“Well YOU were the one who brought it up!” My lunchtime conversational partner was irritated by my request that he define “government-run health care,” which he opposed.
"No," I said, "I didn't bring it up. I am genuinely unaware of any proposals for anything I would call 'government-run health care,' so I truly do not know what you mean. No one has come close to proposing a British-style NHS for the United States.”
“Well, all right, the term you used was “public option.”
Ahhh, yes. I did say “public option.”
“The public option was never really on the table, either,” I explained, “but that is what I wanted from health insurance reform. Option means choice—we'd get a choice. And public means it belongs to you and me--we get to hold the people who run it accountable, even vote them out if we want. I don’t want to buy my insurance from a private corporation that must consider profit in every decision, and I'd like to be able to buy my insurance from a nonprofit program that we control.”
(Aside to readers: this award-winning article on health care costs is a must-read.)
"I want others to be able to patronize Aetna or Joe’s Bargain HMO, if that’s what they want," I continued. "But I would like to buy into Medicare. I’ll pay premiums, whatever the actuaries say is necessary to cover my costs. When I need care, I could shop around among private-sector health care providers, just as Medicare participants do now.”
I could tell he had never heard of such a thing and I had the sense that he, too, would like such an option.
But the discussion had shaped up as a debate—he had to either win or withdraw. So he fell silent.
I’ll never know, but it’s possible this pinhead pricked at least a small hole in my friend's inflated confidence in Bill O'Reilly's commentary.
After another recent failed political discussion, my husband told me, “Some people cannot be reached.” True, but how do we know which ones they are until we try?
My self-styled opponent across the lunch table was not born believing that public option meant government-run health care. Someone taught him that and fairly recently, too. I refuse to perceive him as dumb or lazy. That would merely strengthen the wall between us and in doing so, weaken our democracy just a little bit more.
Finally, I refuse to let my friend's beliefs get shaped entirely by lying strangers when I, a friendly fellow citizen, am sitting right beside him.
“I believe most stupidity isn’t really stupidity,” Michael Moore said in a recent interview. "It’s ignorance, which means it can be corrected with education and information.”