Health Care Reform has re-established itself as one of America’s most contentious issues. Unfortunately for all of us, the fight to provide health care to all Americans goes back as far as 1912. In a losing presidential campaign against Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt included national health care as a part of his platform, along with women’s suffrage. Women eventually got the vote, but we still struggle with health care. Special interests, ranging from the American Medical Association to the insurance industry to pharmaceutical companies, have put their considerable resources to work to defeat meaningful health care reform. 46 million Americans aren’t getting health care coverage, but health care sucks up 1 out of every 6 dollars Americans spend. Why have the special interests been so successful in getting Americans to fight against a reform that’s in our interests?
We don’t get it and no one is expending enough energy to make sure that we understand. The idea that universal health care is some sort of socialist plot has worked against our interests since the 1930s. We understand that society benefits if we are all educated, which then prompts us to create public education, but we don’t also comprehend that we all profit from a society with a certain standard of health care. We all would agree that those who are promoting health care reform aren’t helping themselves in the court of public opinion. The rhetoric used by proponents of health care reform is unnecessarily confusing. But the opponents of reform know what they’re doing. We spent the summer hearing about the supposed death panels. But how much time did we spend discussing the elimination of pre-existing condition limits to coverage? We owe it to ourselves to understand exactly what “reforms” have been proposed and how they affect us.
Congress does us all a disservice by taking health care issues and politicizing and confusing them. My family has experienced the advantage that access to excellent doctors and medical facilities can have on quality of life and whether someone lives or dies. Those of us who do have health insurance shouldn’t feel safe from the plight of the uninsured. The economy, and our place in it, remains precarious. We won’t get how important health care is until the day comes when we don’t get health care at all.