said, I will offer Olbermann in his own words.

Fair warning: his words are stark, harsh and emotional. There is a frankness and reality to Olbermann's comments that will likely hit you in your core. It will shake your foundation and either strengthen your resolve in this debate, or it will effectively change your mind.

Whichever, I hope it inspires action. This country -- and the people in it -- need this.

This is not partisan bickering, nor is it self-righteous shouting -- both of which have been Olbermann's staples at times during his program. This hour-long story about the sad state of the American health care system is a tale both personal and practical, and it is little more than Olbermann expressing his sympathy to those who are not as lucky as he and his relatives, and his desire to help make sure no one has to worry about financial ruin because of illness or injury.

I share his sentiments; though I have long campaigned and supported a public option to keep the insurance companies honest and bring down costs, I no longer feel that is adequate. More than ever, I am convinced this country would be better off without the monopolistic and greedy insurance companies. Making it illegal to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition or drop a policy when someone gets sick is not enough, because these corporations will surely find ways to skirt those laws.

The reform bill, public option or no, will likely not contain costs, shifting more of the financial burden of health care on the middle class. I don't care if the Senate Finance Committee bill will reduce the federal deficit; it will not healp middle-class families. This is not an issue of government takeovers or death panels -- this is a case of making sure middle-class and low-income Americans are not ruined financially when they need medical care.

Everyone deserves medical care, and no one deserves to go bankrupt getting it. I've always favored a single-payer system, similar to what most other industrialized countries -- like Canada, France and England -- have. Now, in light of Olbermann's comments and the realities of the stories I read daily regarding the insurance industry's atrocities, I feel we would be better served if Medicare was opened up to everyone. All United States citizens, from birth until death, covered under Medicare.

All working Americans already pay into Medicare; I do every month, even though I'm not eligible for the program for another 37 years. I would gladly pay a little more every month if it meant a child with leukemia could get his chemotherapy, if it meant Olbermann's father, or anyone else who needs it, could afford his dialysis.

Right now, many Americans have a choice; go get health care and risk financial ruin, or do nothing and hope their issue isn't serious. That is no way to run a health care system, and that's not the meaning of this country. It's not right, it's not fair and it's downright immoral.

We spend our lives fighting death. Our insurance companies are pushing us closer to it. It needs to stop now. Write the White House, write your Congressmen and Senators. Find activists who share your cause., Democracy For America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are all fighting for health care reform; join them.

This is a matter of life-and-death. I'm choosing life.

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