“We are heading for Communism.” The silver-haired woman sitting at my table during our computer class break was trembling. “We are being duped and bamboozled by a government takeover.” The overhead lights actually blinked! Communism? Was I really hearing old crippling cold war fears? Was a real, live person seriously succumbing to trumped-up town hall fears?
By now, our president’s own stand on the issue has finally become known. The lines have been drawn. One day very soon, we will know whether America will join other economically privileged members of the family of nations who see to the physical well being of their citizens. I desperately hope that we won’t be looking back on this moment with regret.
Only a few days ago, I learned how a singular Washington politician turned down his own entitlement to federally funded health care. Heightened example of caring, Senator Brown of Ohio declared: “I will not accept government insurance until every citizen in my state of Ohio has universal health care.” Talk about modeling a difference! What if every member of Congress were to model that caring.
Not long ago, a columnist summarized it this way. “We, the richest nation in the world, do not have universal healthcare. So we get far less face-time with doctors and are spirited out of the hospital stays even when longer stays are medically indicated. Citizens of countries with universal care are healthier than citizens of the United States. Other nations recognize healthcare as a human right, have signed and ratified international covenants to that effect. It’s a sin!”
I don’t usually talk about sin, but healthcare denied reflects blatant denial of our humanity. And of our biblical teachings: “I was hungry, you gave me to eat, thirsty, you gave me drink …” What would Jesus have to say about anyone being caught without health insurance?
I’m prejudiced, of course. Too many of my own Sanford friends have no insurance. They simply can’t afford it. They live day to day, hoping nothing goes wrong. Because if it does, everything could be lost.
Personally, as a Catholic nun, I had great insurance. Now I’m covered by Medicare and my husband’s Navy retirement TriCare. But can I bask in this government blessing while 47 million others are denied coverage. Yes, very definitely: I am my brother’s keeper.
I do have a recent memory of what bottom-line fixated healthcare can feel like, having been ushered in and out of the doctor’s office of a local corporate eye clinic. I needed time to discuss my problem with him. Something in me wouldn’t leave it alone; I had to speak up, if only for the rows of patients lined up outside in the sprawling waiting room.
“Doctor, I’m not a goat to be herded in and out. You can’t just test my eyes behind your machine, hand me a prescription, open the door for me to ‘get out.’ Sure, you’ve got forty more people to fix and maybe it’s not your fault. I can tell you, your boss needs some training in what it means to be human.”
The young doctor’s reaction was most telling. Startled and utterly amazed at my outburst, he didn’t offer one word in response. He was part of an uncaring system. Sure, my eyesight has improved, but that day my spirit was impoverished.
Well, that’s my nickel’s worth. Whatever we do, I’m as aware as my fearful computer classmate that we’ll never go back to those good ‘ole days when our family doctor sat and talked not only about my youthful illness but lingered to socialize with my folks. “How’s the grocery? How’s the new baby?”
To that Orlando family doctor, we were much more than a paycheck. We were community when doctors cared about their patients. My folks left his office always totally compensated.