American health care, great for the rich and old

My Dad is having a minor surgery today to repair a hernia. He’s 69 years old and on Medicare and I’m glad for it because since he turned 65, for the first time in his life, he’s had affordable access to medical care. You see, my parents have always been self-employed and there were a lot of years where proper regular medical care was a luxury they couldn’t afford.

And then in the years leading up to their eligibility for  Medicare, their health insurance premiums were about $650/month….EACH. So, for a family making around $65,000 per year, about one quarter of their income went to their health insurance premiums. Gold plan? I think not, they still had a $2,500 co-pay, plus cost sharing up to $7,500…each. One year, they both had to have surgeries, so they paid 47% of their annual income that year to medical expenses, and they had insurance. Fortunately, they were able to shoulder the expense, unlike the thousands of Americans each year who have to declare bankruptcy because of medical expenses (about 60% of American bankruptcies are a result of medical expenses).

Do you want to know the irony of it all? My Dad’s a lifelong Republican, who has spent his whole life voting against his own interests. He’s spent his whole life begrudging ‘government interference’ in education, health care, and life in general. Yet, my whole family are the products of public education. My grandparents and my parents (all faithful GOP members) have all taken more out of the federal system than they ever contributed. And yet, each and every one of them would’ve voted against any or all of these programs.

Thankfully, politicians have more sense than my family (scary thought) and have enacted policies designed to educate and help at least some segments of the American population in spite of themselves. But this is the problem… We have a political system that relies on voters and politicians to be sensible and focused on not only their own good, but what’s good for society.

So, now as we look ahead to the 2012 election, we face a fundamental question…do we want to live in civil society or “Deadwood”. While I’m pretty confident I’d make it alright in Deadwood, I don’t think most would. Yet, when you listen to the rhetoric of the right, I genuinely don’t think they understand the implications of their advocacy. I also don’t think it’s because they’re evil, I do think that they’re so isolated from where regular Americans live that they just can’t understand the lack of access absent shared costs through government programs (notice shared costs, not free).

As for the citizens of Deadwood, people like my family, they’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid, they fail to think, and they can’t see beyond their own fake world … one where people are fooled into thinking the interests of the wealthy are the same as the interests of the working class. See, that’s the big lie in America — the ‘American Dream’ sometimes happens, kind of like winning Lotto, but for the vast majority we just spend our $1 each week to be disappointed, and then get on with the rest of our lives.

So, as I’m looking around this waiting room, at a majority of old folks having surgeries, I’m glad they’ve left Deadwood… at least once they reach 65, no matter whether they vote their interests or are like my family, vote against their interest, their family’s interests, and the interests of average Americans. That’s one reason representative democracy is a heck of a lot better than direct democracy :).


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