Health Reform Passes, But I Still Don't Feel So Good

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CommonDreams.org

Health Reform Passes, But I Still Don't Feel So Good

Hurray! I mean, Boo! Or is it, What? Perhaps we should just go with Whatever. No matter how you slice it, something has happened that is either historically fabulous, monumentally stupid, perplexingly intricate, or ordinarily mundane. I suspect, in the end, it will wind up being all of this and more. Welcome to the brave new world of health insurance reform, with a little something for everyone and a lot for some.

Don't get me wrong: health care is a really good thing, something that should be a universal human right and never treated like a for-profit commodity. The only options approaching this horizon were long ago deemed "fringe" in the popular debate, leaving progressives to huddle around a lukewarm "public option" that never had a prayer of making the final cut when it came time to pass the bill. Staunch legislative holdouts miraculously caved at the last minute to support a problematic law, and the only folks representing the "no" side of the argument in the end were the regressive wingnuts rattling congressional cages with thinly-veiled homophobia and racially-tinged expletives. You know things are bad when that cadre even starts to make a little bit of sense on the issues -- although of course, their alternative health plan probably includes requirements that people first show their birth certificates and pass an English test before being handed a set of bootstraps and a grade school anatomy book that omits any images of private parts and excludes anti-American doctors like Seuss, Zhivago, Ruth, and Spock.

The best part of the new bill is where we all get to buy health insurance from Monopolies Unlimited, and if we can't afford it there will be subsidies given to us that we can then give right to the same insurance companies who have of course served our interests so well up to this point. If we don't purchase this coverage, then the IRS can levy fines on us, which in many cases will be cheaper than the required tithe; this will leave some folks in the awkward position of having to pay to remain uninsured, which would be ironic if it wasn't so excruciatingly real. However, even those who do pay for coverage -- top dollar, too, since viable price controls are a non-sequitur by now -- will be receiving only insurance and not necessarily actual care, since many steps on the ladder to treatment must be traversed in between insurance provision and medical fruition. The apex of the perverse options will be embodied by those who refuse to pay the insurance companies for an inherently defective product and also refuse to pay the fine for their transgression, leading to a class of people perhaps to be deemed the "Uninsurables" who will be made to wear the letter "U" on their chests and will be legally prohibited from ever getting sick.

But wait! This new bill is only a first step in the direction of better and more universal health care, say the apologists. It's the best we could get in this political climate, and represents the sort of compromise that marks both maturity and good sense. It emboldens the Democrats to be more progressive, and provides our fledgling young President with a much-needed momentum boost. It will save money, cover millions more people, rein in some of the worst insurance practices, and bring America into closer alignment with the rest of the nations of the civilized world. To oppose this bill at this critical time would indicate that one is either hopelessly partisan (Republicans), plain old wacko (Teabaggers), naively socialistic (Single Payer), deeply unrealistic (Public Option), or electorally useless (The Actual Left). At the end of the day, we have to get on board with this, since it's the only game in town, right?

Hmm, I almost even convinced myself for a minute there (not really). Here's another rendering of the game. Corporate lobbyists opposed the bill until they got the one they wanted, and indeed this one looks a lot like their model version proposed in 2008. Huge sums of money flowed to key congresspersons to purchase/influence their votes, and even the few still on the board who seem at times to display integrity reversed course and gave this one a thumbs up. The political landscape is now dominated by one party with no ideas except regressive anti-intellectualism, and another with no spine that is pretty well bought out by Corporate Persons who vote (and vote and vote) with their unlimited dollars. As for we the people, our triumph is that we now get to have more of us relegated to universal serfdom and also must (or else) pay fealty and tribute to the neo-Robber Barons who have generously expanded the realm of insurance coverage in a selfless act of noblesse oblige. The politics of "least worst" once again prevails, and our health is now totally owned by the company store. And as a final insult, people you like and admire are cheerleading for this, and to do otherwise renders one anathema (which is not covered under most policies, of course).

Suddenly, amidst the celebratory gaveling and laudatory reveling, despite the incessant and pervasive chatter about health this and health that, and notwithstanding the wire-services version of the good news about expanded coverage -- suddenly, I'm not feeling all that well. Watching my country continue down a path of feudalism posing as democracy, where our choices are constrained by the machinations of the far right and the center-right, has left me with a damaged heart and an open wound. While my personal disillusionment is no doubt preexisting, its exacerbation is ongoing and I'm beginning to wonder if there's any hope for a cure at this point. Indeed, I had tried to ignore this condition in the misguided belief that it would magically go away, but it only seemed to get worse in the process. Now I fear it's become chronic.

But hey, we finally got health care, and hope is restored! Yes, this should effectively balance out perpetual wars, environmental toxification, Big Brother, Bigger Bailouts, mainstream media, rampant recession, and climate change. Whew! It felt good to list all that out. Maybe I won't be needing that required checkup from my cold-handed health insurance provider after all.

Randall Amster

Randall Amster, JD, PhD, is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, and serves as Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. His forthcoming book Peace Ecology is due out in May from Paradigm Publishers. Previous books include Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness, and the co-edited volume Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action.

 

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