Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reaction to Obama, part 2: someone has to sit at the back of the bus

The NY Times of August 25, on the front page, reports that Bob Collier, age 62, who had never been politically active before in his life, drove over an hour to attend a town hall meeting on health care and, to his wife's amazement, spoke up. He described how his wife had had breast cancer, received treatment, and was now in remission. He expressed anxiety that her care might be "rationed" is there were a recurrence and if health reform were enacted. He went on to say that health care reform may mean "the end of our country as we know it".
What a leap! I can certainly resonate with Mr. Collier's fear of any development that might threaten his or his wife's health or life. A chord has certainly been struck with him that any of us can resonate with. But what makes him think that health care reform makes it more, rather than less, likely that he or his wife would be unable to receive treatment? Why is he more afraid of rationed treatment under health reform as currently proposed, than he would be of his insurance company denying reimbursement? In fact, his insurance company denied coverage of his wife's radiation treatment. (the cost was written off by the medical provider). Mr. Collier acknowledges that some reform is needed, including a safety net, but he doesn't want the safety net to "catch too many people"!
This raises the question of the rationing of people to be caught in the safety net. Mr. Collier, a senior citizen, is concerned that elderly people will be at the end of the line. One wonders who he imagines would be at the front of the line, and how he would feel about the situation of those people who would be at the end of the line if elderly people weren't. He has reason to believe that there isn't enough affordable health care to go around, so someone is going to have to be at the end of the line. Are our religious leaders offering any input here about compassion and charity? Or is this just dog eat dog, musical chairs, and may the strongest and loudest voices win?
Mr. Collier goes on to explain his feeling that health reform may mean the end of the country as we know it. He refers to government involvement in the auto industry, the banking industry, worrying that government involvement will yield the "efficiency of the postal service" combined with the "compassion of the IRS".
I can resonate with that too, although I'm pretty impressed with what the postal service accomplishes day in and day out, if not with the courtesy of their employees. And I do see a difference between the mission of the IRS, and that of a health care service, (plus I haven't been impressed with the compassion of private sector insurance companies and hospitals), but point taken. So I guess we're talking about that good old American mistrust of government.
So what does Mr. Collier thinks would have happened to the privately run auto industry and banks without government "interference"? Why doesn't this point occur to him?
Might this have something to do with the government being led by a person "of color" at the moment, and with the fact that the people with whom he imagines himself competing for health care are likely to be poor people, and people of color.
Someone has to sit at the back of the bus.

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