This is the post that will get me flamed. At least that's my fear. It's a little long, too. But it's a story worth posting. So I will. The fires of contempt be damned.
It is one of the great sorrows of my life that what passes for political discourse in our time is more appropriately described as name-calling. It's rare to encounter an actual exchange of ideas. Especially when an exchange of insults is so much more satisfying and easier to support.
Currently, there is no topic more hotly debated in the U.S. than health care reform. And that's good. Health care is a serious issue that touches all our lives in one way or another at some point. Most of us were born in a commercial health care institution, filled with professional health care providers. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, administrative workers, and maintenance crews live among us. They are our friends and our neighbors. They are us.
Health care is big business. Mostly because the customer base is so large and highly motivated. Not so much because those health care pros are mean, bitter people motivated to do little more than Hoover out your wallet at the first opportunity.
All this talk of reform has me thinking, but confused. The public option is in. The public option is out. States can opt in, or out, or do whatever they want. Unless they can't.
What the heck is a public option, anyway? Really! I have no idea what it actually means. The term has become a little like, “quark,” or “dark matter,” for me. I hear it a lot. Everyone else seems to know exactly what they're talking about. But nobody seems to be able to attach a solid definition to the term.
I find that puzzling.
Today, I am 50 years old. I will be 51 soon, too. I have no problem with that. In the long run, and I hope to have a very long run, I will see doctors and nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, and all sorts of medical professionals. Some will poke me with needles. Others will talk to me in soothing tones, possibly to share information that is painful to hear. That's okay. That's their job. A job I'm willing to pay them for, in fact.
Earlier this week I called my doctor's office to make an appointment for a flu shot. I've never had a flu shut before, but then I've never been 50 years old before, either. It feels like this is a good time to start a new habit. Why not start with an annual flu shot?
To my surprise I learned that I was too old for a flu shot. At least I'm too old this month. Next month I might be young enough. We'll see when next month comes.
Apparently there isn't enough flu vaccine to go around. So they're starting with the young and moving into the older ranks incrementally. I thought that was interesting. And fair, too – all things considered.
I suspect this is why some people fear health care rationing. Because there is health care rationing. Come to think of it, there has been health care rationing in the past, too. It's just the way things work. Supply and demand. Jefferson and Franklin would smirk with satisfaction, I'm sure.
Yes, the truth can be told. I am a capitalist.
Fortunately, I'm a reasonably healthy guy, too. All my standard equipment still works, albeit a little slower and with a slightly smaller range of motion than in the past. In my case at least, exercise seems to have forestalled the onset of truly old age. It's a battle I will lose in the end. But I'm fighting it. I'll always be fighting it.
When I was in my 30s, there was a period when I wasn't doing so well, however. I got sick. The kind of sick that involves internal bleeding and requires surgical intervention. To make matters worse I had recently made a career change that had requierd me to spend nearly $30,000 on an expanded education to get into a career that paid me a whopping $6,000 the year got sick.
Let's just say money was tight. And of course, I had no health insurance.
Now to be perfectly honest, I didn't care that I didn't have health insurance. I didn't need a broker, an agent, a pile of paperwork, and an annual premium. I needed doctors, nurses, lab techs, and test results. I needed health care. And like anyone else, I could buy as much of that as I needed. All I had to do was sign a form and the health care was mine.
The way my thought process worked was this. I financed my car, and I would hopefully finance a home one day (if I lived that long). Why wouldn't I finance my own health care? It just seemed logical to me. So I did.
The doctor would tell me, “This test is going to cost roughly $1,000.” To which I would reply, “Okay.” When the tests came back we had a conversation. He asked if I understood that the diagnoses would require surgical intervention. I said, “Uh huh.”
It never struck me as an issue that had to move beyond the doctor's office, or my kitchen table where my wife and I would be paying the bills. There was not a single time, not one day, when I thought my siblings should kick in to help pay the cost. It never occurred to me to involve my high school, or college classmates to ask them for a percentage of the bill. I needed health care, I bought it, I survived. That seemed like at least as good a reason to pay a whopping large bill as any desire to drive a new car, or move into a bigger house, or put an extra large wide-screen television on the wall.
The long and the short of it is this; I don't know exactly what the public option is, but I didn't believe in it when I didn't have the cash I needed to prolong my life. I don't believe in it now, either. Not for me at least. I'm perfectly happy taking care of my own responsibilities, as well as those of my wife and our kids. Rest easy – no matter how far down the economic ladder I may fall (and I have been pretty far down there, let me tell you) you will never have to pay one of my bills. Not for anything.