Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Face of the Enemy?
It's going to come as no shock that the young man featured in the attached photograph is, in fact, my son. Cute, right? I'll take it as read that you think so too, so as not to put any of us in an awkward position.
He's a nice person, he's got a sunny disposition. He's not one of those surly teens. He walks around with a ready smile, has very good manners, and aside from the fact that his room looks like London after the Blitz on a very regular basis, he's a good egg. He worried that he was hurting every fish he caught last month, on his fishing trip with my husband. He ended up taking one of his cooked catches over to the campsite of a high school science teacher, there with his AP class in tow, as thanks for the opportunity to look through the high powered telescope the group had. He starts college next week, actually. Here's hoping that goes well, right?
The other thing about my son is that for the rest of his life he's going to have a preexisting condition. You've probably been taught to fear the name of it, and to associate it with spiraling health care costs, as well as suspect lifestyle choices. When the blame game gets going, it's always brought up. My son is a diabetic. A Type 1 diabetic and he is insulin dependent. There is a lot of forward motion in research but for right now he has a lifelong condition. He didn't do anything to earn it. In fact, the cause of Type 1 diabetes isn't easily pigeon-holed. There is no genetic link in our family. It might have been an injury that caused his pancreas to fail, or it might have been a virus. It could have been a recessive gene, truthfully, we don't know how it happened. He started insulin in December 2008, so he's actually quite lucky, he started dealing with this when he was old enough to understand it.
I hesitated to bring this up because I thought that as soon as people understood that I might have personal reasons for my stand on health care, it might be easy to dismiss my opinions because one might think they were based on my feelings, first and foremost. Truthfully, we all make up our minds based on our feelings, at different times. Certainly there are instances where detachment rules the day, and the rule of law is put into play, but for the most part, we believe what we believe about any given issue based on our feelings. What feels right to us, what feels important. We do not approach life dispassionately, nor should we.
I've never had a problem with our health care insurance. I didn't spend hours on the phone with them when my son was diagnosed. We were lucky, our insurance company didn't try to drop him, or question his treatment. My son goes to one of the best Diabetes research centers in the United States, the Barbara Davis Center.
I've been a supporter of establishing universal health care since Bill Clinton took a run at it in the 1990s. My support is not born of the fact that my son is one of the people who needs to have health care available to him at all times. That's just one of the things that happened in between then and now. Aside from that, simply because we know that my son needs to have health care available at all times, that doesn't make him any different from any of the rest of us. We all need to have available health care. It's life and death for all of us, not just the smiling fisherman up there.
We're fortunate people, the expense of his diabetes hasn't been something that has preyed on our minds. We're very grateful that it hasn't been a determining factor in anything having to do with his treatment.
At present in the United States a debate rages about what kind of obligation we have to our citizens. Is it worth paying for public health? Are there benefits? Is there a moral imperative? Will we change the essential nature of our country if we take steps to have a public health care option?
For me there are some personal reasons at play in why I so adamantly support the need for universal health care. At least there are now. I had no way of anticipating that there would be.
We need to structure a system that is financially feasible, but the need for the system to be in place isn't about the fact that my son has diabetes. It's about the fact that all of us need to have access to health care. It is a basic obscenity of our society that I sit here and type out the words, with gratitude mind you, that our health care insurance didn't raise a stink about keeping my son alive.
Health should not be a privilege of wealth, but it is at present in our country. Is that equality?
We don't attach a mental picture to those that need health care, but fail to have it. At present my son is covered, but what happens when he is no longer a full time student and is no longer eligible to be carried on our health insurance? When he walks around with his lifelong condition, termed preexisting, will the capricious insurance industry decide that he is not financially feasible and refuse him?
They shouldn't have the right, yet they do. The thing is, I'm really not talking about my son. I'm talking about everyone because there is no way for any of us to know what will happen between now and then.
I know I'm pounding a drum here, but as I watch footage of people sobbing their way through Town Hall Meetings, screaming that their country has changed in some fundamental manner, I'm struck by the fact that people are paralyzed with fear, yet they are fearing the wrong thing.
We fear change, but what is really frightening is the concept that things will remain the same as they are now.
Clearly the affable young man pictured here is not the enemy. If you're going to fear him, you might as well fear Care Bears. In fact, in this situation no one is the enemy. We, as citizens of the United States, are guaranteed certain rights.
I'm not talking about my son when I say that health as a privilege of wealth must end as a way of life. I'm talking about me, you, all of us.
When did we become comfortable with an insurance company being the masters of our fate? To my mind, that is a lot more frightening than change. We are at the whim of an industry that views us not as people, with guaranteed rights and worth simply in our being, but as profit margins.
An industry in which we have no say.
Yet people are frightened by the concept of government being involved in health care. The government, in which we always have a say.