The Heavy Lift
I’ve done a lot of joking over the past week about how thoroughly the teabaggers and Republicans got pwn3d on health care. Or at least believe that they did; over time probably most of them will come to see it as a good thing.
But passions have been running high in the past week and, like Beth, I’ve found the threats and full-blown crazy from some of these people quite disturbing, though perhaps unlike Beth, not at all surprising.
I can’t even begin to crawl into the mindset that would allow a person to seriously believe in insanity like the claims about “death panels” so I’ll just note that since we all know those people are out there, it’s the height of irresponsibility for anyone in political life, or the media, to not only fail to point out that such beliefs are insane, but to go beyond and suggest that they are true. No thanks to the media or Sarah Palin, those things will be disproven over time, as even the crazies will note that the black helicopters haven’t arrived to abduct Grandma and shuttle her to the death camp.
In the meantime, though, there’s still a lot of work to do on informing and educating that huge group of people out there who, while not crazy, are also not very well informed. Most of them didn’t buy into the crazier notions about death panels and the like, but quite a few are fuming over the supposed socialism and the unconscienable affront of being forced to carry health insurance. This hit me square in the face when I went to my part-time job and overheard some of my fellow employees discussing the new law. They had no idea what it does and were universally under the impression that the mandates kick in immediately. They speculated that it would put our employer out of business – not even a possibility because the requirements for employers to provide insurance don’t apply to companies with few employees and fewer yet who are full-time. They were completely unaware that along with the mandates there would be subsidies for low-income people to help them purchase insurance and as a result were quite upset that they were about to be penalized for not buying something that they can’t afford. Most striking of all were the fears of one young woman, who recently gave birth and had those costs covered by Medicaid.
These are what we call “teachable moments”. Having heard all of this, I used the opportunity to inform my co-workers that the law wouldn’t affect our employer, that the mandates don’t kick in for another 3 or 4 years, that Medicaid will in fact be expanded under this law, and about all of the reforms that will kick in this year – no more recissions, an insurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents’ coverage up to age 26, etc.
They simply had no idea about any of this. One of the greatest disservices of our so-called news media is how it not only allows but creates this type of general ignorance on the biggest issues of the day, by concentrating on broadcasting the sensational lies of the crazy and the stupid. The media narrative should get a little better now that the voting is over, but it’s up to each of us to set the record straight when we hear our friends, family, or co-workers saying things that demonstrate they really are not informed.
It’s not all rosy, however. Some of my co-workers remain angry that they are going to be expected to buy insurance, even if it’s subsidized. They don’t want to pay anything for insurance, at all. I can understand that – most of them are very low-income and young, with no health problems. We’re going to run into some of this, particularly with people in this income and age group. But as I said to them, it doesn’t seem unreasonable or unfair that they may be asked to pay $50 a month on the off-chance that they will have a problem and need to go to a doctor or hospital; that it’s not really fair to the rest of us for them to take that gamble knowing that they can go to the emergency room and the rest of us will have to pick up the tab – at a cost about 800% higher than if they manage their health by going to a doctor rather than waiting until they need the ER. I told them that I really don’t mind if I end up paying a little extra to subsidize the coverage for someone poorer or sicker – but it wasn’t right to ask me to pay it times 800%, which is what all of us with insurance have been doing up until now (and will continue to have to do until the mandates kick in).
This is part of the reason I’ve found the crazies so easy to ridicule – sure, some of them are dangerous, but their beliefs are so ridiculously over-the-top that reality will over time disprove them. There’s really no need for a rebuttal of any kind. Likewise with the libertarian types, who insist that their rights are being trampled by being forced to get coverage. Some of these folks are so deep into the ideological weeds that they really believe it would be preferable to let people who can’t afford coverage (or whom the insurers refuse to cover) die. There’s no point in arguing with sociopathy, either.
But the real heavy lift remains – explaining to those who are uninformed or who have been misinformed why reform was not only necessary, but will, in the long run, make the country a better place for all of us. And it’s up to all of us to do the lifting.