Speaking of Health Care

The health care debate has been vicious over the past few months. One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had about health care has been with one of my students who asked me to explain the situation to her. “What’s going on with health care? Is Obama going to make everyone pay for a government system?”

My answer to her was, “it’s complicated. Nothing is happening now, but a lot might be happening soon.” Hui-Ling is a middle-aged woman from Taiwan who lives with her husband and 3 children in the South Bay area. Her main concern was that her husband–who seems to make a lot of money–would have to pay higher taxes for people who don’t work, and therefore can’t afford health care. “My health care already costs so much, I don’t want to pay more money for other people who are lazy and don’t work.”

This is understandable. Those who don’t pay into the system should not benefit from it, or at least that is how the logic follows. However once I told her that I did not have health care the expression on her face quickly changed. “Really? How is that possible?”  she exclaimed. “Well,” I explained to her, “I’m one of those people in the middle that would benefit from ‘the public option.’ One of those full-time, hard-working Americans that is not offered a health plan by my employer. And even if I was,” I continued, “there is not way I could afford the cost of insuring just myself.”

There is a myth that exists in this country associating social programs to impoverished people. What I appreciate about the Obama administration is their efforts to debunk this myth. Adding to our docket of social programs and expanding the benefits to more people will, inevitably, help more people than it will harm. The question is, do the rest of us have the ability, financially and morally, to help provide for the rest?

In the past few weeks talk of “death panels” and “euthanasia for the elderly” has been overwhelming. Seeing videos of town hall meetings where people exclaim, “I am afraid of Obama” is unnerving. Whether or not you are for or against a public option for health care, comparing this administration to the Third Reich in Germany is completely ridiculous. And sad. This what a discussion over extending health care to millions of people has come to.

Have we really become polarized to the point of no return? Even in the worst of the Bush era,  the “liberals” or the “far left” never made such drastic claims against Bush’s policies–policies that were actually enacted without the benefit of public debate–that were thrown into the public sphere. The debate on health care has detoured from discussions of the efficacy of our current programs to outright condemning a public program that has not been created yet.

Portraying Obama as a saviour and as Hitler only demonstrates that, as a nation, we are fueling a fire that continues to divide people politically, and personally, in the United States. Is compromise out of the questions? We’ll just wait and see.`

Health care in Canada. Health care in France.

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~ by Em on August 11, 2009.

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